Miss Craigen and Mr. Paulding presented "Romeo and Juliet" at the Lansing last night to a very fair house. We have all wished to see Miss Craigen in a play that would test her thoroughly, and last night we saw it, but it was done so perfectly that one almost forgot that there was any test about it. Juliet is the role that every actress wants to play—that few actresses ever rise to. It is a sort of dividing line which mercilessly divides greatness from mediocrity. Miss Craigen is the only actress I have ever seen who can make the first act of the play anything but dull, she is the only one who is able to give to Juliet the lithesome youth Shakespeare meant her to have. Her balcony scene was idyllic and ideal. Undoubtedly her strongest scene was the parting scene, there all that tender "sadness of shadowy eyes" which she plays so well had their ample outlet. With Miss Craigen's conception of Juliet no fault can be found, it is great in that it is like that of no other actress, the quiet rendering of the first part of the potion scene, given as though by one physically and mentally exhausted by the struggle of many passions, the girlish playfulness with the nurse, the great despair that settles upon her when that same nurse forsakes her, these are matters that lie between Miss Craigen and William Shakespeare, and one has no right today to express by adjectives things that adjectives only belittle and conventionalize. They are more than exquisite bits of acting; they are intellectual conquests in the world of Shakespearean art. Her scene with the friar disappointed one. It seemed to lack, not in quality, but in degree. The emotion was too girlish; there was not enough of the woman in it. Juliet is a woman after the balcony scene. The only real criticism that can be made upon Miss Craigen's Juliet is that sometimes it seems to teach not love, but passion, to put it bluntly, sensualism, the awakening of the unrestrained senses of an Italian. She made Juliet's love too lofty, too pure, too holy, by instinct she has put into the part all the sweet domestic love of an Anglo-Saxon woman, and has made of her Juliet a nobler woman than Italy often produces.
Miss Craigen has a wonderful intellectual conception of her part, which Margaret Mather has not; she has the most delicate art and elegant technique, which Margaret Mather has not, she has everything which Mather has not; and everything which Mather has but one thing—the pantings pulsing amorousness of an Italian. It is not a fault artistically or otherwise, it simply makes Juliet appeal more to the soul and less to the senses; makes her move one more worthily, but perhaps less violently.
Miss Craigen plays the higher phases of Juliet's character supremely well, Miss Mather the lower. The woman will never be born who can do justice to both.
The glowing Italianism that Miss Craigen lacked Mr. Paulding had. Mr. Paulding is the only Romeo on the stage at present with the physique and grace of the younger Salvini himself. He is in every way fitted for the great part he had to play. Beyond all doubt Mr. Paulding's Romeo is the greatest and truest of modern interpretations. He has passion refined by sentiment, violence modulated by grace and the love of a man with the helplessness of a boy. The most noticable thing about his Romeo is that it was Shakespearean, most Romeos are not. He seems to realize that Romeo should be weaker and less resolute than Juliet, that Romeo really never became a man till he heard of Juliet's death. His utter despair and prostration in the "banished" scene with the friar is particularly fine and true to the spirit of Shakespeare. His little flirtation with Rosaline was a very artistic touch. Shakespeare was the only playwright who was ever great enough to introduce a thing like the Rosaline affair, and Mr. Paulding is the only Romeo who has art enough to bring it on the stage. In the balcony scene Mr. Paulding at times become too colloquial and abrupt. His tenderness is so effective that it jars upon one when he nods briskly and jerks his words. His quiet determination after he learns of Juliet's death, and his acting at the tomb were powerful. In the first scene he was scarcely love lorn enough, and he don't quite give poor Rosaline her due. After all these petty flaws seem rather unworthy of mention after the way Mr. Paulding made the world's ideal lover live and love before us last night. It is hard to see how the world managed to get much out of lovemaking before "Romeo and Juliet" was written.
Tonight the company appears in "A Duel of Hearts," which is a play peculiarly fitted for both Miss Craigen and Mr. Paulding, and in which they are even stronger than in "Romeo and Juliet."
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.
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.
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.
Images available at Northeastern Illinois University, Louisville Digital Library, and again at Louisville Digital Library.
Alexander Salvini: Alessandro (usually anglicized to Alexander in the U.S.) Salvini (1860-1896) was the son of the great actor Tommaso Salvini. He was born in Italy but came to America with his father's troupe. His New York debut was in 1882; he earned a reputation as a romantic actor in such roles as D'Artagnan in The Three Guardsmen. He married Maud Dixon, also a member of the troupe. He formed his own company and began to earn a reputation as a tragedian, especially as Hamlet.
Clara Morris, in her My Life as a Star (1906), discusses the young Salvini's preparations for his New York debut.
Rosaline: At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is in love with "the fair Rosaline"; because he hears that Rosaline will be at the Capulet's ball, he and Benvolio and Mercutio mask themselves to attend. At the ball, of course, Romeo meets and falls in love with Juliet. Rosaline herself does not appear as a character.
"A Duel of Hearts": A play by Frederick Paulding (1859-1957), according to Cather, although WilliamCurtin says it was by Maida Craigen, and copyrighted in 1893 (82). The New York Times said it was by both Paulding and Craigen, based on a plot supplied by Jean Davenport Lander (19 May 1895), which it described: Count Eugene de Ligny, who has lost his faith in women, decides to take revenge on Lady Anita Stanhope, whom he believes is responsible for his brother Louis's suicide. He courts her only to spurn her, leaving her affected with brain fever. The doctor cures her with a shock of joy by bringing her face to face with the count and all the misunderstandings are cleared up. The version Cather saw in 1894 may have differed in some respects from that first presented in New York by Craigen in 1895.