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May 10, 1925 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1925-05-10

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SrNDAY, MAY 1, 192t




+~ rr

S}'Iusic and Drama

1 ?

LS lj

The Theatre In Ferment-France
P. of. Marcel Clavel Tells Of The french
Naturalists; Their Work In Stage Technique

Mermoirs how the great idealist stopp-'
ed in the street under a lamp post to
"a t''1e plays he hi ad in mind .",E
his wsual earnestnes s The TheatreS
Libre was open to all dra~mat sts-


great actor in order to produce a stitute a sort of twentieth century lthe spectators. Now, is there any
strikingly original interpretation of Comedie Humaine, while romanticism (theatrical manager of modern times
each particular play are worthy of is still alive in the ever popular poet-
ical dramas of Edmond Rostand, Al who can claim that he has effected
our admiration, the same is true of host of exceedingly brilliant play- transformations and modifications of
Gremier. No one can deny, however, wrights-who have not forgotten the this kind comparable to those achieved


By Prof. Marcel Clavel epoch-making theatrical movement.
(Editor's Note: This is the third of It is true that Antoine always longed
a series of six articles by members of for a career on the stage, but it was
the faculty on the adaptations and re- quite y chance that this humble em-
actions of the various continental 'l:y:: of the Paris Gas Company be-
countries to the present progressive
tendncie inthe heate.)came a member of the Cercle Gaul-
tendencies ois-a group of amateur players
founded by a retired army officer. It
In order to understand the history is true that Antoine was the one who
of the modern French drama, one must;thought of asking young dramatists
go back a hundred years to the 'age to give their plays to the Cerele Gaul-
of Scribe" and of "the well-made ois to perform, but it was chance
play." alone that brought him in contact
Speaking in terms of the theatre, with the Goncourt-Zola-Daudet group.,
Scribe was the outstanding name of It is true that Antoipe founded the
the first half of the nineteenth cen- Theatre Libre as an organization dis-
tury. During that period three giants tinct from the Cercle Gaulois, but this
of literature, Hugo, Vigny and Dumas, j !was due to the fact that his comrades
vainly tried to enthrone the romantic objected to his plans and compelled
drama on the French stage, while i- him to devise a means of securing
Scribe, a third rate writer, establish- absolute independence. Finally it is
ed and maintained his rule in France J true that Antoine transformed the
and his fame in Europe without any Theatre Libre into a profit sharing,
difficulty. This paradoxical result organization, in which both actors
was due to the fact that Scribe was a 'and spectators shared according to
past master of technique. Skilfully their holdings, but this was done und-
combining no less than four establish- er the pressure of economic condi-'
ed genres-the comedy of character, Eugene Brieux tions 4rising from the extreme pov-
the comedy of manners, the comedy of The famous French dramatist, whose erty of the thirty dollar a month em-
intrigue, and the bourgeois drama of "Blanchette" was presented by the ployee of the Gas Company.
Diderot and Sedaine-Scribe concoct- Thus, quite by chance, the natural-
ed a new genre, perfectly suited to the Cercle Francais last Wednesday ists, who could entertain but little
taste of his public. Nothing remained evening. hope of ever reaching the public on
to do but to standardize this new dra- account of the ill-will of theatre di-
matic device, and, in due time, Scribe "experiment on life"-an experiment Tectors, were suddenly able to have
was in possession of a complete set of in which the author, after he has their plays performed by enthusiastic
infallible dramatic recipes thanks to brought together a certain number of amateurs whose acting was much,
which he was able to turn out with the instincts and temperaments, has but more natural, and consequently better,
greatest ease some six hundred plays to note what happens in a passive im- suited to these plays, than that of the
and to direct the efforts of thirty col- ! partial scientific way. It was there- professional actors, spoilt by the old-,
lahorators. "Bataille de Dames" play- fore a case of a fight to the finish be- fashioned training they had received.
ed a year ago by the Cercle Francais, tween the new school and the Scribe (Cf. Antoine's conception of the stage
is a perfect sample of Scribe's art: a traditions, which was strongly en- as a mere room with one wall removed
flawless technique; a well-managed trenched in all the theatres, official and in which the actors behave as it
intrigue which holds the spectator in and otherwise. .;there was no audience looking at
suspense until the denoument, but no them: conversations in a natural
depth or genius of any kind. On September 14, 1882 the natural- tone, no necessity for an actor to be.

