A warm and enthusiastic audience greeted Miss Craigen and Mr. Paulding in "A Duel of Hearts" at the Lansing last night. Even at the theatre coming events sometimes cast a shadow before, and the audience seemed to know by instinct that something good was coming.
Miss Craigen played very much better last night than she did three weeks ago. Her insane scene was immeasurably stronger, she let herself out and was not afraid of being too violent. Three weeks ago Miss Craigen seemed a little bit afraid of her own strength, but last night she and her work were one, she feared neither it nor herself and they soared together. She seems to have the insanity of Lady Stanhope at just the right pitch now, it is not so physiologically realistic as to be revolting, nor yet so intangible as to be merely playwright's madness.
Mr. Paulding was at his best. If possible he made the last scene stronger and deeper than before. Some way one did not feel like applauding his great acting there. His grief was not the kind of grief that we habitually pay our dollar and a half to be diverted by; it was not the frenzy of the "professional" who is trying to give the public their money's worth of noise and tears; it is the still, dignified anguish of a polished gentleman, and it seems almost too genuine to have the footlights shining upon it.
And now a few words on that beautiful third act. Despite the cynicism of certain experienced and unyouthful critics, there is nothing greater or more inspiring than delicate lovemaking on the stage. The heart that cannot respond to it and be warmed by it is a very undesirable organ to possess, and it needs a tonic. That third act undoubtedly had some of the most beautiful lovemaking we have ever seen in this country. It was not conventional stage lovemaking; it had a sincerity about it that made one content to lie back and let those two people make love for the whole world. The intensity was so much more intense because it affected lightness, and passion seems more real some way when half hidden by feigned indifference. One felt that it was almost rude to watch them during the sofa scene, the impatient motion of Miss Craigen's foot, the heaving of her chest and throat, the unnameable look in Mr. Paulding's eyes, separated it from the stage love which the actor usually dons as carelessly as he puts on his make-up. That delicious little embracing episode there at the piano just struck one between the eyes and left one as breathless as it did Miss Craigen. Mr. Paulding does not go at the embracing business like most stage men he has originality even in that. By the way, one wishes Miss Craigen wouldn't lift her hands so high when she plays the piano; it is unpleasantly reminiscent of much inferior actresses who wave their hands about because they can't play. The affection in the third act last night was not nearly so copious and mellow as the affection in "Romeo and Juliet" the night before, yet it stirred one very much more, it seemed so much more unforced and spontaneous.
Dr. John is Mr. Winter's great part. It is a hard part, as the part of the universal sympathizer always is in a play, but Mr. Winter seems to have plenty of the very best brand of sympathy on tap all the time, and he has a way of mixing it with a sort of polished crustiness and humor so that it never becomes monotonous. Mr. Alexander as Larry made an easy, lighthearted Irishman, and had a perfect Shamrock of a laugh.
Mr. Howard's Louie was good, so good that it removed all objection as to the importance which is attached to his death later in the play; but in Bartie he shone as a star of the first magnitude and was an honor to the English nobility.
The play is undoubtedly the one in which the company excels; both the stars and the support seem to be particularly fitted to fill the needs of the piece. Their work is much more finished and natural than in "Romeo and Juliet," they seem to be sure of themselves in it. It would seem that their greatest possibilities lie not in Shakespearean drama, but in just such modern emotional dramas as "The Duel of Hearts."
Maida Craigen: Maida Craigen (d. April 1942), according to Odell's Annals of the New York Stage, had made a hit in Boston playing in The Jilt before making her stage debut in New York in 1886, playing opposite Richard Mansfield in his New York debut, Prince Karl. She played lesser roles in a series of distinguished companies: with Kate Claxton and Salvini in 1885, with Mrs. Potter and Kyrle Bellew in 1887, with Booth and Modjeska in 1889, with Rose Coghlan in 1891, with Thomas Keene in 1893, and with Alessandro Salvini in 1893. Frederick Paulding had also played with Keene's company, and he and Craigen presumably decided to form their own touring company later in 1893.
The New York Times reviewer said of her performance in Prince Karl: "Miss Craigen is unaffected, and she has an intelligent and expressive face. Her performance was certainly graceful and interesting, and she was particularly successful in depicting the amiable qualities of the heroine" (4 May 1886). However, Odell described her an "an amateur turned not very first-rate professional" (Annals of the New York Stage, v. 13, p. 439).
Mr. Frederick Paulding: Frederick Paulding (1859-1937) was the son of Col. Richard Irving Dodge (a great-nephew of Washington Irving); he adopted his mother's family name, Paulding, when he went on stage about 1879. In 1880 he was touring as Hamlet; Richard K. Boney saw him in New Orleans then and thought he had potential for greatness, though Boney wished Paulding were taller. By 1886 he was playing in Margaret Mather's company. Romeo was one of Paulding's best roles—he is said to have played it for 1100 consecutive times in New York, and was painted in that role by Alberta McClosky (San Francisco Call, Dec. 19, 1897; 70:4).
