It is not necessary to be a follower of the race track to enjoy the exciting play "In Old Kentucky," which received its initial performance in Lincoln at the Lansing theatre last night. Its "horsey" flavor is unmistakable from beginning to end, but the horse and the race, important as they are in the plot, are only supplementary incidents in the unfolding of a dainty little love story of just the kind that one expects to come out of the blue grass regions. The story is developed with the aid of a number of really exciting climaxes and with a wealth of scenery that throws the average play of its class quite in the shade. There is the conventional opening in the mountains, only the mountains are finer than usual, and the backwoods damsel who is discovered there by the young Kentucky aristocrat is if anything more attractive than the type commonly presented. There is a Kentucky stable yard, with a fine mansion in the background, and pickaninneis galore and all other accessories correctly presented. The young mountain girl comes down to visit the family of the young man, and comes just in time to lead the race horse "Queen Bess" out of the blazing barn while the gallery gods stand up and fairly scream with delight. It is indeed a stirring scene.
Of course the fortune of the young Kentuckian depends on the result of a race, and naturally enough the jockey gets drunk when it is too late to procure a substitute and everything seems lost. Then the mountain maid comes forward, dons the costume of a jockey and rides a race that ends victoriously in front of the grand stand, while the band boys strain their horns playing "Dixie" and the crowds go crazy over the pretty race. Here the whole house feels like rising to cheer, for the scene is really enough to fire the most phlegmatic.
The rest of the story tells itself. Everything ends happily, of course, and the villain receives proper attention.
The people were so absorbed in the play that they had not time to notice whether the actors were good, bad or indifferent. That is a sign that their work was well done. Laura Burt was the favorite, her part of the mountain girl giving her the affections of her auditors at once. Edward White was at times a trifle stiff as the villain, but the cold glitter in his eyes was something that lifted his part far above mediocrity.
The house was fairly well filled, but is predicted that much larger audience will be on hand tonight.
The concert given last night at the First congregational church was a very unpretentious affair and perhaps that is one reason why it was so thoroughly enjoyed. The pieces were all of simple character. Mrs. Raymond played a bright and spirited march by Wiley . Mr. Wurzburg gave Pinsuti's "What Shall I Sing to Thee" in good voice. Mrs. Casrie Nye of Omaha sang "If I but Knew," by Smith , and Nevin's "Twilight" in her first number, and "My Little Love," by Hawley, in her second. For an encore she gave Dennee's "Lullaby." Mrs. Nye has a full mezzo soprano voice of a rich quality. The only piano number was a march by Hollander , played by Mrs. Will Owen Jones . She was recalled and gave Nevin's "Narcissus." Mrs. C. S. Lippincott sang "My Bonnie, Sweet Bessie," in a voice marked for its clear and sweet quality. Her encore song was "Going to the Mountain." Prof. Frank Strong was on the program for one song, but the audience, of course, required two. Those who had not heard him before were pleased to find his voice rich and sympathetic and his singing in good style A duet, "Master and Man," by Mrs. Lippincott and Mr. Wurzburg, closed the musical part of the entertainment, which was just as delightful as it was unostentatious.
Light refreshments were later served in the chapel, and gave an excuse for a social hour after the concert.
The great and instantaneous metropolitan success "In Old Kentucky" will be repeated at the Lansing theatre tonight. The many novel and striking features of this new play seem to have landed it high in popular favor.
The laudatory comments expressed by the people in general and many urgent requests for a repetition of "The Captive" of Plautus and "The Antigon" of Sophokles by the students of the state university have led to the granting of the demands. Friday, February 23, is the date chosen and all evidences point to the Lansing theatre being filled to overflowing. While the plays are in Greek and Latin, it must not be supposed that they are uninteresting unless the auditor is a thorough scholar in these respective languages. The plot of each is very simple and has an actionable story, thus not depending upon the dialogue to any great extent. The prices are 25, 50, and 75 cents. Seats now on sale.
Saturday evening, February 24, at the Lansing theatre, Nibbe's French burlesque company will present the latest up to date burletta, called "His Nibs and His Nobs." This company is particularly noticable from the fact that there are none but artists upon its roster. Many European novelties are introduced in the olio and an unusually good peformance is promised.
In Old Kentucky: This popular play by Charles T. Dazey (1855-1938) premiered in New York October 23, 1893. Set in the bluegrass and mountain areas of Kentucky, the plot featured feuding families and climaxed in a horse race. The play was made into a novel by Edward Marshall, and several films using this title were made—one in 1909 by D.W. Griffith, others in 1919 and 1927, and another in 1935 with Will Rogers and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
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.