young or old, native or foreign who that the work of Anto:ne, first at the recipes of Scribe and Sardou-have by Voltaire? Voltaire jot rid of the
had not yet been recognized by the Theatre Libre and later at the Theatre distinguished themselves in light com- { circle of young dandies who crowded
official theatres of 1 rance. fLan-Alle's Anon"n te;en hsbe edy. In the front rank of these stand
"Baiser" was triumphaintly given in i nc more uniformly successful than 1arieDony, AfedCpus, Flersth sagVlirddawy ih
December 1887 . . . .and immediately thto;i redy ias nlas et Caillavet, Romain Coolus and Jules ! eighteenth century wigs worn under
requested by the Comedie Fraincaise. I more spectacular, on account of the Romains. Finally there is a modern Greek helmets; Voltaire introduced
In Fcbruary 1888 Tolstoy's "Powers tremendous handicap under which the holiere,-actor-manager and play- more naturalism in acting and
of Darkness" was equally successful wright-Sacha Guitry, who has writ-
in Spite of the lpreditons to the (con- 1poor epoe fteGsCm~n e
t e lbored at the beginning of his career. n plays primarily to suit the talents i
trary otefte rcles Augier-- aBred( how could ny on foret of his company, in which he himself that his reforms along these lines
nas, Sardoo, who had been formalyi that Antoine is the father of the his father and his wife played the were as important as his modifications
intervieved beforehand. In February Theatre Libre moveent in Europe as ding roles. of the classical tragedy?
1892, the play of ideas had its day well as in France? This blossoming of great plays is After all the great changes in the
with riex' "Blanchette" and D As regards the history of the Frenc largely due to the untiring efforts of drama come from the successive at-
Curel's "Envers d'une Sainte."AFethI Antoine, Lugne Poe, Copeau and tempts of the great literary schools
In short the Theatre Libre proved v ' n cent las a of te Gemier, because, as we have said, to make their ideals triumph on the
abmean y hi k nds ineentheturyhtisefutoearhethese great actors have enabled many stage. Actors and theatrical directors
above all a means by which all kinds in mind the thoughts of Antoine when,
of talented dramatists won recognition le gave up the Theatre Libre. He was a young author to win from the pub- may contribute to the success of these
through a direct appeal to the public, right to consider that all the talented lic a recgnition that might not have attempts by adapting both staging and
and erespaed he gones f tat ramtiss o th tine ad eenre-come from theatre directors and critics atcing to the new theories (witness
and were spared the agonies of that ,dramatists of the time had been re-ofte ldshl.TiorA '
ordeal which awaits the young author vealed to the public and that they iof the old school. This, for many Antoine's minute realism in the stag-
who tries to convince conservative inclined to go their separate people at least, is the most- important ing of naturalistic plays and his plea
whoatriestocma n ce teonesstivewere noway cdingdtogtheir eprae contribution of the Theatre Libre and for naturalness in acting); this, how-
theatrical managers of the soundness w ays according to their temperamentofhsrvltnayie.bun similar organisations to the develop- evr, sntiga oprdwth
of his revolutionary views. During and without thinking much of schools smn ogtheamoens trenh drm ever, is nothing as compared with the
the nine years of its existence the and literary creeds. It is a charac- Eerimethi mtaing anc reagriuenco p rive and entuisy
Theatre Libre produced 124 plays-'rsi-advr gaiyn-etr Experiments in staging and acting are gr'oups of progressive and enthuslasie
ThetreLibe podued 24 lay--teristic-and very gratifying-feature ,of secondary importance. Not a few actors, always ready to befriend hisi-
more than all the leading Parisian of the contemporary French drama are cond tr ovta se. s ad ev nact al ays oeythebe wrie rars
theatres in the preceding thirty years. that it includes all kinds of plays and are bound to prove useless and even ing talent and to give the new literary
Of the 14 authors represented in this can boast of great dramatists in each their sole raison d'etre is schools an opportunity of reaching the
list of plays, Brieux de Crel, Romnain boast of ea stseach that some good may come out of them ! public, long before the oracles of the
lsofpas riueCuRmangenre. The play of ideas-whose pop- once in a while.esalhdcrdsavcoecned
Coolus, Henri Laveden, Courteline and ularity is an important aspect of mod- estabhshed creeds have condescended
64 others had never made their bow ern dramatic taste-is represented by or course one meets with actors to notice the existence of tendencies
to the public, while fifteen more-in- the works of two great masters, Fran- who seem to think that a new dram- opposed to their own. Let Antoine be
cluding Georges de Porto Riche and cois de Curel and Paul Hervieu, and I atic era dawned when sone Parisian thanked for having been the first to
Emile Fabre-Irad each had but one by lesser lights of the Brieux type. theatre extended from the former line understand this fundamental truth and
play staged elsewhere. In addition Georges de Rich1e stans out as a mas- of footlights a series of four or five for having devoted his life to its real-
eight foreign dramatists were reveal- ter of the psychological play, a worthy steps which enabled the actors to ization.
Pd to the French public: Bjoerstjernedescendant of Racine and Marivaux came down almost to the level of the
Bjoernson. Gerhardt, Hauptmann in the study ofLove and of feminine audience, thus destroying the tradi- Next Week: The Spanish stage, by
Heijermans, Ibsen, Strinderg, Tols- characters. Symbolism owes many a tional barrier between the stage and Prof. Herbert Kenyon.
toy, Tourguenieff and Verga. Certain- triumph to Maeterlinck and can also
ly the naturalistic school was a fav- claim Paul Claudel, a genius more ob-
orite with the Theatre Libre, and it scure yet more powerful. Bernstein
was due to the success of the school and Bataille were the craze on the eve Ao
at Antoine's that the Odeon accepted of the war with their violent dramas W Ar N td for Ou
"Jacques Damou" and "Germinie of passion. They are no longer con-
Lacerteux" (an adaptation of the first sidered as first rate writers, but their
naturalistic novel), and that the talent is undeniable. Realism is very
Comedie Francaiso felt compelled to ably represented by Emile Fabre's
revive iecque's "Parisienne." Still Baizacian picture of contemporary
Antoine did not protest against the society in a series of plays which con-
decision of the public, which finally
indicated that it could not toleratej--I
mor ' than a cert:in degree and a cer-

