The past week has been a gala week for the theatre goers of Lincoln, and despite the sleepiness which is a necessary result of attending five good plays in one week everyone seems more cheerful for the dissipation. Such a theatrical run does not often happen in a western town, and Mr. Church is to be congratulated on the financial and artistic success of the week. It was quite a serious undertaking to run so many first class attractions in one week late in the season of a very bad year. Mr. Church has always shown a flattering confidence in the Lincoln public and this time it did not disappoint him.
The crowning absurdity of the season is the news that Cora Tanner has decided to quit emotional roles and go into lyric drama. Now Cora can never be a dramatic actress; she is too stout. Emotional actresses can be as stout as they wish, but lyric heroines must be slender. Actresses so often seem to have an ungovernable desire to do the things they can't. Now there is Marie Tempest , who has the elements of a strong actress in her and yet prefers to be an opera singer who does not sing. Miss Tempest has a face that is made for strong emotional roles. It is one of the most mobile and expressive faces on the stage. Anyone who can get that tense, drawn look about the eyes and be pained between the brows as Miss Tempest can owes it to the public to be an emotional actress. Miss Tempest's flippancy was often overdone and stagey, but her few opportunities to show any depth of feeling were well improved. That wonderful little shudder of the voice with which she said, "I am a woman," is enough to show her possibilities in emotional roles. She is too great an actress to be trotting about the stage posing to avoid solos that she can't sing and dropping her sword to avoid fencing that she can't do. Why she ever thought the operatic stage has any need for her is the open question. It may not be fair to judge her by a one night stand. She may have been ill last Tuesday evening, but if Miss Tempest always sings like that she must have a very poor ear for music or she would suffer unutterable pain from her own performance. She simply gasped and breathed for bars at a time, she choked on her low notes and strangled on her high ones, all the time looking lovely enough to make one more than pardon it all. Badly as she sings it is a delightful privilege to hear Miss Tempest in opera, only it seems that she is wasting the power of a great actress to make a mediocre prima donna. Actresses always want to do the wrong thing anyway. It is strange they don't let the all-wise critic select their roles for them. If they only did, doubtless Bernhardt would long since have appeared in vaudeville, Lottie Collins in classic tragedy and Clara Morris as a charming soubrette.
Mounet-Sulley's season in New York has begun with curious effect. The critics and public are divided over him and the factions in warring with each other very nearly forget the great Frenchman. It seems that Mr. Mounet-Sully is especially billed for Greek and is at his best in translation of Sophocles . It must be a wonderful thing to see a Frenchman of this century who can play the stern classic roles of old Greece well. It is hard to see how a Frenchman could be severe and simple enough to play "Œdepus Roi." It is almost a revival of the age of great sculpture. The New York critics say that his every pose is a sculptured god, that his emotion is simple, direct and rises perfectly to the climax of universal woe and bitter fate which is the key note of all Greek tragedy. If M. Mounet-Sully plays Creon and Oedipus so well it is easy to see why he does not make any astounding success as Hernani . A Lincoln dramatic said truly when he said that versatility is a nightmare. Mr. Willard seems to be able to play "Hamlet" one night and "The Silver King" the next and could probably play the "Police Patrol" the next, but not many men can wear the cap and bells and the tiara with equal grace, much less can they combine the classic and romantic. If M. Mounet-Sully has sufficient statuesqueness to impersonate such characters, he will only lower his tone by attempting romantic drama. He can never attain the warmth and complex sympathies of Ruy Blas or Don Roderique , he must keep himself like the cold classic literature and the shapely marble gods of the language he adores. He has a grand serenity that is almost a reproach to the fret and fume of modern art. He has dignity and beauty of person and mind. He belongs to an age when men hewed out lofty ideals in white rock and embodied in literature only what was noblest and purest in life. His acting belongs to the time when man's only enemy was fate, when he was strong against his doom, before he feared his own weakness and was his own foe. The Greeks lived just at the balancing period when mind and sense were equally active and were not ashamed of each other. Man was a healthy animal with a healthy mind, he succeeded or he failed, all his emotions were positive. He lived while he could for he knew that the fates would trick him and thwart him, that the Euminides would torture and laugh at him. He had only one fear, the fear of fate and the inexplicable vengeance of the heavens. Such life was all action and swift motion in white sunlight with night and the sea for a background. The great French tragedian can suffer as Oediyus or meet black doom as Creon, but the suffering is all inflicted upon him, he cannot suffer from himself. He cannot know the success of Faust which was failure, the failure of Hamlet, which was success. He has the chisel of Praxiteles , he must forge the brush of Murillo .
Whatever success M. Mount Sully have in overcoming American prejudice, the prospects are that he will not carry much American capital back to Paris The Kendalls , Irving and Mr. Willard came across the briny deep and made fortunes, but "L'Enfant Prodique" and M. Mounet-Sully go home poorer than they came. Yet all that is best in American drama or American acting comes from France. Madame Bernhardt is the only French artist whoever made money in America. Of course the fact that the general public does not understand French must be taken into consideration, but it is a consideration that is not particularly flattering. Madame Bernhardt's French is just as much French as M. Mounet-Sully's and a great deal more so than the pantomine "L'Enfant Prodique," but the truth is that the American public did not go to see Sarah Bernhardt act, but to see Sarah Bernhardt. To see the woman who sleeps in a coffin and has pet snakes and does many other things that are not pleasant to mention in a Sunday newspaper. The truth is that in a sneaking way Americans admire Madam Bernhardt's personality. If the Theatre des Varieties makes an American tour next year they can count on good houses, and they are the only French players that can.