Dixie: Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904) is credited with the composition of this song for Jerry Bryant's minstrel show in 1859, though some scholars argue that the tune may have come from two African American brothers, Ben and Lou Snowden, who were singers in Emmett's hometown in Ohio. The song quickly became popular, especially in the South; it was played at the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederate States of America, and was used as a marching song by Confederate troops. Although well-known throughout the U.S., it is still identified with the South. It begins,I wish I was in the land of cotton.Old times there are not forgotten,Look away, look away, look away, Dixieland.
Laura Burt: Actress Laura Burt (1872-1952) was born in England. One of her greatest successes was as the star of In Old Kentucky; a scene from the play was filmed in 1900. She played in a musical, The King's Carnival, in 1901, along with Marie Dressler. Later in her career she played older women in silent movies such as Love and the Woman and The Social Pirate, both in 1919.
Edward White: Actor Edward White may possibly be the Edward A. White whose only appearance on Broadway was in Broken Melody in 1896, according to the New York Times drama review index. Odell's Annals of the New York Stage does not mention an actor of this name.
First Congregational church: The First Congregational church was the first of any denomination to organize in the village of Lancaster, in 1866; the village was renamed Lincoln the following year. In 1869 a building was erected at 13th and L Streets. A daughter congregation, Plymouth Congregational Church, was organized in 1887; the two merged as First-Plymouth Congregational Church in 1923, and built a new church at 20th and D streets in 1930-31.
Mr. Wurzburg: Joseph H. Wurzberg, of 1644 B Street, was a lawyer in Lincoln in the early 1890s. He was born in Germany in 1851 and came to the U.S. in 1854, married in 1885, and came to Lincoln about 1890.
Pinsuti: Ciro Pinsuti (1828 or 1829-1888) was born in Siena, Italy; he was a pupil of Rossini's, then moved to London in 1848, where he taught singing before becoming a professor at London's Academy of Music in 1856. He composed many (almost 250) solo and part songs, as well as three operas which were performed in Italy.
Mrs. Cassie Nye of Omaha sang: Possibly Carrie E. (Hayes) Nye (born 1856 in New Hampshire), wife of Fred Nye, editor and owner of the Omaha Republican. There are few Nyes in the Omaha city directories of this period; Carrie E. Nye seems closest in age and social position to such a singer. In the 1900 and 1920 censuses, Carrie Nye was a music teacher and musician in Fremont, Nebraska.
"If I but Knew": A poem by Amy E. Leigh was set to music by Wilson G. Smith; a version of the song was published in 1906, but it may have been available earlier in one of the collections of songs Smith published. If I but knew what the tree-tops say,Whispering secrets night and day,I'd make a song, my love, for you,If I but knew—if I but knew.If I but knew how the lilies brewNectar rare from a drop of dew,A crystal glass I'd fill for you,If I but knew—if I but knew.Love, if I knew but one tender word,Sweet as the note of a wooing bird,I'd tell my ardent love to you,If I but knew—if I but knew.
Smith: Wilson G. Smith (1855-1929), of Cleveland, was then a well-known musician, arranger, teacher, and composer of piano music and art songs. His "Entreaty" was featured in Myrtle Reed's popular novel, Old Rose and Silver.
Nevin:: American pianist and composer Ethelbert Nevin (1862-1901) was born near Pittsburgh. He studied as a pianist at home and, in the early 1880s, abroad. He made his debut in 1886. He began composing and performing his own work, mostly songs and impressionistic piano pieces. "Narcissus" from Water Scenes (1891) became one of his most popular pieces: Isadora Duncan danced to his performance of the suite in 1898. Nevin suffered a nervous breakdown in 1894 and returned to Europe until 1896, when he moved back to the family home, Vineacre, near Pittsburgh. His most popular songs were composed in these last years before his early death: "The Rosary" (1898)—which inspired a best-selling 1912 novel by Florence M. Barclay—and "Mighty Lak' a Rose" (1900).Willa Cather met Nevin when she lived in Pittsburgh. She wrote about a musical evening at the Nevins' in "An Evening at Vineacre" and published a tribute to him after his death in the Nebraska State Journal, 24 March 1901. The characters of Adriance Hilgarde in "'A Death in the Desert'" (1903) and Valentine Ramsay in "Uncle Valentine" (1925) are based in part on Nevin.
Twilight: Ethelbert Nevin's "At Twilight," with words by Peyton van Rensselaer, was published in Five Songs for Soprano or Tenor, op. 12 (1891). The roses of yesteryearWere all of them white and red:It fills my heart with silent fearTo find all their beauty fled.The roses of white are sere,All faded the roses of red;And one who loves me is not here,And one that I love is dead.
