If Mr. Church has ever doubted the full standing capacity of the Lansing he ought to have very definite knowledge of it now, for yesterday morning it was surely tested to the uttermost. As soon as the doors were open the fortunate possessors of tickets began thronging into the lobby and by half past nine the lower floor and the balcony were filled. When the doors were thrown open to the great unclassified public they were very glad to find a vacant seat corner in the gallery or to get standing room in the aisles.
It was easy enough to see that it was a "student's program." The students were there a thousand strong and they brought all the proverbial student enthusiasm and vocal power with them. The yelling began as soon as the house was filled, and when Professor Howard arrived the enthusiasm and excitement grew to fever heat. The boys yelled every known yell and some that were not known — even to the yeller.
Some of the students were very patient and persevering in "rushing" a new yell which they desire the university to adopt, but their efforts were met with hissing and the old yell seems to be the one that is dear to the hearts of the students. The Leland Stanford yell was given in honor of Professor Howard and the professor's face flushed with pleasure as he bowed in acknowledgement. An outsider can scarcely understand the altissimo of enthusiasm which Professor Howard's name produces among all university students. Not only do all his old students worship him with zealous loyalty, but the new students who have never been in his classes, who never saw him till Thursday night, have so often heard the ipse dixit , that they seem by a sort of college heredity to have inherited the universal veneration feeling. The professor has left such very great traditions behind him that even to students who have never known him there is a whole dynamo of spiritual force locked up in his very name.
The students employed a good deal of the time before the curtain rose in cheering Professor Howard and the chancellor . Indeed, both men are a severe strain on the admiration fund of the university, and when the students had the old love and the new both together and at the same time and all at once, they didn't even try to contain themselves.
At last the curtain rose and the exercises began. The musical part of the program was excellent, especially the work of the boys in the university glee club, who sang "The Scarlet and Cream," "The Hunting Chorus" from "Robin Hood" and Jungst's "Spin, Spin" with great spirit and in excellent tempo. The music of the mandolin club was very good, but some of the players were in more of a hurry than the director, which somewhat interfered with the time.
The Latin salutatory by Miss Margaret L. Hall met with much merited applause. It was well written and well spoken and her Roman costume added greatly to the effectiveness. The audience especially appreciated the delicate expression and graceful wording of the production and the students admired Miss Hall's marvellous control of the subjunctive mode.
The orations were all good and had the inestimable virtue of being brief. The delivery of Messrs. Quaintance and Hatfield was far above the average work of college oration, and Mr. Tucker's oration was really a literary production, which is saying a great deal for an oration. It is impossible to criticise an oration unless one is training for a contest judge, and as the present critic is not, he will dismiss the subject.
The Greek and Latin plays were of course the leading features of the program, and as they come nearer within the province of a critic they cannot be dismissed without considerable detail.
|Hegio, an old man||Clarence J. Elmore|
|Ergasilus, a parasite||Carlile F. Tucker|
|Philocrates, a captive||John W. Dixon|
|Tyndarus, a captive, servant of Philocrates||Ned. C. Abbott|
|Aristophontes, a captive||Arthur J. Weaver|
|Philopolemus, son of Hegio||Warren W. Woods|
|Stalagamus, a slave||Joe P. Beardsley|
|Lorarius, an overseer of slaves||Raymond A. Jones|
Mr. Elmore as Hegio was highly satisfactory. He spoke his Latin as easily as if it were his mother tongue and when one remembers the number of lines he had to commit one wonders how he ever did it. Mr. Elmore's Hegio was very, very aged, and was sometimes a trifle too stiff in the joints perhaps, but though not brilliant or showy his acting was of a steady dependable sort that one was not afraid of. Mr. Tucker's Ergasilus was what is technically called a "creation." He seems to have the unreasoning and unreasonable convictions which are necessary for an actor. The common conception of Ergasilus is of a vulgar sponging parasite, very fond of eating and drinking. Mr. Tucker departed from this idea so entirely that at first his presentation rather dazed one. His Ergasilus is a cultured and elegant gentleman with a pitiful and abnormal weakness. He has the same irresistible passion for good viands that a connoisseur has for fine pictures. He loves eating not sordidly, but grandly, with the whole æsthetic and emotional part of his being. When he pleads with Hegio for his dinner one who did not follow the Latin would think he were pleading for his sweetheart. His eloquence is not the eloquence of hunger, but of passion. He is a Romeo of the dinner table. Mr. Tucker's Ergasilus was nearer like Balzac's Cousin Pons than anything else, and his conception is the conception of Plautus himself. It is a type of gastronomic idealization which could only have existed in the Rome of Plautus and the Paris of Balzac, where artificial tastes had reached undisputed exaltation.
Mr. John Dixon as Philocrates was a strong and well defined character, and his acting with Tyndarus was especially good. Mr. Dixon's bearing and carriage were fine and he was every inch and every pound a knight. Actors are born after all, and Mr. Abbott seems to have been born. His Tyndarus was the most consistently acted role in the play. His detail was perfect; there was nothing amateurish about him. An amateur gets one conception and hammers away at it ceaselessly, but an actor masquerades his conception in so many varying disguises that it is only on state occasions and in grand climaxes that we are permitted to see it in its naked reality. Mr. Abbott put his conception through all the endless modulations of finished detail, and his Tyndarus went through every stage and degree of fooldom.
