The Chicago papers are raving over Modjeska in "Mary Stuart." "Regal, queenly, womanly," are a few of the glowing adjectives applied to her. Of course, no adjective can be too strong for Modjeska, but one wonders how she really plays the role, whether she is the grand, stately, regal queen of Schiller or the vain, impulsive, sentimental queen of history. Of course, Schiller idealized Mary Stuart , the Germans have such an awful habit of idealizing their women. Schiller has almost made the world forget that Mary was Gallic by choice and education, that she wept all day on leaving France, that it was France that was supposed to be graven on her heart. In prison it was not Scotland but France she sighed for. The hatred between Mary and Elizabeth was no mere personal hatred, it was the incompatibility of two races. The trouble with Mary was that she tried to establish a Tuilleries in solemn, bag-pipe, Presbyterian Scotland. She is always played and written of as though she were a sort of national saint, whereas in truth there were Italian tenors and supper episodes and diverse marriages, just as there are nowadays.
All year we have been opposed by a vague, indescribable dread. Every time we have seen the bill posters putting up posters we have shuddered lest we should see her name, or, more still, her picture. It has been a hard year, theatrically and otherwise, and we have had most of the seven plagues of Egypt poured upon us, but we have hoped the Lord would spare us Maggie , and it almost seems that he is going to. We have seen her pictures yearly ever since we were little, and we have grown unspeakably weary of them and of her. Fifty years ago, when Maggie was young she had nothing but a laugh with mirth in it and a face with a moderate allowance of beauty. But how any actress can be so behind as to imagine that she is beautiful after she is seventy remains unexplained. If she played parts like Mrs. Drew , her age would be gladly pardoned and forgotten. But to see a woman of seventy, old and shrunken and "wrinkled deep in time," painted and padded and schottishing about the stage is more than most of us can stand with comfort. The year is so far advanced now, that we almost begin to breathe freely. Perhaps she may not come after all. Yet such good fortune must portend something very dark. If she really spares us this this time, we had better have overskirts and big sleeves put on our ascension robes, we will need them this year.
The Warde - James combinations are a good literal example of the Elijah's garment story. Mr. Warde has no talent at all; Mr. James has very little. We can all remember the burly negro they made of Othello here last year, and we all remember their Desdemona , ah! would that we could forget! Neither Mr. Warde nor Mr. James is popular; they are not intelligent enough to please the downstairs portion of their audiences and they do not make noise enough to please the gallery. They are drawing houses on just two lines of their play bills, the lines which announce that they have purchased the scenery and costumes of the former Booth - Barrett combination. People go to see them to see them wear Booth's clothes, that is the long and the short of it. They stagger about in Saul's armor and try pitifully to imitate Saul. One would think they would feel a bit queer sometimes when they draw the garments of the mighty dead over their pigmy limbs. I would like to see Booth's clothes again myself, but I don't want to see them on Mr. James.
Company managers are raving over the hard times in Texas. They claim that they never dream of drawing a house, and they are very lucky if they can get one square meal in the state. A manager recently said that theatrical matters were even duller than here. It is hard to see just how that can be, unless in Texas even the deadheads won't go to see the theatre from principles of shoe leather.
The dramatic papers and newspapers and papers generally are concerning themselves wonderfully over Booth's successor. There is even a good deal of feeling as to whether he will be Mr. Whitesides or Mr. Willard . The public seem to think they have only to name Booth's successor to cause him to appear, that if they only give an actor permission he will straightway go and be Booth. Now the truth is the public needn't trouble themselves for it won't do any good. If, after Shakespeare's death, the learned English doctors had got together and elected another Shakespeare, much use it would have been. We can elect Benjimen Harrison's and Grover Cleveland's any day, but Booth's and Shakespeare's have to be balloted on in heaven. We will just have to patiently wait until God and nature are pleased to give us another Booth, and it may be a long old wait, for we can't hurry the tide of destiny.
"The Lady of Venice" is by no means a financial success, indeed it is very otherwise. The play has thrilling situations. The actors are good, the scenery and costumes are beautiful. The play is highly romantic and in blank verse. The trouble is that the world doesn't want romance on the stage now. It is tired of armor and helmets, it likes dress suits and silk hats better. Of course from a senseof duty we still go to see Shakespeare and "Virginius" and a few time honored plays of a romantic and historical nature, but we go because our fathers went and because it is traditional. We have put this historical play and the historical novel on the shelf, they have seen their day. The public demands realism and they will have it. They want plays with modern wit and modern sympathies and modern emotions.
The best troupe booked for the Lansing for some weeks to come is the Craigen - Paulding company in "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Duel of Hearts." No romantic actors this season have done such good work here as the company did some weeks ago. "Romeo and Juliet" promises to be especially good, as Mr. Paulding has played "Romeo" to Margeret Mather's "Juliet" for years and is undoubtedly one of the best Romeos in America. What Miss Craigen will be as Juliet we do not yet know, but the expectency with which we wait is eager and not at all doubtful.
The plot of "An Old Jew," the play by Mr. Grundy which has been doing such good business in London, is as follows: Twenty years before the play begins the "old Jew" has discovered that his wife has deceived him. He makes ample provision for his wife and two children and leaves England. When he returns twenty years after he finds his wife in poverty because of the faithlessness of his agent, his daughter an actress, his son a starving playwright in an appropriate attic. The Jew has all the economical semitic instinct, and has amassed untold millions. He makes the acquaintance of his family and sets about distinguishing himself in the role of benefactor. He gets a mortgage on a big theatre and compels the manager to play his son's play. There is a whole club of men who have sworn to stand in his son's way; he buys the club. He buys up everything and everybody, but in strange contradiction to the well known instincts of his race he has no desire to sell them again. He buys up and pensions the man who seduced his wife twenty years ago, reveals his identity to his family and forgives his wife. The play is one of those plays that attract attention by its unpopularity. The general complaint seems to be that there is not sufficient provocation for anything that happens. There is nothing particularly noble in the old Jew coming back and going into the wholesale purchasing business as though he were buying a stock of fall goods. Mr. Hare's fine acting is wanted in the part. Mrs. Wright has a part so insufficient that it doesn't even give her a chance to show herself, and Miss Conti , the gifted young actress, has to play the engaging role of a waiting maid.
There has been another case of Keats in England. The critics said that Mr. Henry Pettitt could not write plays, and Mr. Pettitt foolishly went off and died. People should not take critics too seriously, they should remember that because of the necessity of eating critics have to say something and that they can't always say the same thing. But, to speak seriously, the English stage has lost in Mr. Pettitt a promising playwright. He was not a man of this generation, and he was not at all a realist. He was intoxicated by the rich and lavish color of the orient and could not work in half tones. His work lacked the ingenuity of more modern plays, but it had in it a great strength and vividness and awful sincerity that the plays of today lack altogether. The English critics are so horribly merciless and stony, and they have such an injudicious way of turning their thumbs down on everything that is youthful and hopeful. It is all right to be satisfied with only the best work, but there is no use in eternally damning genius because it is unnatural and good work because it has flaws. The British public is never really enthusiastic, it never has been, there never was a spark of enthusiasm in their old mud bank except what the Normans brought over when the gallant William landed, and the climate was too foggy for that to live very long and it died centuries ago. The English people have never been excited since they began, probably that is why they have kept going so long. The French are so constantly wrought up that they wear themselves out every generation or two and go all to pieces and have to make a new government, but the English have expended so little vital force that they will live on centuries after they are dead inside, like the Chinese. When there is really a great genius in England, the people are never enthusiastic, they remain perfectly deaf and stolid until years after he is dead and then it is too late for any emotion except respectful reverence. They are very economical of their praise, but it wasn't poetic economy to kill Keats, it wasn't dramatic economy to kill Pettitt. It is strange how much finer work the critics condemn than they ever do.
