"A Duel of Hearts" was presented to a very poor house at the Lansing last night. Indeed, the size of the audience was a fair example of the Lincoln public, that will flock to see "The Spider and the Fly" and let a play like this greet an empty house. The Lincoln public has disgraced itself again, but as it spends most of its time in doing that in one way or another further remarks upon the subject are needless.
This is Miss Craigen's first starring season, but it is safe to say that it will not be her last. Artists of her stamp can lead more easily than they can follow. Few people would have recognized in the Lady Stanhope of last evening the actress who rather indifferently supported Keene last year. Miss Craigen has, in addition to the emotional faculty of a great actress, the power of control and composure which is remarkable in so young an actress. Most emotional actresses are so eager to show that they can be emotional that they begin their emotion in the first scene of the first act and continue in a straight course of methodic misery. Miss Craigen does not allow emotion to touch her in the first act, though in the scene with Louie she has opportunities to be melancholy that most actresses would give their eyes for. No one, not even on the stage, can be uplifted and transfigured by emotion until he or she has battled stubbornly against it. The great actor's tact and temptation is in repressing his emotion and keeping it under. He must always tame his highest flights and tone his loudest cries just as a literatteur must cut out the passages that are dearest to him. An actress cannot afford to be much more emotional on the stage than she would in a drawing room. Miss Craigen fights her emotional instincts for the first act and a half nobly, then the reaction sets in and great emotions, with all their benedictions of power, are hers. Miss Craigen is beautiful, but she reverses the usual order of theatrical impressions. She strikes you first as an actress, then as a beautiful woman. Her work in the insane scene was not so finished as that of the great Clara , but neither was it so painful. It is a question just how far realism ought to go in stage insanity, perhaps Morris might be better with a little less, Miss Craigen with a little more. However, the play might have made her insanity of such a very peculiar kind that perhaps the usual symptoms of insanity won't fit it. One longs to see Miss Craigen in a stronger play than "The Duel of Hearts," in "Camille" or "Fedora" or something that would more fully test her power. She undoubtedly has a great future before her, for she has all those hundred spontaneous, unthought of little touches that are so much greater than the great things, and above all she has that power of moving and melting for which we can forgive and forget so much.
Mr. Frederick Paulding was Keene's leading man last year. The only fault anyone had to find with him was that he did not play the role of Richard III . Mr. Keene's mantle has certainly fallen upon very much broader and shapelier shoulders than his own. How Mr. Paulding could have played a whole season with Keene and still be the conscientious, rantless, self-respecting actor that he is, is the great wonder. That he remained uncontaminated is sufficient proof of his strength and intelligence. One would need strong superlatives to say how much better he is than Keene. That quiet, restrained anguish of his in the last act will not be soon forgotten by any of us. He sang like a good fellow, loved like a gentle man and suffered like a man. Indeed a quieter, decenter, better behaved pair of stars have not struck Lincoln for a long time, and we hope they will come soon again. for we are sick of this ranting, tearing "power" that can't even behave itself, much less move men and women to great emotion. Goethe said, "The highest cannot be spoken." Thank heaven it can't be and blessed are the actors who do not try.
As a playwright we cannot admire Mr. Paulding as much as we do as an actor. When an actor plays his own play it is too often like when a virtuoso plays his own compositions, the rendering is vastly better than the performance. It is sad to have the whole play rest upon such an inartistic coincidence as the fact that an idiotic lovesick youth sees fit to stab himself with a paper knife at the close of the first act utterly without reason or provocation. Mr. Paulding and Miss Craigen appear in "The Setting of the Sun" and the "Dowager Countess" tonight and it is to be hoped that the audience will be as good as the performance.
"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.
The Spider and the Fly: The Spider and the Fly opened at the Windsor Theatre in New York in October 1889. Odell refers to it as "M. B. Leavitt's show" (Annals of the New York Stage, XIV, 583) but it is unclear whether Leavitt was the writer or the producer. The original cast starred comedians James Adams as the Spider and Thomas Dare as the Fly and included Pauline Markham, gymnasts, and other specialty acts. The show played in popular theaters in the New York area for years, changing cast members from time to time, but apparently never played on Broadway and was never reviewed by the New York Times.
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. Keene: Thomas Wallace Keene (1840-1898), a New York-born actor whose real name was Thomas R. Eagleton, made several cross-country tours of America with his own company between 1880 and his death in 1898. He generally appeared in Shakespearean companies, and was known as a tragedian.
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.