Henry T. Wing's address before the students of Harvard college was one of the best talks that the newspapers have had the privilege of printing for a long time. Its subject was "Individualism," and it was not quite in accordance with some of the doctrines that are laid down in colleges. His definition of mediocraty was "a well rounded and well developed mind." It was all intensely practical, showed more delicacy and culture than most addresses delivered by "well rounded" college men. The day is long since past when an actor is classed with a circus rider. Today a great actor is recognized as a gentleman and an artist. An actor is no longer looked upon as an imitator, but is an author who writes a book every night, an artist who every evening paints a picture in the gas light. The day will come when the profession will attain still higher honor. An actors life is the hardest of all the hard lives men lead for art's value. Other men can do their work and forget the travail in success. But an actor's creation must be born again every night out of his own brain sweat. He should have all working while he lives for when he dies his work dies with him. Poets can die trusting their work to the appreciation of the future, but an actor's greatness dies in him, as music dies in a broken lute.
It is rumored that Charley Mitchell will star in a comedy which is now being written for him by an English playwright. There is nothing like prize-fighting to insure success on the stage. A single exhibition in the ring will do more to gain notoriety for an actor than ten years apprenticeship under the best actor. In a few years Hamlet and Lear will be played by discarded prize fighters. Every aspirant for stage honors should learn to box and after his debut to the ring he can lay aside the gloves for the tragic buskin, confident of success.
Romance is not dead on the stage yet. Phyllis Rankin , the daughter of McKee Rankin , married the company property man in Atlanta last month. The gentleman's name is Gibbs and he does not appear to be destined to professional greatness, but it is refreshing once and awhile for so charming a young lady as Miss Rankin to marry a man with no visible motive except that of affection.
Felix Morris' first starring season has been a great and unquestionable success.
Lottie Collins sprained her ankle at the Haymarket theatre Chicago. She will not be able to dance again for another month and will go to England with her husband as soon as she is able. It is feared that Lottie's star has set with her celebrated "Ta-ra-ra."
Cora Van Tassell will star next season.
Lottie Mortimer has a bran new divorce.
Stuart Robson will make a short spring tour on the Pacific coast.
Marie Tempest is having a new opera written. It will be a satire on Mormonism.
The latest thing among the impressionable young men of New York is the "Marie Tempest Advocation Society." Their pins are gold and enamel; a black square in a red flag and in the square the name "Marie." The flag is supposed to signify a "Tempest."
Daniel Froham has engaged Miss Isabel Irving for next season. She will first appear in the "Amazons" in the part now played by Georgie Cavyan . After that she will play various leading roles in Mr. Froham's companies.
Henry Irving's tour ended March 17, at the Tremont theatre, Boston, Mass., and was the occasion of a presentation of an address to Mr. Irving by a number of Boston's citizens. The address was engrossed on parchment and mounted in a unique manner. At the top of the parchment is a silver bar, tipped at either end with a spear head and a halbert of burnished silver, typical of the eras of Louis XI and "Faust," and at the bottom another bar, having at either end an Episcopal cross and crozior, which are intended to mark the productions of "Becket" and "Henry VIII. A silver chain supports the top, and from this is dependent a smaller chain on which is hung three silver bells, suggestive of "The Bells." This parchment was in a casket twenty-two inches in length, six inches broad and four inches high, made of oak from a tree that grew in Windsor forest. The casket is lined with blue satin and, externally, is richly ornamented in silver. In the center of the lid is the monogram "H. I." supported on either side with masks and other emblems of tragedy and comedy. There are engraved corner pieces to the casket, which is supported on four globular feet. After the address was read it was presented with an appropriate presentation speech, to which Mr. Irving responded, which was followed by a collation.
The tour of Otis Skinner as a star next season will be directed by J. J. Buckley one of the present managers of Modjeska , and nearly every member of the Modjeska organization has been engaged for the supporting company.
Rhea has two new plays for the coming season. One, a comedy, is called "Elizabeth and Shakespeare," and deals with the imaginary efforts of Queen Elizabeth to rescue the great poet of the age from the dangers of drink. The other play is called "The Lion in Love," and is a tragedy on the events of the French revolution.
Signor Flavio Ando , the Italian actor who was seen here as the leading man of Mme. Duse's company, and who is now playing in Rome at the head of his own company, intents to visit this country early next fall. Signor Ando is associated with Signor Claudio Leigheb , a prominent Italian comedian, and has a large supporting company. He proposes to visit the principal cities in the United States and South America.
Mazie Molyneaux and Little Lovell were the guests of Etta Reed and Corse Payton during the Corse Payton company's engagement at Cedar Rapids, Ia. Miss Reed was presented with a beautiful brooch and a marquise ring.
Many changes have been made for the better in Hoyt's "A Milk White Flag." The revised edition was presented for the first time April 21, at the Boston theatre, and the new matter seemed to meet with the approval of the audience. The disagreeable haggling for the purchase of the body of Piggott Luce has been eliminated from the second act. In the third act the "corpse" comes on and joins in the poker game. There are many new songs and new lines.
Dore Davidson had decided that there is too much worry and hard work in the position of manager and actor for him to continue his company on the road, so both he and Ramie Austen will devote their abilities to salaried positions next season.