Isabel Irving has decided to return to her own country. She has been with Mr. Daly's company now six years and made a great hit before the English public. The last London Theatre says of her: "Winsome is the epithet which Miss Irving invariably deserves and almost invariably earns. Winsome in manner and winsome in beauty, Miss Irving possesses also a winsome personality which peeps through and often transforms the character she is playing. Her Audrey is a notable instance of this. That uncouth wench, faultlessly witless, brilliantly dull, was by this radiant winsomeness for the first time invested with such femininity as to become a possible mate for Touchstone and no mere turnip-munching, cherry-cheeked clod." Miss Irving sails for America on March 10.
The plots of melodramas are becoming as rigidly conventional as the art of the Egyptians, and woe to the playwright who departs therefrom. Mr. Cyrial Norman , in his new play, "Blue Grass," did not depart. The plot is as old as melodrama itself. John Brand and his wife are separated by Mrs. Raylove , an adventuress whom John has loved in his salad days. She sends John's old letters to Mrs. John at the instigation of her love, Colonel Decatur , whom she in time discovers is in love with Mrs. John. She so enrages Berthelot that he kills her and shifts the crime on John Brand's shoulders. In the end Brand is cleared and lives happily forever after. Prison scenes, lynching scenes, etc., form pleasant interludes.
The Kansas populists are having a play written to expose the infamous corruption of the republican party. Several scenes will be devoted to last year's legislative warfare. The pops expect to stage the play next year and send a company out to do missionary work. Undoubtedly they will assign the role of leading lady to her masonic majesty, Mary Lease , and let her represent their ideal of womanly virtue and sweetness. For the leading man, they cannot do better than send over the line and borrow General Van Wyck to play the embodiment of manhood and honor. The only trouble with such a company would be that the theatre would scarcely be holy enough for them, and they would probably have to play in the churches.
Frank Daniels will appear in comic opera next season.
Rose Coghlan's tour ends in May. She will spend the summer abroad.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hoyt are spending their honeymoon in Florida.
The very popular actor William H. Crane at the close of his New York engagement will begin a spring tour which will take in this city.
"The laughing girl of the butterflies with the sun-kissed hair and eyes of deep, translucent blue" is the latest nickname of Olive May in the dramatic papers.
"Charley's Aunt," which is now in the sixth month of its successful run at the Standard theatre, New York, will shortly be taken on a western trip by Manager Charles Frohman . It has a date for the Lansing.
How long, Oh Lord, how long? The Dramatic Mirror announces that Maggie Mitchell will revive "Jane Eyre" and "Fanchon" next season. Yes, but who on earth or in the waters under the earth is to revive Maggie Mitchell?
The San Francisco Examiner says that not since the days of John McCullough has there been seen such a performance of "Virginius" in the Golden Gate city as was given by James O'Neill last Sunday, when he presented Sheridan Knowles' tragedy for the first time in 'Frisco.
The Mirror can be cute once and awhile; witness the following: " Theresa Vaughn's press agent says that Miss Vaughn's dressing room at the Garden theatre is every night filled by flowers sent her by society ladies. The question that suggests itself is: Where, then, does Miss Vaughn dress?"
On Monday afternoon at 4:30 Mr. A.L. Gray will begin a series of talks on the history of music, its field among the arts, its development in the different countries, the great composers and their influence upon each other, and musical conditions in different countries at the present time. These talks will be given in the hall of the conservatory of music and will be continued throughout March and April. All students and those interested will be welcome.
One of the dramatic journals says that recently Madame Melba on hearing Theresa Vaughn sing "Annie Rooney" "stood up in the box and applauded most vigorously and then, having kissed a lovely bouquet of pink orchids, threw the flowers to Miss Vaughn." It startles one some way to think of Melba and "Annie Rooney" together. One gets to thinking of Melba as always attired in the pearls and white satin and romantic agony of Juliet, and it seems paradoxical for her to "vigorously applaud" "Annie Rooney."
Modjeska: Helena Modjeska (1840 or 1844—sources differ) was born in Cracow, Poland, and went on stage in 1861; the name by which she is best known is a simplified version of her Polish stage name. She was acclaimed as the greatest Polish actress, but emigrated to a ranch in Orange County, California, in 1876 with her husband, Karol Chlapowski, a minor Polish nobleman; the titles of Count and Countess appear to have been bestowed on them later. Modjeska learned English quickly enough to make her American stage debut in 1877 and soon became one of the best known and most respected actresses in the country, known for her historical and Shakespearean roles as well as the modern emotional dramas. She retired in 1907 and died in 1909.
Modjeska appears in Cather's My Mortal Enemy (1926).
Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery and the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.
Mary Stuart: Schiller's historical drama (1801) takes place in the last three days of Mary's life, while she is imprisoned by Elizabeth I and awaiting her execution. Although Schiller took liberties with historical facts, his analyzes of the political and personal situations were powerful: the judges are pressured into their verdict of treason by the political authorities. Mary, convicted unjustly, comes to accept her punishment as expiation for her former sins, and thus is spiritually reborn.
Schiller: Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), German poet, playwright, and philosopher, was trained in law and medicine on the orders of his father's patron, Duke Karl of Wurttemberg. The use and abuse of power and the struggle for freedom became central themes in his work. His study of Kant led him to formulate his own philosophy of aesthetics; through the influence of Goethe he was appointed professor of history at the University of Jena. His first play was The Robber (1781); his greatest plays were the Wallenstein trilogy (1800-1801), Mary Stuart (1801), and Wilhelm Tell (1804).
Mary Stuart: Mary Stuart (1542-1587) became queen of Scotland when her father, James V, died six days after she was born. Her French mother had her brought up at the court of Henri II and Catherine de Médici, whose eldest son, Francis, she married in April 1558. When Elizabeth Tudor became queen of England in November 1558, Henri claimed the throne on Mary's behalf—she was the great-niece of Henry VIII and was next in the succession, though Elizabeth refused to admit that claim. Henri died in 1559 and Mary became briefly queen consort of France before her husband died in 1560. Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, the French-bred Roman Catholic queen of a fractious Presbyterian country. She married her cousin Henry Stuart, earl of Darnley in 1565. The following year Darnley had her secretary, Rizzo, murdered in her presence. She was accused of having an affair with James, earl of Bothwell, and plotting the death of Darnley in 1567. After that Bothwell abducted her and forced her into marriage, but the Scots rose up and imprisoned them both, deposing Mary in favor of her one-year-old son, James. Mary fled to England, where Elizabeth kept her a prisoner for the next eighteen years. Discovery of a Roman Catholic plot in 1586 to put Mary on the English throne convinced Elizabeth that Mary would always be a danger. Mary was tried by an English court and condemned to execution, a fate she met with great dignity.
Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth Tudor (1533-1603) was the younger daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Although Henry declared the marriage invalid after beheading Anne for adultery and treason, Elizabeth was declared third in the succession when her half-brother Edward was born. She survived a childhood and youth of plots by others under Edward and her elder half-sister, the Roman Catholic Mary I, before ascending to the throne in 1558 at the age of twenty-five. The rigorous education, self-control, and political skill she had learned as princess, in addition to her choice of wise and loyal counselors, enabled her to lead England to a place as one of the major powers of Europe. Nonetheless, she had to contend with plots against her at home and abroad, some of the most dangerous of which centered on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, whom Roman Catholics saw as the legitimate heir to the throne; Elizabeth reluctantly signed Mary's death warrant in 1587. Despite the many offers for Elizabeth's hand in marriage, she remained "the Virgin Queen," and as a symbol of her country, gave her name to England's golden age of literature and power.
Tuilleries: The Palace and gardens of the Tuileries, on the right bank of the Seine, adjacent to the Louvre, were named this because the complex occupied the site of tile kilns (tuileries). Catherine de Médici began the work in 1564, and it was enlarged in the 1600s. Louis XIV lived there while building Versailles, and it became Napoleon's principal palace. The palace was burned in Communard uprising in 1871, but the gardens, laid out by André LeNotre, survive as one of Paris' great public parks.
seven plagues of Egypt: In Exodus 7, when Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites go out of Egypt, God allows Moses and Aaron to call down seven plagues to convince him. In the first, the Nile river was turned to blood; the second was a plague of frogs, the third of gnats, the fourth of boils on humans and animals, the fifth of hail, the sixth of locusts, and the seventh of three days of darkness. Three other plagues were direct actions of God: plagues of flies, a cattle disease, and finally, the destruction of the first-born children of the Egyptians.
Maggie: Probably Margaret (Maggie) Mitchell (1832-1918) who, after going on stage at the age of 12, made a sensational success in 1861 in the title role in Fanchon, the Cricket, adapted from a George Sand story, "La Petite Fadette." She played the role of the elfish, spritely heroine for the next thirty years; she had acquired the rights to the play, which was often performed, giving her substantial royalties. Mitchell also played in many of the mainstay dramas of the nineteenth century, such as Jane Eyre, The Lady of Lyons, and Ingomar. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, she retired from the stage in 1892.
Mrs. Drew: Louisa Lane (1820-1897) was born into an English acting family that dated back to the mid-eighteenth century, and made her stage debut at an early age as a child actress. At the age of nineteen she became one of the highest-paid actresses in America at twenty dollars a week. She became particularly famous as Lady Teazle and Mrs. Malaprop. Her third husband was John Drew, senior (1827-1862), an Irish-born actor. In 1861 she became manager of the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, the first woman manager of a major theater. Her son John Drew, jr., became one of the stars of both the Daly and Frohman acting companies. Her daughter Georgie Drew, whom Otis Skinner called "the most accomplished comedienne of her time," married Maurice Barrymore; their children were John, Ethel, and Lionel Barrymore. Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.University of Washington Libraries Digital Libraries.
Wrinkled deep in time: In Act 1, scene 5, of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra wonders what the absent Antony is doing and thinking: "—think on meThat am with Phoebus' amorous pinches blackAnd wrinkled deep in time."
Overskirts and big sleeves put on our ascension robes: Cather jokes that the end of the world must be near, so that their heavenly apparel should have the features of current women's fashions in 1894.
Warde: Frederick Barkham Warde (1841-1935) was born in England; he made his stage debut in 1867. Playwright Dion Boucicault encouraged him to go to America, where he joined Edwin Booth's company in 1874. From 1893 to 1903 he toured with actor Louis James, both in Shakespearean roles and in such standards as The Lady of Lyons, Mary Stuart, and The Count of Monte Cristo; in 1899 he gave a start to the young Douglas Fairbanks, sr. The tours were not always successful; in 1904 he filed for bankruptcy. However, he went on a lecture tour, then toured with his own company in 1905-06, and again, unsuccessfully, in 1910. In 1912 he starred in one of the first American feature length films, and the first complete film version of a Shakespeare play, Richard III. He played in ten other films between 1916 and 1925. Warde's memoirs, Fifty Years of Make Believe, were published in 1923.
James: Louis James (1841-19?) played with John Drew, Sr., at the Arch Street Theater in Philadelphia; he was a member of Daly's company in the 1870s. He later played in Lawrence Barrett's company before teaming up with Frederick Warde.
Elijah's garment: In 2 Kings 2.8-15, the prophet Elijah takes his mantle and, striking it on the water, divides the river Jordan with it so he can cross over. He tells his companion Elisha that if Elisha can see the chariot of fire that takes Elijah up to heaven, it will be a sign that his spirit of prophecy has fallen to Elisha. Elisha sees Elijah's ascension "And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, "The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha."
Othello: In Shakespeare's tragedy, Othello, The Moor of Venice (performed 1604-05), Othello the Moor, a great general for the Venetians, has married Desdemona, a Venetian lady. One of his lieutenants, Iago, angry at being passed over for promotion, plots to arouse Othello's jealousy. He obtains a handkerchief that had served as a token of fidelity between Othello and Desdemona and plants it in the room of his rival, Cassio. Enraged, Othello kills Desdemona. When the plot is revealed, Othello, contrite, kills himself.
Desdemona: In Shakespeare's tragedy, Othello, The Moor of Venice (performed 1604-05), Desdemona is the innocent wife of the Moorish-Venetian general Othello. She is oblivious to the plots of Iago, and is slain by her jealous husband.
Edwin Booth: Edwin Booth (1833-1893) came from an acting family; his father, Junius Brutus Booth (1796-1852), who came to America in 1821, had been acclaimed in England as a rival of the great Thomas Kean. The elder Booth's other sons were Junius Brutus Booth, an actor-manager, and John Wilkes Booth. At first it seemed that Edwin had not inherited much of his father's talent, but he toured with his father's company in secondary roles. His father's death in 1852 while on tour in California left Edwin in charge, and he toured the West and Australia before returning to New York in triumph, where he was soon acknowledged as superior even to Edwin Forrest. He became manager of the Winter Garden Theatre in 1862, producing Shakespeare in productions notable for their magnificence and great acting; he became particularly identified with the role of Hamlet. The assassination of President Lincoln by his brother John caused Edwin Booth to retire briefly, but audiences welcomed him back. Booth built his own theater in 1868-69 and organized his own stock company. Although this enterprise was successful in many ways, Booth went bankrupt in 1874 and thereafter appeared under others' management—notably with Lawrence Barrett in the 1880s. He toured England, playing opposite Henry Irving, and Germany as well. His last performance was as Hamlet in 1891, when he retired to live in his apartment in the building he had given to the Players' Club when he founded that organization. He died June 7, 1893.
