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copyrights have expired. No troublesome negotiation with a Dramatic Authors' Society is necessary to obtain the right of representing these masterpieces; no half share of the nightly profits has to be set on one side to satisfy the hungry writers. The vanity, the pretension, or the sense of artistic fitness of the dramatic author has not to be consulted in casting or performing these dramas; they can be pitchforked on to the stage, and furnished with old scenery and threadbare garments. No wordy protest is received by post; no scowling face is seen in the green-room or at the side scenes. The comfort of dealing with a dead author would be worth ten pounds a night and a half-clear benefit every fortnight, if it could be made a question of bargain and sale; but in these cases the lucky manager obtains the comfort, and retains his money. He also obtains something more, for a large number of newspaper writers, who profess to influence public opinion, can see no merit in a manager who works hard and pays liberally to obtain the best modern productions, and every merit in a man who merely goes to a book-case, takes down a dusty volume, and ventures on nothing that is not sanctioned by musty playhouse tradition. The dramatic rubbish of the eighteenth century is classical; the dramatic rubbish of the nineteenth century is only popular. Shakespeare taste and the musical glasses are just as much a genteel investment now as they were in the days when the "Vicar of Wakefield" was written.
There is another kind of management which is most successful when most dishonest, and which may be called the starring management. The starring management generally exists on a succession of victims who are induced to give their services on sharing terms that look favourable, but rarely yield any profit for the performer. The company of a starring theatre is feeble and cheap, but is made to look dear and powerful to the unfortunate "star" in the manager's estimate of his nightly expenses. The receipts, on the other hand, are made to look remarkably small in the manager's nightly account current. The "star" entrapped into a theatre of this class, after working like a galley-slave for a "run" of several weeks, and seeing crowded houses. every night that are all explained away by reference to the "free list," has the melancholy satisfaction of taking a small balance-the manager always contrives to pay something-of two pounds, eighteen shillings, and sixpence. In some starring theatres it is the custom to pacify the "star" with a showy, but not very valuable "testimonial."
In direct contrast to this management is that literary and artistic method of conducting a theatre which may not be disrespectfully
called visionary. The visionary manager takes a pride in soaring above the vulgar taste of the public. His mission, he thinks, is not to bu and sell mere amusement-he leaves that degrading task to others—but to elevate the taste of the ordinary playgoer. It is his boast that he refuses to descend to the level of the mob, and that he does all in his power to raise the mob to his level. For this purpose he patronises what is called the poetical drama; that is, plays in five acts and stilted blank verse that have never had a chance under ordinary trading managements. The announcement of his name as the lessee of a theatre-supposing, which is not very frequently the case, that he is not a blank verse dramatist himself-casts a ray of hope into many a study where the ideal has long been worshipped without much encouragement. Dramas that are all talk and no action; Wardour Street Elizabethan plays in five acts, with imitation Shakespearian clowns that are very quaint and very unendurable; mystic plays that advocate some metaphysical doctrine which has never been made clear by pamphlets and treatises; Bedlamite tragedies that are more bloody and brutal than the coarsest Elizabethan productions; pastoral dramas that are all affected simplicity-one Paul, one Virginia, one sheep, and one milk-can-all these, and many others of a similar stamp, are drawn from cobwebbed pigeon-holes, and poured into the lap of the visionary manager. Hopeless actors, who never want impudence, but often want opportunity; pig-headed tragedians, who study the poetical drama at public-house bars, and who imitate some growler who imitated Macready; equally ignorant, but not quite so self-sufficicent omedians, whose notion of comedy is somewhat funereal; faded women, who were never beautiful when young, who think a sing-song elocution can supply the place of personal attractions, and who play Juliet, when they can get a chance, at the age of five-and-fifty-all these, and many others of a similar stamp, crowd round the stage-door of the visionary manager. He opens his theatre in defiance of the seasons; he plays tragedy when pantomime is in fashion, and is not daunted by the solemnity of Lent or the touring attractions of August. His chief object very often is to exhibit himself as author or actor, or in both capacities, and this object is very often a laudable object. The visionary manager often has a dim notion of art, but the nice trading manager is never moved by such an impulse.
