The dramatization of a novel is not so easy as it looks. "She" was a very successful book, but it does not even make a fairly successful play. Of course the fact that the dramatization was made by an illiterate man must be considered, but even more offensive than the style of writing is the strained and undramatic tone of the piece. A play that is spread out over several thousand years and several continents is apt to lack unity. A heroine who is several thousand years old and who was the wife of Pericles of Athens is apt to lack human interest. One can read such things in a novel and, if the style is good and the tale well told, not mind them or notice the inconsistencies to any painful degree, but when people see absurdities represented in flesh and blood before their eyes it is another thing. The chief trouble with "She" as a play is that it lacks human feeling. The heroine is not a woman, her passions are not those of a woman. There is no one character to whom one's heart can go out in either love or pity. The only dramatized novel which has been played successfully is Dumas' "Dame aux Camelias" , and that the author himself dramatized.
Mr. D. Blakely , to whom Sousa is indebted for his great band, calls himself a "musical crank." His lifelong occupation has been that of a journalist. He was for years the editor of the Chicago Post, and later of the Minneapolis Tribune. He was, during war times, the secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction of Minnesota, and he is now the owner of the Blakely Printing company.
Mr. Blakely is as devoted to music, however, as he is to business, and in his travels abroad he conceived the notion of securing for America a band equal in all respects to that of the celebrated band of the Garde republicaine of Paris. Knowing the musical merits of the brilliant Sousa, then the leader of the United States Marine band, he induced him to resign his government connection and organize the new candidate for public faver. Carte blanche was given him to secure the best musicians the world afforded and months were occupied by Sousa in selecting his men. The result is current history. Sousa's band is admitted to be without a rival, and its popularity is attested by the fact that it has engagements for an uninterrupted season of forty one weeks of daily concerts, beginning February 24 and ending December 8. The band has all the great engagements formerly filled by Gilmore , including those of Manhattan beach, of the May and June concerts at the Madison Square garden , of the St. Louis exposition, etc., etc.
Mr. Blakely made no mistake in his selection of Sousa as the leader of his great band. He is a thoroughly scientific musician, by all odds the most popular band composer of his time, and he is a born executive, and a consequent leader par excellence. Withal, unless Thomas in his younger days be the one exception, he is the handsomest and most graceful leader on the American stage, and he is a thoroughly genial and accomplished gentleman, and an uncommonly wide awake, intelligent man. His popularity, therefore, is easily accounted for, and the explanation is easy why his band is the only one which can maintain itself as a purely concert organization, entirely independent of regmental or parade connections.
Sousa's music, and particularly his marches, is more universally played, both by bands and in the parlor, and more extensively sold, than that of any other composer, and with good reason. It all contains that charming individuality peculiar to the man and irresistible to music and dance lovers. His compositions are sold by the thousands, and are a constant source of profit to him. He has written numberless marches, the most notable of which are "Washington Post," "High School Cadets," "Beau Ideal," "Belle of Chicago," "Manhattan Beach" and "Liberty Bell," the latter two being recent productions of his pen: innumerable waltzes, operas, songs and descriptive pieces, and he is now writing an opera, "El Capitan," for De Wolf Hopper , to be finished before August 1, and a descriptive idyl from Longfellow's "Tales of a Wayside Inn." The versatile conductor is an indefatigable worker, and why shouldn't he be, when his compositions are so eagerly sought after by the public? The most interesting personality on the American stage is the brilliant and eccentric actor who will appear in his novel impersonation of Beau Brummell at the Lansing theatre on Monday night.
Had Richard Mansfield never appeared as Prince Karl , or in other similarly juvenile diversions whose artistic merit cannot atone for their moral superficiality, the American public would have accepted him long ago with one voice as the ablest and most illustrious American exponent of the drama in its serious form.
Without doubt he is entitled to this distinction — this crown and laurel wreath of conquest. Whether the date of his coronation amid the universal applause of admirers of the higher histrionic art is near at hand or far off remains to be seen, depends chiefly upon himself.
His energy, hopefulness, determination and vigorous fancy know no limits. The scope of his general theatrical ambition is broad enough to include every type of histrionism and all varieties of drama. He is, perhaps, the most powerful force in the world of American theatricals today, and he uses his influence for purity and dignity. That he is one of the very small company of great producers of plays is beyond cavil. His talents and toil have won for him a position of unique and lucrative supremacy.
Mr. Mansfield is full of surprises. In a New York interview the other day he poured forth a torrent of impetuous and impatient expectation.
"All I need is a theatre. I appeal to the world, to everybody, to anybody, to assist me in erecting it. It must be in New York. I need it here. I may as well now say, emphatically, that it is my burning purpose to have a theatre of my own in this city. I shall have it. In it I shall surround myself with the finest company money can band together. I shall present plays of every kind with all the care, attention and skill an earnest man can bring to a task. I feel sure the moment I have a theatre of my own my difficulties will disappear from my path. I am at the best period of my life. If I am a bad actor I am willing to be told so and depart for other lands. The time has come now, however, when, if I am worthy, I must have my reward."