Otis Skinner played in his company in 1880; he says Booth "was in the flower of his artistry and at the height of his power. At the age of forty-seven he had not yet begun to exhibit that weariness of work that overcame him after his return from Europe. His ambition was dauntless; his body flexible and obedient to his will; his face, beautiful and melancholy, showed nothing of its later traces of lassitude, and the music of his voice which held to the very end, was never more harmonious. No actor of his time so completely filled the eye, the ear, and the mind with an ideal of romantic tragedy as Edwin Booth" (Footlights and Spotlights 91).
Lawrence Barrett: Lawrence Barrett (1838-1891) was born in New Jersey and made his stage debut in 1853, and his New York debut three years later. He played supporting roles with actors such as Edwin Booth, Charlotte Cushman, and E.L. Davenport, then left to join the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War. After the war he played Othello to Booth's Iago, then became manager of a theater in New Orleans, playing Shakespeare and historical roles such as Richelieu, returning to New York periodically to play opposite Booth; his Cassius to Booth's Brutus was considered the best of his time. Barrett toured England several times in the 1880s, and joined with Booth in tours until his sudden death in 1891.
Robert Ingersoll, in a tribute to Barrett after his death, said, "He did not seek for gain by pandering to the thoughtless, ignorant, or base. He gave the drama in its highest and most serious form. He shunned the questionable, the vulgar and unpure, and gave the intellectual, the pathetic, the manly and the tragic. . . He had a thoughtful face, a vibrant voice and the pose of chivalry . . . He was a graceful and striking Bassanio, a thoughtful Hamlet, an intense Othello, a marvelous Harebell, and the best Cassius of his century."
In Cather's My Ántonia, Mrs. Gardener goes to Omaha to see Booth and Barrett at the same time Blind d'Arnault visits Black Hawk.
Saul's armor: In 1 Saumel 38-39, after the boy David asks to go as the champion of the Israelites to fight Goliath, Saul puts his own armor David, with a helmet of brass, a coat of mail, and a sword. David finds himself unable to use this armor, removes it, and takes only his staff and five round stones in his shepherd's bag.
Mr. Whiteside: Walker Whiteside (1869-1942) was born in Indiana and educated in London and Chicago, where he made his stage debut in 1884; by the age of twenty he had played many of the standard Shakespearean and Victorian heroes—Hamlet, Othello, Lear, Richelieu, etc. He formed his own company and made his New York debut as Hamlet in 1893, and continued to tour through the mid 1930s; he made his London debut in 1914. He married actress Lelia Wolstan, who became his leading lady.
Mr. Willard: Actor E. S. (Edward Smith) Willard (1853-1915) was born in England and began acting in 1869, playing in provincial theaters. Soon after his London debut in 1875, however, he returned to the provinces in the leading roles he was unable to obtain in London. In 1881 he returned to London, joining Wilson Barrett's company; he made a hit in a supporting role in The Silver King, and was successful in Shakespearean and modern roles. He remained in London when Barrett's company went to the U. S. in 1886. His role of Cyrus Benkam in The Middleman (1889), by Henry Arthur Jones, made him a star. He brought the play to America in 1890, with Maxine Elliott making her debut as his daughter, and remained until 1894. He returned to America periodically until his retirement in 1906.
Benjamin Harrison: President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) was born in Ohio, the son of a farmer. He graduated from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, then moved to Indiana. He served with the Union army in the Civil War, becoming a brevet brigadier general by war's end. A Republican, he was elected to the Senate in 1881 and ran against incumbent president Grover Cleveland in1888. Although he had 100,000 fewer popular votes than Cleveland, he had a substantial majority in the electoral college and became the twenty-third president. Although he signed the Sherman Anti-trust Act in 1890, agricultural depression and rising populist discontent in the west contributed to his defeat by Cleveland in 1892.
Grover Cleveland: President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) was born in New Jersey, the son of a minister. The family moved to Buffalo, New York, where his father's death made Cleveland the support of his mother and sisters, so that he hired a substitute when he was drafted during the Civil War—a legal step, though it gave ammunition to political enemies later. A Democrat, Cleveland became mayor of Buffalo in 1881, and governor of New York in 1882. His honesty, in contrast to many corrupt politicians of the era, helped make him the Democratic nominee for president in 1884. He won a close election against James G. Blaine, then lost to Harrison in the 1888 election, but went on to defeat Harrison in 1892. However, the Panic of 1893 and labor unrest weakened his popularity, and in 1896 Nebraska congressman William Jennings Bryan defeated Cleveland for the Democratic nomination for president.
The Lady of Venice: Richard Zouch Troughton's Nina Sforza: A Tragedy in Five Acts (1841), an historical drama in blank verse, was revived and renamed The Lady of Venice in 1894. The play concerns love, jealousy, poison, and the machinations of an Iago-like friend; the reviewer in Punch, at the London opening, said "Though the tragedy possesses little originality, it will, from its melo-dramatic and exciting character, be most likely a very successful one" (6 November 1841).
"Virginius": The 1820 play Virginius, set in classical Rome, by James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), is based on Livy and tells the story of a soldier whose duty it becomes to kill his daughter, Virginia.
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.
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).
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.
Margaret Mather: Margaret Mather (1860-1898) was born in Quebec but came as a young child to Detroit, Michigan, where she supposedly sold newspapers in the street before going on the stage and becoming one of the most well-known Shakespearean actresses of her day. Her 1890 production of Cymbeline was supposed to have cost $40,000, a fabulous sum in its day. Mather died of tuberculosis while onstage, and was buried in her Juliet costume.Cather saw Mather as Juliet in Lincoln in 1892 and admired her voice, but when she saw Mather in the mid-1890s, she condemned her as superficial.
Mr. Grundy: Sydney Grundy (1848-1914), a prolific playwright and librettist, was born in Manchester, and practiced law there until 1876, though he began writing plays and farces earlier. He adapted a number of plays, including The Snowball (1879) and In Honor Bound (1880) from Scribe, and A Pair of Spectacles (1890) and A Village Priest (1890) from other French dramatists. Other plays include Mammon (1877), A Fool's Paradise (1889), A White Lie (1890), Sowing the Wind (1893), The New Woman (1894), The Slaves of the Ring (1894), The Greatest of These (1895) with the Kendals, The Degenerates (1899), and A Debt of Honour (1900). He wrote librettos for various operettas and comic operas, including Popsy Wopsy (1880), Pocohantas, or the Great White Pearl (1884), and The Vicar of Bray (1892) with music by Edward Solomon, The Union Jack (1888) with Henry Sprake, and most notably, Haddon Hall (1892) with Arthur Sullivan.
Mr. Hare: John Hare (1844-1921), born John Fairs in Yorkshire, England, made his London debut in 1865; he was part of the company of Squire and Mrs. Bancroft for the next ten years. He established himself as a leading actor at the Court and St. James's theatres before becoming actor-manager of the Garrick Theater from 1889-95, where he produced Pinero's plays The Profligate and The Notorious Mrs. Ebsmith. One of his great successes as an actor was in Sydney Grundy's adaptation, A Pair of Spectacles (1890); he became known for character roles, especially as old men. He toured the U.S. several times between 1895 and 1901. Hare was knighted in 1907.