There is another kind of management which contrasts very unfavourably with this, which, for want of a better name, we may call the "flash management." The flash manager is nearly always a
manageress—a lady who cultivates stage-playing as a means of advertising her personal attractions. In some cases this kind of womanwe will not degrade dramatic art by calling her an actress-is content to make a few appearances at a West-End theatre, for which she and her admirers pay liberally; but sometimes her ambition is more vaulting, and she is not satisfied unless a theatre is taken for her. The first step in the flash management, after the theatre has been secured, is to purchase a play from some influential critic who is also a playwright, with the almost avowed design of securing his friendly co-operation. The next step is to take lessons from some old theatrical hack in the art of managing the hands, walking across a stage, laughing in the approved Nisbett fashion, and aspirating the h's. The flash management rarely succeeds in deceiving the public-the steady supporters of pits and galleries-but it fills the boxes and stalls, for a few weeks, with showy-looking women and foolish-looking young men— the former wearing their hair parted at the side, the latter wearing their hair parted in the middle.
There are other Bohemian managements besides this, but they are not quite so disreputable. Their only disgrace is poverty and debt, while the disgrace of the flash management is golden plenty. We have heard of one actor-a man of great talent-who gave an illdigested entertainment of the elder Mathews' type, in one of our national theatres, for more than a week, and slept every night in some dark corner of the stage to avoid the bailiffs. A man who could do this deserves to be crowned as King of Bohemia. Other more distinguished managements have had their financial difficulties, and the managers have had their ingenuity sorely taxed to avoid arrest upon the stage; but in no case did they rise to the sublime height of this solitary entertainer. A decent amount of poverty and embarrassment is the natural lot of actors; it gives them the old artistic air, and makes them and the public better friends.
Very little sympathy, however, is felt for another kind of management, which we may call the miserly management. These are not the days in which people will sit contented on hard boards, with their feet ankle-deep in stale orange-peel and broken ginger-beer bottles, to witness scenery and stage furniture that are suggestive of threepenny lodging-houses. The plays and the acting, judged by a very high standard of taste, may be both bad, without tiring the patience of average mixed audiences; but the commonest people like a good bit of scenery, and something more than a table and two chairs by way of
furniture. The miserly management was all very well in the good old coaching days, when scarcely anybody knew what comfort was but now, when a third-class passenger gets a hot-water foot-bottle for a penny a mile, it is not strange that he should demand a little more luxury in his theatres. Dirt, defective and scanty gas, hot stifling air, narrow passages, weak and unmelodious orchestras, delays that consume one-fourth of the acting hours, and refreshment-room-keepers who sell nothing but the original fire-water which exterminated the red-man, are only some of the curious attractions provided for playgoers by miserly managers. In Germany, north and south, the commonest people have their winter and summer theatres-their light cane-bottomed seats and cool auditorium for hot weather, and their velvet seats and warm atmosphere for winter. This is a degree of luxury that can hardly be expected in London, where there is practically very little competition in the theatrical market; but managers cannot trust much longer to the security of a monopoly. The new theatres that have been built lately, and those that are being built, ought gradually to compel a general reconstruction of the old houses. One great metropolitan music-hall has run the theatres hard, and made old-fashioned managers irritable, mainly because it has treated the great shilling public with proper respect; but the drama, if it is only properly housed, can easily defy a host of such competitors.
AN OLD STORY.
'Tis over! Your portrait I wrench from my chain,
'Tis over, and sadly I'm gazing in vain
On a blank that I once thought a prize!
But rashly I thought to escape any hurt
'Neath the charm of your treacherous smiles.
Take back these sweet violets, sent me in May,
The Tennyson, also, you gave me last year-
Read again, if you can, with trembling and fear,
And here's the bright ribbon you twined in your hair,
For your love, indeed! 'Tis more shattered and dead
Some day you'll repent and find out that to play
J. ASHBY STERRY.