Katherine Clemmons and William F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill," have parted is both senses of the word. Miss Clemmons has a very pitiful little tale of woe about Mr. Cody losing all personal interest in her and Katherine says she won't have a manager who does not give her personal attention. She says Mr. Cody shamefully neglected her during Fifth avenue engagement and did nothing whatever for her beyond paying $40,000 worth of bills. Miss Clemmons feels very badly, but she should remember that Colonel Cody's service has been both long and faithful. He sent her to the Boston school of oratory years ago when she was unknown to fame. He backed her when she was Viola Clemmons and patiently footed her enormous expenses and was financially responsible for her many failures. He has stood by her as Katherine Clemmons and has never drawn his purse strings. This season he backed her when she failed in the Lady of Venice , and he backed her when she failed in Mrs. Dascot . It is now an affair of some twelve years' standing, and has lasted longer than most of them. Colonel Cody has hired first class companies, leased big theatres, bribed the critics and lavished annual fortunes upon Miss Clemmons, yet her failures have been as many as there were seasons, sometimes indeed, she has managed to fail in two plays in one season, as she has this year. It is no wonder that even Colonel Cody's "personal interest" is beginning to wane. If Miss Clemmons' fancy were for purchasing diamonds or buying up old castles or titles any other inexpensive fad, Mr. Cody would gladly gratify her, but the stage is altogether too expensive as an amusement.
The members of the Light Infantry company unhesitatingly give a large share of the credit for the success of minstrel entertainment on Tuesday evening to Mr. Haydn Mayer , who not only acted as interlocutor and soloist, but was the principal manager of the affair through the weeks of preparation and rehearsal.
Of course the great dream of every playwright is to introduce an absolutely new situation on the stage. It is for this that race horses, police wagon, fire engines and all such abominations are introduced behind the footlights. Mr. John Stevenson in his new play, "Nobody," has achieved a hitherto unheard of situation, but it is so colossal that he is likely to have brain fever from the worry of it. If his novelty were only an earthquake or a cyclone or a storm at sea it would be easy to manage, but Mr. Stevenson's ambition demands that a soubrette shall milk a real cow on the stage. The situation is, of course, idyllic, but the distracted playwright cannot find in all America a soubrette who can milk a cow — nor a cow who will be milked by a soubrette.
It is too bad that Dela Fox has decided to star next year. Not but what she will be delightful enough as a star, but she will surely lose by losing her striking contrast with Hopper. It is Hopper that makes Miss Fox so funny and Miss Fox that makes Hopper so funny. Together they are very great, separately they will be only half as great. If ever two comedians were in perfect sympathy artificially and were born to play together they are De Wolf Hopper and Dela Fox. It is unfortunate that they can't keep on making the world laugh together, the Irving and Terry of comedy.
An actor once said: "The very poor professional performance is better than the very best amateur performance." While this is not exactly true it must be confessed that to one who has neither friends nor acquaintances among the actors an amateur performance is usually a very tame affair. It is rude to make any very harsh criticism upon an amateur, and generally it is bad taste to lavish excessive praise. If an amateur were criticised by the same standards as a professional there would indeed be wailing and gnashing of teeth in town the next morning. An amateur performance should always be handled gently and kindly, like a church concert or sociable, but it cannot expect to be treated very seriously. As a rule the actors in such an entertainment are either very conservative people of the intellectual cult, or very select society blossoms. They step daintily about the dressing room as though they feared they might in some way become contaminated by touching things that had been handled by professional hands, and saunter on the stage as though they were doing the theatre a great honor and it was a very great condecention for them to be there at all. The fact is it is a very great presumption. The gilded youths of society have banished actors and actresses from their sacred circle. They regard them as different and inferior beings; they stare at them on the streets and refuse to dine at the same table with them at hotels. Then when this same gilded youth attempts to step in and do off hand what has cost great men and women years of labor and pain and the renunciation of social recognition, it can scarcely expect to be taken seriously.
Lincoln has not produced a star actress as yet, but she has every right to be proud of the promising triple bar artist, Mr. Joseph Wittman . Although Mr. Wittman is still young and has never been able to devote his time entirely to the work, he already excells the triple bar men with Primrose & West and other minstrel shows on the road. In addition to the necessary strength and skill, he has remarkable ease and grace in movement and a cool head. High class vaudeville work is beginning to win high recognition in the United States, and if Mr. Wittman intends to pursue bar work as a profession he will undoubtedly make one of the finest artists in the country.
De Wolf Hopper had a big birthday in Kansas City.
Richard Mansfield offered to star Henry Miller next season.
Paul Kester has written a new play for Alexander Salvini , called "The Last of the Moors," which Mr. Salvini will produce next season. Eleanor Moretti, the leading woman of Salvini's company, is ill.
The Passing Show which will be produced in May at the Casino in New York will be a burlesque on all the successful plays of the season, among them "Sowing the Wind," "Charley's Aunt," and "The Butterflies."
Marie Tempest intends to try to fill the place made vacant by the late Rosina Vokes , and it is said that A. W. Pinero and W. S. Gilbert are each writing a play for her, and that her repertory will be made up of almost entirely new material.
Louie Massen writes the Mirror that he will manage his wife, Marie Burroughs , next year and also be one of her leading support. Marie writes to the Chicago Herald that he won't manage her at all, but that she has several other managers on the string.
Mable Eaton, the Omaha actress, closed her first season in her native city on March 31. Her season is said to have been successful in every way. Next year she will appear in a play of a foreign author. She will go abroad in August to procure costumes and also see her playwright.
Richard Mansfield has bought in the name of his wife, Beatrice Cameron , a magnificent residence in New York. The entrance hall is furnished in mahogany and the parlors will be decorated in white and gold. The house is four stories high. Mr. Mansfield's budoir will be especially elegant. The purchase price was $29,000.
Mrs. Cora Urquhart Potter and Kyrle Bellew are about to return from the Orient, where they have been on a professional tour covering nearly a year. Mrs. Potter will bring home a new historical drama entitled "Charlotte Corday," in which Mr. Bellew will play the role of Marat . She confidently expects that English speaking audiences will like the play, all of which remains to be seen.