Keats: English Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) was apprenticed to a surgeon, but after 1817 he devoted himself to poetry. His first books, Poems (1817) and Endymion (1818), were savagely reviewed in 1818; in the legends of Keats which grew up in the nineteenth century, this was supposed to have broken his spirits, and an unhappy love for Fanny Brawne is supposed to have broken his heart. His greatest poems—"The Eve of St. Agnes," the "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "To a Nightingale"—were written in 1819, while his health was beginning to decline. In late 1820 he went to Italy and died of tuberculosis in Rome the following February.
Mr. Henry Pettitt: Henry Pettitt (1848-93) was a popular British playwright, particularly known for his melodramas, such as Taken from Life (1881); Love and Money (1882) with Charles Reade; Pluck (1882) with Augustus Harris; In the Ranks (1883) with George R.Sims. Many of his plays were first produced at the Adelphi Theatre in London, coming to typify the fare offered there. Pettit also collaborated on the libretto of The Union Jack (1888) with Sydney Grundy.
William: William the Conqueror (c. 1028-1087), duke of Normandy, made himself one of the great lords of France. He was a cousin of the childless king of England, Edward the Confessor and had himself acknowledged as Edward's heir. When Edward died, William claimed the throne, invaded England, and defeated his cousin Harold at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
Isabel Irving: Isabel Irving (1871-1944) joined Daly's company in 1888, playing Shakespearean roles, among other; she was Audrey to James Lewis's Touchstone in As You Like It in 1889. She left the Daly troupe in 1893 to join that of Daniel Frohman, in the Lyceum Theater in New Your, where she played more contemporary roles.
Mr. Daly's company: Augustin Daly (1838-1899) was interested in the play production and creation from his youth, though he began his professional career at the age of twenty-one as a drama critic for various New York newspapers. His first play, Leah the Forsaken, the first of many adaptations of foreign plays, became a favorite vehicle for leading ladies for the rest of the nineteenth century. His first original play was Under the Gaslight (1867), which featured the hero tied to the tracks as a train approaches. In 1869 Daly became manager of the Fifth Avenue Theatre and built up a "company of stars," as he advertised. He was quick to spot talent and developed it through a rigorous system. Some of his stars, like Clara Morris, left to head their own companies, but many, like Ada Rehan and John Drew, stayed loyal to his troupe for many years. Otis Skinner, who joined his troupe in 1884, said, "Augustin Daly was a tall man who carried himself awkwardly and wore the same peculiar stiff black hat year after year, giving an annual order to his hatter for a new edition. No martinet was ever more strict in discipline and cast-iron rule. While he had able lieutenants, he left little but the veriest drudgery to them. He ran the entire establishment from the ticket office to the stage door. He was ubiquitous. . . . His capacity for work was limitless" (Footlights and Spotlights  135).
Audrey: Audrey is a "country wench" who herds goats in the forest of Arden in Shakespeare's As You Like It (c. 1600). Simple and unpretentious, she is impressed by Touchstone's high-flown language, and is nearly inveigled into a faked marriage with him. However, they are married in the end along with Rosalind and Orlando, Celia and Oliver, and Silvius and Phebe.
Touchstone: Touchstone is a clown, or court jester, in Shakespeare's As You Like It (c. 1600). He loyally follows Rosalind and Celia into exile in the forest of Arden. He attempts to seduce the country girl Audrey, but ends up marrying her.
Mr. Cyrial Norman: Actor, playwright, and novelist Cyril Norman's melodrama, Blue Grass (1893), played in the minor theaters of New York in 1893 and 1894, and on the road, but it was not reviewed by the New York Times. The play starred Norman's wife, who acted under the name of Mrs. Cyril Norman.
"Blue Grass": Blue Grass (1893), a melodrama by Cyril Norman. Cather describes the plot in her March 11, 1894, column.
Mary Lease: Mary Elizabeth Clyens Lease (1850-1933) was born in Pennsylvania, daughter of an Irish immigrant family. In 1870 she moved to Kansas to teach school, then married Charles Lease, a druggist. She became active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union's fight for prohibition and then for woman suffrage. After moving to Wichita, she began to work also for the labor movement, the Farmers' Alliance, and then the Populist party, for which she became a noted speaker; after the Populists won power in Kansas in 1890, she toured the country as one of their most visible speakers. The advice to farmers to "raise less corn and more hell" was popularly attributed to her (the phrase was coined by a fellow populist, Ralph Beaumont). As a woman speaking on political matters she was also widely attacked, not only for her views but for her gender. When the Populists threw their support to Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan in 1896, Lease reluctantly campaigned for him. After 1896 she divorced her husband and moved to New York, where she supported herself and her children as a lawyer and lecturer.
General Van Wyck: Charles Henry Van Wyck (1824-1895) was born in New York state, and served in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1859-1863; while still in Congress he recruited and served as colonel of the 56th New York Volunteer Infantry. He was made a brevet brigadier-general of volunteers in 1865. He served another term in the House (1869-71) before moving to Nebraska, where he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1875. A Republican, he also served as a U.S. senator from Nebraska 1881-1887. He died in Washington, D.C. on 24 October 1895.
McKee Rankin: Arthur McKee Rankin (1841-1914) was born in Windsor, Ontario. At the age of twenty-one he was a member of Mrs. Drew's Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia. He married an actress, Kitty Blanchard, with whom he toured. He took over John McCullough's California Theater in San Francisco, building up a well-known repertory company. He wrote some of the plays which they performed, notably '49, a story of gold rush days, and The Danites, an anti-Mormon exposé; both were made into silent films c. 1911. One daughter, Phyllis, married Harry Davenport; her son was a silent film actor under the name of Arthur Rankin. Another daughter, Gladys, married Sidney Drew, and a third married Lionel Barrymore.
Frank Daniels: Frank Daniels (1856-1935) was born in Dayton, Ohio, but grew up in Boston, where he studied singing at the New England Conservatory of Music. One of his first important roles was in 1879 as the sheriff in The Chimes of Normandy. His first success was as a comedian. He toured for three years in the hit play, An Electric Doll, then had another success as Old Sport in Charles Hoyt's A Rag Baby. His biggest hit was as Packington Gilmedge in A. C. Gunter's Little Puck, which he played for seven years. He turned to comic operas such as The Wizard of the Nile, Ameer, and The Idol's Eye. William Winter called him "the comedian with the trick eyebrows" but says nothing about his voice, though Daniels recorded a Victor Herbert song, "My Angeline" in 1896. The narrator of Kenneth McGaffey's satiric novel, Sorrows of a Show Girl, said, "I was out with a kind friend the other evening whose general disposition is to try and make Frank Daniels look like a spendthrift" (chapter 1).
Chanler will play his own play: The New York Times drama review index lists a Mr. Chandler who played in an 1895 production of The King of Peru, but no other Chanler or Chandler of this period who can be associated with the play Re-Engaged. Odell's Annals of the New York Stage does not index the name or the play.
Clement Geiger (1864-1910) was born near El Paso, Illinois. He went to the University of Chicago to study law, but was drawn to the stage, changing his name to Clay Clement. He married actress Madeleine Marshall, and they had a son, Claudius Geiger (named for the role his father was playing at the time; young Claudius also changed his name to Clay Clement when he became an actor on the stage and in Hollywood). Clay Clement was successful as actor, manager, and playwright; he toured America and Australia in his own productions, the most successful of which was The New Dominion, and in Shakespearean roles.