Clara Morris: Born Clara Morrison, Morris (1848-1925) made her New York debut in 1870 and was a great success playing passionate, suffering heroines in roles in such plays as Jezebel, Camille (1874), Miss Multon, a version of East Lynne (1876), Jane Eyre (1877), and The New Magdalen (1882). She formed her own company about 1878 and toured the country. She was never famous for her beauty, and her voice was flawed, but the emotional power of her acting overcame these defects. Morris retired in the 1890s as the new kinds of realistic plays of Ibsen and Shaw and Pinero made the older dramas seem old-fashioned and histrionic. In retirement she wrote articles and columns on acting, as well as volumes of reminiscences that show her acting was not so instinctive and unpracticed as Cather supposed.
Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Image available at the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.
Camille: The English play Camille is based on the play La Dame aux camélias (1852), based on the novel (1848) by Alexandre Dumas the younger (1824-1895). In the play, Armand Duval, a poor young man of a good family, falls in love with a famous courtesan, Camille (named Marguerite Gautier in the original). Skeptical of his love at first, she comes to return it and the two retire to an idyllic life in the country. However, Armand's father comes to her and begs her to set Armand free for the sake of his reputation and for the marriage chances of Armand's young sister. Camille pretends to be tired of Armand and returns to Paris and her old life. She is, however, dying of tuberculosis, and the two are reunited before her death. The role of Camille was also a favorite of Sarah Bernhardt and many other tragic actresses.
Verdi's opera La Traviata (1853) is based on the story of Camille, and the play has been made into films as well, notably one starring Greta Garbo (1936).
Fedora: Victorien Sardou wrote this play for Sarah Bernhardt, who created the role in 1882. The plot concerns Fédora, a Russian princess who vows revenge on the man who killed her husband, but then falls in love with him, and at the end takes poison in order to save him. In the play, Bernhardt wore a soft-brimmed hat with a creased crown, which became known as a fedora. Sardou's play was immensely popular; it was made into an opera by Umberto Giordano, silent films (Princess Romanoff, 1915; Fedora, 1918; Woman from Moscow, 1928), and a 1946 Italian film.
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).
"Richard III.": Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Richard III (c. 1593), one of his history plays, deals with the evil, hunchbacked Richard, Duke of Gloucester. In the course of the play Richard kills those who stand between him and the throne, including his two young nephews (the princes in the Tower), the rightful heirs to the throne. He also kills his wife, Lady Anne, in order to marry his niece, his brother Edward IV's daughter. This is prevented when Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, rallies the English to his side and defeats Richard in the battle of Bosworth (when Richard cries, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"). With Richard dead, along with the other claimants whom he killed, Henry is crowned king as Henry VII, establishing the Tudor dynasty. Richard III was a favorite play in the nineteenth century, especially among tragedians.
Goethe: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is one of the greatest German writers, influential as a novelist, playwright, poet, and critic; his interests extended to scientific and political thought as well. He was the son of a well-to-do German family, and was sent to study law in 1765 at the University of Leipzig, and later in Straussberg, where he was influenced by many elements of French, British, and Greek classical and pre-Romantic thought and art. Convalescence after an illness in 1768 brought an interest in medievalism and religious mysticism (elements brought into play in his great play Faust.) His 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther became immensely popular, expressing as it did the spirit of the age. Goethe went to Weimar, his home for the rest of his life, in 1775, serving as one of the duke's most indispensable ministers as well as continuing his astounding literary output. A trip to Italy and Greece in 1786 increased his devotion to classical ideals, culminating in his Iphigenia in Taurus (1787). About 1794 he met Schiller, whose death in 1805 ended a fruitful intellectual camaraderie. The first part of Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship was published in 1795-96; the verse-drama Faust in 1808 (the less-famous second part in 1832), and the second part of Wilhelm Meister (the Travels), in 1821-29. Goethe was generally acknowledged as one of the greatest writers in Europe long before his death.
The Setting of the Sun: Probably the play by Charles Hannan (1863-1922), published in New York in an acting edition by French in 1892. Hannan is also credited with the play version of a novel by F. Marion Crawford, A Cigarette Maker's Romance (1901), which was made into a silent film in Great Britain in 1920.
Dowager Countess: According to Julius Tyndale's review in the February 21 Lincoln Evening News, this was Charles Mathew's "old" comedy, The Dowager Countess. Charles James Mathews (1803-1878) was a noted British comedian and author of more than two dozen comedies, farces, and romantic dramas; one of these was a comedy, The Dowager (published 1843), of which The Dowager Countess may be an adaptation.