"My Little Love": The words to the song, "My Little Love," by Charles B. Hawley, are as follows: God keep you safe, my little love,All through the night.Rest close in His encircling armsUntil the light.My heart is with you as I kneel to pray,"Good night! God keep you in His care alway."Thick shadows creep like silent ghostsAbout my bed.I lose myself in tender dreamsWhile overheadThe moon comes stealing through the window bars.A silver sickle gleaming 'mid the stars.For I, though I am far away,Feel safe and strong,To trust you thus, dear love, and yetThe night is long.I say with sobbing breath the old fond prayer,"Good night! Sweet dreams! God keep you everywhere!"
Hawley: Charles B. Hawley (b. 1858) was born in Connecticut of a musical family; he went to study in New York in 1875, and became a church musician, organist or director of music for several churches. He also taught voice, and was the composer of many popular songs, including "Because I Love You," "My Little Love," "Where Love Doth Build His Nest," "Were I a Star," and "Ah, 'Tis a Dream."
Dennee: American composer Charles F. Dennée (1858-1946) was born in upstate New York and went to Boston to study at the New England Conservatory of Music when he was sixteen. He trained as a concert pianist, but problems with his wrist c. 1887 caused him to give up performing for teaching and composing. He composed several light operas, but was best known for his songs and piano pieces. His most popular song, selling over a million copies was "Sleep Little Baby of Mine;" others include "Dreamland," "Memories," and "So Fair and Pure."
Hollander: Possibly Alexis Holländer (b. 1840), a German conductor and composer of works primarily for piano or voice, or Benno Hollander (b. 1853), Dutch violinist and composer of songs and orchestral and instrumental pieces.
Mrs. Will Owen Jones: Edith Doolittle, who attended classes at the University of Nebraska, married classmate Will Owen Jones (class of 1886). She was an accomplished pianist who performed at many public functions in Lincoln.
"My Bonnie, Sweet Bessie": popular song, "Bonnie Sweet Bessie, the Maid of Dundee" with music by James L. Gilbert and words by Arabella Root, was published in 1873. The first verse begins, "A highland laddie there lived o'er the way." The chorus goes: "But sorrow came to her heart one day,And her dear darlin' was taken away.The oh, how sad and lone was she,Bonnie sweet Bessie, the maid of Dundee."
Prof. Frank Strong: Frank Strong became superintendent of the Lincoln public schools in 1893; he lived at 1812 F Street."Professor" was a title given to school principals and superintendents regardless of their academic backgrounds.
Plautus: Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254-184 B.C.) is the earliest Roman playwright whose work—twenty plays in whole or in part out of more than a hundred—has survived. (The name Plautus, meaning "flatfoot" may be a nickname rather than a family name.) He is believed to have been a stagehand of some sort; after attempts to follow more lucrative trades failed, he began selling his plays, based on Greek plots and with Greek character names, to the managers of the public games. His broad humor and characters influenced Renaissance comedy; the character of the "miles gloriosus," the swaggering soldier, is taken from Plautus's play of that name.
Antigone: Antigone, a tragedy by Sophocles, was written first of the Theban trilogy, in 442 B.C., though chronologically it comes last. As the play opens, Oedipus' two sons are dead, killed by each other in fighting for the throne. Their uncle, Creon, now king of Thebes, decrees that Polynices, the rebel, should not be buried. Antigone, sister of the two brothers, believes that it is her duty to the gods and her brother to bury him; her sister Ismene agrees, but is afraid to take part. Creon leaves Antigone to starve to death in a cave, but the blind prophet Tiresias eventually convinces Creon that he was wrong. He goes to the cave to release Antigone, but she has hanged heself (as did her mother Jocasta). At this discovery, Creon's son, Antigone's fiancé, takes his own life, as does his mother, Creon's wife Eurydice.
Sophokles: Sophocles (or Sophokles) (496 or 497-406 B.C.) was one of the three great Greek writers of tragedy. He was born near Colonus, near Athens, and was a wrestler in his youth. Of the 123 plays he is said to have written and entered in the contests at the Festival of Dionysius, only seven are known to survive completely. The most famous of these are the three plays of the Oedipus cycle. Sophocles also served Athens as a treasurer, a general, a commissioner, and a priest.
Nibbe's French burlesque company: Odell's Annals of the New York Stage notes that Nibbe's Burlesque Company opened at the Olympic Theatre in Harlem in May 1893 with an opening piece, The Sunday Club Reception and a closing piece, His Nibs and His Nobs. Odell lists the members of the company as Mabel Andrews, McGrew and Armold, John Siddons, Boyle and Graham, Morton and Eckhoff (XV 435).
"His Nibs and His Nobs": Odell's Annals of the New York Stage refers to His Nibs and His Nobs (1893) as a closing piece for Nibbe's Burlesque Company (XV 435); the piece was not reviewed by the New York Times."His nibs" and "his nobs" are both slang terms referring to self-important men.