Clement married actress Madeleine (Mattie) Marshall (1867-1897), and they had a son, Claudius Geiger (1888-1956), named for the role his father was playing at the time; young Claudius also changed his name to Clay Clement when he became an actor; he had a long career on Broadway and in films, and was one of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild. After Marshall’s death, Clement married Karra Kerwyn and actress Kathleen Kerrigan (1869-1957).
Rose Coghlan: Rose Coghlan (1853-1932) was born in England and began acting when she was still a child. Actor-manager E. H. Sothern brought her to America in 1871; she returned to England for four years, creating the role of Lady Mandan in All For Her, playing it for 400 nights at the St. James Theatre. Returning to New York in 1877, she became the leading woman in Lester Wallack's famous stock company, gaining fame as a player of emotional parts and adventuresses in such roles as Camille, Vere Herbert in Moths, Pauline in Lady of Lyons, and Nellie Denver in The Silver King. Her range extended into comedy also—she was considered one of the best Lady Teazles of her time, and a successful Rosalind. Critic Frederic E. McKay called her "Rose Coghlan, the wide-eyed, velvet-voiced, caressing, fascinating, divinely smiling." Coghlan formed her own company in 1888, when Wallack retired; she married actor John T. Sullivan, who was her leading man, in 1890; they divorced in 1893. She returned to England in 1892, then came back to America in 1894, playing in Wilde's A Woman of No Importance; other popular roles were in Our Joan, Princess Olga, Lady Barter, Diplomacy, and Forget-Me-Not. Jocelyn and Madonna were written for her by her brother, actor Charles Coghlan. Rose Coghlan became an American citizen in 1902. She appeared in three silent films before her retirement.
Image available at the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.
Jennie Eustace: Jennie Eustace (1865-1936) was a popular actress whose career extended into the 1920s. She played supporting roles in Palmer's traveling company in the late 1880s before coming to play supporting roles at his Madison Square Theatre in 1891. By 1895 she was playing in Richard Mansfield's company.
May Brookyn: May Brookyn (c. 1859-1894) was spoken of as a "very promising actress" with Richard Mansfield's company in 1883; she was with A. M. Palmer's company for most of her career, where she played opposite Maurice Barrymore in Alabama. She was in the first American production (with Barrymore as Lord Darlington) of Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan in early 1893. Although she married a Mr. King, she became involved with wealthy New York sportsman Frederick A. Lovecraft and spiritualism. He committed suicide in late October 1893; she committed suicide in San Francisco in early February 1894. The Philadelphia Record said "The letters and papers left by the dead woman show plainly that in her grief over the death of Lovecraft she had dabbled in Spiritualism, and had finally reached the conclusion that her only chance of happiness lay in joining her lover in the other world" (Feb. 17, 1894).
Palmer's company: Albert Marshall Palmer (c. 1838-1905) was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He was a librarian with the New York Mercantile Library when he was asked to take over the management of the Union Square Theatre in 1872. Although he had no theater training, the stock company Palmer built up was extremely successful. His biggest hit was The Two Orphans, which ran for 180 performances and became one of the standard plays of the late nineteenth century. In 1884 Palmer took over the Madison Square Theatre (rebuilt by Steele Mackaye), producing William Gillette's The Private Secretary, which ran for over 200 nights. When manager Lester Wallack retired in 1888, Palmer took over his theater, naming it for himself; Charles Hoyt took over the Madison Square Theater in 1891. Palmer produced one of the first American production of Ibsen's A Doll's House (December 1889) and Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan (February 1893), but this was not as successful as Palmer's other ventures had been, and he retired in 1896.
Chauncey Olcott: Chancellor (Chauncey) Olcott (1860-1932) was born in Buffalo of Irish immigrant parents. Olcott toured in the west before making his New York debut in 1886 at the Union Square Theatre. He had a light tenor voice, and became famous for Irish roles and music. He wrote the words and music for "My Wild Irish Rose" (1899)—also the title of the 1947 movie based on his life, starring Dennis Morgan and Arlene Dahl—and the words for "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" (1912).
W.J. Scanlan: William J. Scanlon (1856-1898) was born in Springfield, MA; he became a singer for temperance groups at the age of 13, then joined Irish comedian William Cronin in a vaudeville act in 1876. By 1883 he was known as a singer, songwriter, and actor under the management of Augustus Pitou. He wrote songs for The Irish Minstrel (1883), Shane-na-lawn (1885), Myles Arroon (1888), and Mavourneen (1891). Scanlon's mental health began to break down in late 1891, and he was committed to an asylum for the insane in January 1892, remaining there for the rest of his life.
Billy Fuller: Neither the New York Times drama review index nor Odell's Annals of the New York Stage (XV) list an actor of this name; the quotation marks, however, suggest that "Billy Fuller" is either a pseudonym or the name of a role.
Fay Templeton: Fay Templeton (1865-1939) was born into her parents' troupe, the John Templeton Opera Company; her first speaking part was at the age of five. Before she was twenty she was touring the country with her own company, the Fay Templeton Comic Opera Company. Her first big success in New York was in Rice and Braham's burlesque, Evangeline in 1885, and in London with Monte Cristo, Junior in 1886. She was known for her beauty, her singing, and her acting, especially her talents as a comedienne. In 1898 she became associated with Weber and Fields' in their burlesques, appearing with Lillian Russell. She is perhaps best remembered now for singing "Mary's a Grand Old Name" in George M. Cohan's Forty-five Minutes from Broadway, an episode dramatized in the movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) based on Cohan's life, and in the musical George M. She was also the subject of a1906 short film, Fay Templeton. Her last role was as the title character in Jerome Kern's Broadway musical Roberta (1933).In chapter 1 of The Song of the Lark, Dr. Archie wishes he'd gone to Denver to hear Fay Templeton sing "See-Saw."
L'Enfant Prodigue: Although a number of works bore this name, the most likely seems to be Michel Carré's play, L'Enfant Prodigue: Pantomime en 3 Actes, with music by André Wormser (c. 1891). It was produced at the Theater of Shadows in Paris by Henri Rivi?re, and was very popular in England, where it is credited with reviving the art of pantomime. The actors performed in whiteface, with costumes derived from the Commedia dell' Arte.
William H. Crane: William H. Crane (1845-1928) was one of the best known comic actors of his day. He partnered with Stuart Robson from 1877-1889, then took off on an independent career. Popular as he was in the 1890s, his greatest success was yet to come, in the title role in David Harum (1900), a role he recreated in the silent film (1915). He appeared in other silent films, notably as Buster Keaton's father in Keaton's first starring role, The Saphead (1920).
Humorist George Ade, classing Crane with such actors as Joseph Jefferson, said, "William H. Crane is another veteran of the stage who holds the regard of the public. It knows him as the kind of man we should like to invite up to our house to meet the 'folks'" (Century, December 1910). Critic Lewis C. Strang, who also compared Crane with Jefferson, said "He is a character comedian, whose one character is himself. His is a whole-souled, frank, and genial personality . . . that suggest shrewdness and generosity, keen good sense, and tender-hearted chivalry. . . . His command of pathos is not so sure" (Famous American Actors of the Day in America  149, 151). Crane wrote a volume of reminiscences, Footprints and Echoes (1927).