Paulding was also a playwright; his published plays include The Third Day; an original romantic drama (1885); Thucla; an original tragic play in four acts (1889); A Just Cause; an original sensational drama (1890); and The Woman's Hour; an original comedy of modern American life (1926).
"A Duel of Hearts": A play by Frederick Paulding (1859-1957), according to Cather, although WilliamCurtin says it was by Maida Craigen, and copyrighted in 1893 (82). The New York Times said it was by both Paulding and Craigen, based on a plot supplied by Jean Davenport Lander (19 May 1895), which it described: Count Eugene de Ligny, who has lost his faith in women, decides to take revenge on Lady Anita Stanhope, whom he believes is responsible for his brother Louis's suicide. He courts her only to spurn her, leaving her affected with brain fever. The doctor cures her with a shock of joy by bringing her face to face with the count and all the misunderstandings are cleared up. The version Cather saw in 1894 may have differed in some respects from that first presented in New York by Craigen in 1895.
Lansing Theatre: The Lansing Theater, on the southwest corner of 13th and P Streets, was built in 1891, displacing the Funke Opera House as the largest and finest theater in Lincoln. The owners were J.F. Lansing (b. 1842), a Lincoln real estate man, and his brother-in-law Henry Oliver (b. 1857); Edward A. Church was the manager. According to the program of the opening week (November 23-28, 1891) the auditorium consisted of the orchestra and parquet seating on the main level, with dress circle at the rear and sides; three tiers of five boxes each and six loges were at the sides. Above were the balcony and the gallery. With standing room, about 2500 people could be present.
The building also housed offices, including that of Cather's friend and fellow reviewer, Dr. Julius H. Tyndale. It was renamed the Oliver Theater in 1898.
Lady Stanhope: Lady Anita Stanhope is a central character in Paulding and Craigen's A Duel of Hearts (1893). She is the widow of an old man whom she had married out of gratitude, and falls in love with the hero, the Count de Ligny, who is travelling under an assumed name. Her guardian, Sir John Brooke, tries to break up the relationship, which causes her to publicly avow her love. When the Count spurns her, she goes mad with brain fever until the Count comes to her and clears up all misunderstandings.
Experienced and unyouthful critics: Possibly a reference to the Lincoln Evening News critic "Toby Rex," Dr. Julius H. Tyndale (1843-1929). He was a member of the Westermann family of Lincoln, friends of Cather's.
Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare's early romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, was written c. 1594-95. Romeo and Juliet come from families feuding with each other, the Montagues and Capulets, but fall immediately in love. They are forced to meet in secret—the balcony scene being the most famous in all of Shakespeare—and try to marry in secret. The friar gives Juliet a potion that simulates death, and Romeo, in despair, kills himself. When Juliet awakes to find Romeo dead, she kills herself.
Dr. John: Dr. John, probably the Sir John Brooke of the New York version of the play, is a character, the friend and guardian of the heroine, in Paulding and Craigen's A Duel of Hearts (1893). Allston Browne's 1896 cast list does not give any title to the character of John Brooke (A History of the New York Stage 353).
Mr. Winter: Canadian-American actor Percy Winter (1861-1928) was the son of eminent drama critic William Winter. He made his stage debut at 16, but soon extended his work into stage management and direction. In the 1880s he toured as a member of Genevieve Ward's company, then with Lawrence Barrett and Helen Dauvray. A.M. Palmer hired him as both actor and stage manager in 1888. Late in 1892 he became director in chief of the short lived (six months) Theatre of Arts and Letters. For many years after that he was both actor and stage manager for various stock companies, including Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Theatre from 1907 to 1913.
Winter began working in silent films c. 1914, as both actor and director, directing the fourteen part "Patsy" series (1914-15) and a few others. He married actress Mary Saunders.
Mr. Howard: There were many actors sur-named Howard on the stage in the 1890s, many of them—Arthur, Benjamin, Ernest, Frank, Sidney, and Walter—apparently ephemeral, not even rating obituaries in the dramatic papers. One possibility may be Harold Howard (1870-1944), who was a student at Sargent's Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1892 (Odell, XV, 19); he had a brief career in silent films from 1914 to 1922.
Louie: Louie is a character—probably the Count's brother Louis de Ligny in the New York version of the play—in Paulding and Craigen's A Duel of Hearts (1893). He commits suicide in the first act because Lady Anita Stanhope rejects his love, thereby occasioning his brother's plot of revenge against her.