Mr. Weaver as Aristophontes was spirited and enthusiastic; he was not afraid of himself nor of his part, and his voice and delivery were stirring. Mr. Woods as Philopolemus was seen but little and heard less, and the only thing to be regretted was that he did not appear oftener. His action was absolutely free from ranting and he looked a Roman of the Romans. Mr. Beardsley and Mr. Jones as the slaves were very good fellows indeed, and seemed as contented with their slavery as was the audience.
The Greek students opened their part of the program with a chorus from Electra . The music was beautiful and had a pathos about it that was not modern: it was the old pitiless fate idea, the ata in musical score. The chorus was a little weak in volume, but sang with great feeling. Miss Martha Burks as the Koryphaios seemed to catch the Greek spirit more than anyone; and although her opportunities for acting were limited she managed to get in some very fine action. When the chorus finished singing the scenery shifted, showing the interior of the palace, with Klytimnestra lying dead, and Aigisthus , Electra and Chrysothemis about her.
|Kreon||Allen C. Fling|
|Guard||James A. Canfield|
|Koryphaios||Will L. Westermann|
|Two attendants of Kreon||
Horace G. Whitmore
Miss Grace Morgan's Antigone was truly Greek in carriage, dignity and beauty.
Miss Maude Hammond as Ismene was a surprise to her best friends. Not that anyone ever doubted Miss Hammond's success in anything that she might undertake, but it is rather unusual for a classical scholar of her proficiency and thoroughness to blossom into an emotional actress at a month's notice. We generally do not give the classical folks credit for much emotion. In the first place, Miss Hammond had the professional stage voice, which is a thing that very few people possess and which is as odious when manufactured as it is beautiful when natural. Sometimes her voice would sink almost into utter silence, but it was that "silver winged" silence that Sophocles himself wrote about. It had that stirring quality which thrills one and makes one hope they won't cry. Her kneeling at the feet of Kreon was much the prettiest and most touching bit of acting in the play. In spite of the rather modern eyeglasses which, for some unknown cause, she wore, she lived the part she played, and was not ashamed to yield herself up to it entirely. Miss Hammond made Ismene an infinitely grander and more lovable character than Sophocles ever dreamed of making her. It is rather gratuitous to score anyone for acting a part too well, but as one does not often get a chance, perhaps he may be pardoned. If there was any flaw in Miss Hammond's Ismene it was ethical rather than artistic. She made weakness too beautiful.
Mr. Fling as Kreon made those who didn't know a word of Greek feel that the play was a tragedy and a great one. His voice was fine and had that deep reserve which of itself seems to herald awful things like those deep passages in Wagner's music. His enunciation was stately and powerful and his pronounciation of those wonderful Greek syllables was enough to turn any classic-weary student back to his first love. His action was strong with that strength which a high conception and complete realization of a part always gives.
Mr. James Canfield as the guard was the one touch of comedy in the play, and was a blessed relief from the sorrow and sternness of the other action. In these days a playwright is in luck if he can scrape together enough melancholy to make a tragedy, but Shakespeare and the old Greeks had to dilute their tragedy with a little comedy or they would have killed their audiences outright. Mr. Canefield's comedy was of the highest type; he made a sort of classical touchstone, and his acting was as light and easy as the part demanded. Now and then he put in a touch of the grotesque which strengthened the part greatly. His costume was very ingenious. Mr. Westermann made a very handsome and noble Koryphaios.
Remarks upon the merits of the plays themselves seem rather uncalled for and it is equally unnecessary to say whether these plays will "live in literature." Praise is sometimes impertinent, and there are some playwrights whose names should be held like the name the Egyptians feared to utter. It is queer, though, that these plays, whose success is a thing of the ages and whose "run" has been not one of "nights," but of centuries, should happen to come right after such productions as the "Spider and the Fly" and "Fantasma." It makes one wonder if the world has grown quite two thousand years' worth since they were written.
The Greek chorus wore the cheton, a long loose flowing garment, without sleeves, over which was draped in various ways the himator, a rectangular garment once by twice the height of the wearer. Their garments were of two colors, the darker being worn over the lighter. In Greek and Latin tragedy the selection of colors sustained definite relations to the interpretation of character. The Greek chorus always dressed in the soft tertiary shades, the primary colors being reserved for the principal characters.
In the "Electra" chorus the Coryphaeus alone has the distinction of wearing white, the only trimmings being a gold border in the key pattern. She has two attendants, one in scarlet, the other in pale pink. The chorus of Thebian elders in the next scene were similarly dressed. The Coryphaeus wore a chiton of red over which was draped a magnificent scarlet hunato with an elaborate gold border. He wore a wide gold fillet in his hair. The king wore a chiton of orange bordered with purple and gold, a regal bimeton embroidered in gold.
Antigone has a gown of black crepe with a showy Greek border in silver, black being worn as a sign of mourning among the Greeks. Her gown was completed with a peplos or short over garment falling to the waist. Ismene in a lavender gown trimmed with gold also wore a peplos. The attendants of the king wore light pink garments extending to the knees, with sleeves and border of darker material. The guard wore a short buckskin brown traveller's cloak, with helmet greaves and breastplate of bronze.
In the Latin play Hegio the father was dressed in white. The slaves wore the customary brown garment, coming to the knees. The parasite, Ergasilus, wore the cast off garments of Philopolemus, and like him wore the scarlet and gold toga. Philocrates wore a pale olive tunic with toga of amethyst. Aristophontus wore a toga of orange trimmed in gold and silver. As a rule the rich man wore scarlet and purple. The slaves always dressed in brown. Only members of the nobility were allowed to wear the primary colors.
The costumes were all designed by Miss Ray Manley , manager of the Greek play.