Image in the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
George Richards: George Richards was a comic actor who first appeared on the New York stage in 1885, and was appearing in Charles Hoyt's productions by 1888; he was featured in A Hole in the Ground (1888) and and was teamed with Eugene Canfield in A Temperance Town, which, according to the New York Times, toured for three years before coming to New York in 1893. The Times reviewer said of the latter play, "The best piece of acting was probably the town drunkard of Mr. Richards, in which the character was steadily sustained and the element of personal humor was never lacking" (19 September 1893). His last reviewed stage appearance in New York was in 1910.
Eugene Canfield: Eugene Canfield was a comic actor who was featured in Charles Hoyt's A Bunch of Keys (1884) and in other Hoyt productions. The New York Times reviewer said of his appearance in Hoyt's A Midnight Bell (1889), which ran for more than a hundred performances, that his character "was impersonated with much grotesque fun and agility by Eugene Canfield" (7 March 1889).
"The Circus Clown": Despite the apparent popularity of circus plays—A Circus in Town (1887), A Circus Rider (1887, and revived several times), The Circus (1892), and Circus Girl (1897)—a play called The Circus Clown does not appear in the indexes to the New York Times drama reviews or Odell's Annals of the New York Stage (XV).
Madame Rejane: Gabrielle Réjane (1856-1920), French actress, made her first success in 1883. She excelled in comedy, but took on more emotional roles, perhaps as a rival for Sarah Bernhardt. Her most famous role was as Catherine in Sardou's Madame Sans-Gêne (1893), which she also played in London and New York, as well as in the silent film version (1911). She was a member of the company of the Theatre des Varietés until she formed her own Theatre Réjane. She retired in 1915.
Miss Olive May: Olive May (c. 1870-73-1938) was born in Chicago; her family had moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, by the early 1890s, although she may have already gone on the stage by then. She appeared onstage in Lincoln with Stuart Robson's company in the fall of 1892, and made her New York debut in Henry Guy Carleton's Butterflies (1894), playing Suzanne to Maude Adams' Miriam. She married Carleton later that year and retired from the stage until 1897. She had a fairly successful career playing soubrettes and comediennes until about 1920. After Carleton's death she married John Albaugh.
The New York Times reviewer "E. A. D." wrote of May's performance in Butterflies: "Olive May has made the individual hit in the performance at Palmer's. She is young, small, and trim, round-faced, agile, and pretty. She has a bubbling laugh, and her speaking voice is pleasing. Above all, she is something new. . . . Olive May has the richest part in "The Butterflies"; she says a lot of things Mr. Carleton wouldn't be ashamed to say himself in an after-dinner speech, and she is not a bit like anyone else now before the public" (Feb. 11, 1894; 10:4)
Cather interviewed May in Beatrice and wrote about it in the August 4, 1895, Nebraska State Journal; she saw May in Pittsburgh in 1899, reporting on it in the December 23, 1899, Courier.
Grace Sherwood: Grace Sherwood appeared intermittently on the New York stage between 1888 and 1894, being reviewed the first time in a musical variety play and the third (and last) time as a supporting player in a benefit performance of the Bernhardt standard, Frou-frou. In 1892 she had the title role in an apparently bad play, Jane; the New York Times reviewer said, "The greatest hit was made by the impersonator of Jane, Miss Grace Sherwood, a clever actress . . . . Miss Sherwood will survive Jane" (6 September 1892).
Jane Harding: Possibly the famous French actress Jane Hading, born Jeanne Alfredine Tréfouret (1859-1933); she was born in Marseilles and obtained her first acting experiences in Algiers and Cairo. On her return to France she sang in operetta, but her first big success was in a dramatic role, in Ohnet's Le maître de forges (1883). Her red-gold hair was famous. She married the manager of the Gymnase theater in 1884 and divorced him in 1887. She toured America with Coquelin in 1888 and became established as one of the leading French actresses.
Sybil Sanderson: Sybil Sanderson (1865-1903) was born in California; her talent showed when she was very young, so in 1881, at the age of fifteen she was taken to Paris to study. Her beauty captivated composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912); her operatic debut was in his Manon in 1888. She had a three octave range, which Massenet showed off in operas written for her, including Esclarmonde (1889), Le Mage (1891), and Tha?s (1894). Although she was a great success in Europe, her New York debut in 1895 was greeted coolly. She retired briefly after her marriage to Antonio Terry, but returned to the operatic stage after being widowed. She was engaged to Count Paul Tolstoy,the son of Leo Tolstoy, when she died suddenly in 1903.
Cather's character Kitty Ayrshire in "A Gold Slipper" (1917) and "Scandal" (1919) seems to be based in part on Sybil Sanderson.
Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
M. de Saint Saen: Camille de Saint-Sa?ns (1835-1921), French composer, organist, critic, and writer, was a child prodigy on the piano; his first symphony was performed when he was twenty. He was the first French composer of symphonic poems: his "Danse Macabre" is one of his most often performed. His best-known opera, Samson et Dalila (c. 1877) was not performed in Paris until 1890.
Pharyne: Saint-Sa?ns (1835-1921) composed the opera Phryné (1893) for Sybil Sanderson (1865-1903). Phyrne was one of the most beautiful and famous Greek courtesans. When she was put on trial for violating the Eleusinian mysteries, her lawyer (the orator Hepereides) won the case by tearing open her tunic to expose her breasts to the jury. The great Greek painter Apelles and the sculptor Praxiteles, one of her lovers, were said to have used her as a model for their renditions of Aphrodite.
Comique in Paris: The Opéra Comique in Paris was a medium size theater which at first presented theatrical works with some spoken dialogue and self-contained songs or other music, on lighter themes, as opposed to the grand opera presented at the Opera House. However, the distinctions blurred as the nineteenth century progressed. Fires destroyed the Opera-Comique buildings in 1838 and 1887; the new building of that name opened in 1898; thus the opera-comique company must have performed in temporary quarters in the interim.
Charley's Aunt: This farce by Brandon Thomas (d. 1914) opened in London in 1892, and in New York October 2, 1893. Two Oxford undergraduates in love need a chaperone for an intimate lunch with their sweethearts. When Charley's aunt from Brazil is delayed, they press a fellow undergraduate into the role, complicated when the real aunt arrives unexpectedly.
The play has been a favorite, especially for amateur and small professional productions ever since it was written. It was made into a silent film in 1925 starring Syd Chaplin; an early talkie in 1930, starring Charles Ruggles; another film in 1941 starring Jack Benny and Kay Francis; a musical, "Where's Charley" starring Ray Bolger, and a Playhouse 90 television production.
Standard theatre, New York: This theater presented a variety of musical shows, from the simultaneous production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe (with the Savoy Theatre, London) in 1882, to The Creole Show (1890), one of the first blackface minstrel shows to include women; the minstrel show ran for five consecutive seasons.
Mr. Charles Frohman: Charles Frohman (1860-1915) became the most important theatrical manager of his time; he was one of the founders of the Theatrical Syndicate which for a time controlled U.S. theaters. His first big success was with Bronson Howard's Shenandaoh in 1889. He developed the star system when he engaged John Drew in 1892 for his Empire Stock Company, and later managed many other of the top stars; he encouraged many playwrights such as Clyde Fitch and David Belasco. Frohman died in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915.
How long, Oh Lord, how long?: A widely used phrase to express suffering, this may derive from Revelations 6.10: "And they [martyrs] cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"
The Dramatic Mirror: The New York Dramatic Mirror began as the New York Mirror in 1879 and assumed this name in 1889; millionaire Harrison Grey Fiske (1861-1942) became editor at the age of 18, and sold it in 1918. By then it had become the Dramatic Mirror of Stage and Motion Pictures and survived under variants of that name until 1922.
Maggie Mitchell: Margaret (Maggie) Mitchell (1832-1918) went on stage when she was 12, and because of her small size, played a variety of child and boy roles (notably Oliver Twist) for many years thereafter. Her greatest success was as Fanchon, the Cricket, in the play of that name (1861), and it was a role she played for the rest of her career. She acquired the rights to the piece, which was became one of the standard plays of the late nineteenth century, making her a small fortune. She was also successful in other standard emotional plays such as The Lady of Lyons, Ingomar, The Pearl of Savoy, and Jane Eyre. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, she retired in 1892.Image available at the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.
Jane Eyre: One of the play versions of Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel Jane Eyre; it was a staple for emotional actresses, in part because of its big scene where Jane, at the altar, discovers that Mr. Rochester, the man she loves, is already married to a madwoman.
"Fanchon": Augustus Waldauer translated a German play based on George Sand's novel. Fanchon the Cricket; or, The Little Fadette (1848). The play was brought to America in 1861, with Maggie Mitchell in the title role. The plot concerns a little elfish orphan girl, an outcast because of her grandmother (old Fadette), whose goodness eventually wins the hearts of everyone in the village, including that of a young rich man. The play included a shadow dance performed by the little Fadette.The play was made into a movie starring Mary Pickford in 1915.
The San Francisco Examiner: The San Francisco Examiner was founded in 1865; George Hearst won the newspaper from William Moss in a card game in 1880, and in 1887 his son William Randolph Hearst took over as publisher. Hearst built up the circulation of the flagging paper and published writers such as Twain, London, Ambrose Bierce, Gertrude Atherton, and Edwin Markham, as well as Ernest Thayer's poem "Casey at the Bat."
John McCullough: John E. McCullough (1832-1885) was born in Ireland and came to the U.S. as an illiterate immigrant in 1847. With hard work he attained a place in E.L. Davenport's company in Boston, then went on tour with Edwin Forrest, the greatest American tragedian of the time, in 1861. In 1867 he left Forrest's company in San Francisco to become manager of the California Theater. There he played many of the heroic and tragic roles—Spartacus, Virginius, Richelieu, Lear—in which Forrest had excelled, which led to a commonplace criticism that he was only an imitator of Forrest. Other critics disagreed.Critic John Ranken Towse did not consider McCullough a great actor, but he said, "His Virginius, in Knowles's tragedy, was his most notable achievement. In this he approached greatness very closely. The part, compounded of powerful but simple emotions, lay completely within the compass of his abilities . . . . Soldierly dignity, grave humor, paternal tenderness, manly rage, and the frantic despair of a strong man were denoted by him with masterly simplicity and truth" (Sixty Years of the Theater [New York, 1916] 224).New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
James O'Neill: James O'Neill (1849-1920 was born in Ireland and came to the U.S. as a child. He first appeared on the stage in Cincinnati in 1867, and soon was playing in stock companies in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. In 1882 he played Dantès in a stage version of The Count of Monte Cristo to immense popular success. Although he was also successful in Shakespearean and other historical roles, his public wanted to see him as Monte Cristo, and he played the role over 6,000 times over thirty years. Cather remembered him as one of the best Monte Cristos she had seen ("Willa Cather Mourns Old Opera House"). O'Neill was the father of playwright Eugene O'Neill, who portrayed his father as James Tyrone in A Long Day's Journey Into Night.
Sheridan Knowles' tragedy: The 1820 play Virginius, set in classical Rome, by James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), is based on Livy and tells the story of a soldier whose duty it becomes to kill his daughter, Virginia.
The Mirror: The New York Dramatic Mirror began as the New York Mirror in 1879 and assumed this name in 1889; millionaire Harrison Grey Fiske (1861-1942) became editor at the age of 18, and sold it in 1918. By then it had become the Dramatic Mirror of Stage and Motion Pictures and survived under variants of that name until 1922.
Theresa Vaughn: Theresa Vaughn was a popular singing and dancing comic actress. She worked often with her husband, actor William A. Mestrayer (1846-1896). The New York Times reviewer said of their performance (in an "idiotic farce-comedy") that "Mr. W. A. Mestrayer and Miss Theresa Vaughn have long been popular in this city as entertainers and they sustained their respective and conjunctive reputations" (1 January 1887). An October 2, 1896 Times review said, " She is one of the best comic actresses ever seen here, endowed with genuine talent and a keen sense of humor."Vaughn was probably performing in 1492 (opened February 5, 1894) when Melba applauded her singing
University of Nebraska Conservatory of Music: The University of Nebraska offered instruction in music but had no regular department of music. In 1892 Chancellor James H. Canfield proposed the establishment of a Conservatory of Music to be affiliated with but not funded by the university; however, its students would receive university credit (and provide music for university functions). Willard Kimball of the Grinnell College Conservatory of Music was invited to establish the new conservatory; the building, at the corner of 11th and R Street, just across from the campus, opened in 1894.
Madame Melba: Nellie Melba (1861-1931) was born Helen Porter Mitchell in Melbourne, Australia. Though she was trained as a pianist and organist, she did not begin to study singing until she attended Presbyterian Ladies' College in Melbourne, where tenor Pietro Cecchi encouraged her to make singing her profession. She married Charles Armstrong in 1882; they were divorced in 1900. In 1886 she went to London and became a student of famed vocal teacher Mathilde Marchesi. She made her operatic debut in 1887 and from 1888 to her retirement in 1926 she was affiliated with London's Covent Garden Opera house. She quickly became an international star, making many world tours, and singing occasionally with the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1893 until 1910. Foods such as peach Melba and Melba toast were named for her. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1918.
Annie Rooney: "Little Annie Rooney" was a song written, composed (1889), and sung in British music halls by Michael Nolan. It was brought over to New York and incorporated into The Bowery Girl, where it was sung by Annie Hart. It became enormously popular, but Nolan earned no royalties on it because the U.S. was not part of international copyright laws. The name "Annie Rooney" was used as the title of a silent film starring Mary Pickford (1925), a syndicated comic strip (1927), an animated cartoon (1932), and comic books (1938).The first verse and chorus read: A winning way, a pleasant smile,Dress'd so neat but quite in style,Merry chaff your time to wile,Has little Annie Rooney.Ev'ry eve-ning, rain or shine,I make a call twixt eight and nine,On her who shortly will be mine,Little Annie Rooney.Chorus: She's my sweetheart, I'm her beau;She's my Annie, I'm her Joe,Soon we'll marry, never to part,Little Annie Rooney is my sweetheart!