k$ P

After the age of Scribe came the age
of Augier, Dumas fils, and Sardou,
but-broadly speaking-the popularity
of the "recipes" of Scribe was not af-
fected by the change. Sardou, the
author of "Nos Intimes" (1861), was a
second Scribe, a mere craftsman, and
Scribism and Sardoulism are forms
almost synonymous. Augier and Du-
nas ills, on the contrary, were great
literary figures. They appeared on
the stage as the representatives of
triumphant realism and both were
convinced that they had a social mis-
sion to fulfill, still they did not see
any reason to discard the technique'of
Scribe. In "Le Gendre de M. Poirer"'
(1854), "Les Lionnes Pauvres" (1858)
and "Maitre Guerin" (1864) Emile
Augier shows himself to be a power-
fiul realist and a bitter and effective
satirist, but his technique has little
originality. Dumas fils, it is true,
sometimes points to a new technique
when his enthusiasm for social re-
reform carries him beyond mere sat-
ire and leads him to transform his
characters into types and the play in-
to a vivid but somewhat abstract pre-
sentation of a thesis, as in "La Femme
de Claude" (1873). Nevertheless it
remains substantially true that, with
Sardou, Augier and Dumas, the tra-
dition of the "well-made play" was
still very strong in the eighties, when
naturalism, after having conquered
the novel, made a bold attempt' to
occupy the stage.
Unlike the realists, the naturalists
could not consider for a moment a
compromise with Scribe's technique.
The "well-made play", with its skil-
fully planned oscillations between
several alternatives, its climax in a
given act and scene, its denoument
;'g" 'eable to the principles of poetic
justice, and its more or less conven-
tional style, could not be made to fit
the "slice of life" theory, and still
less the conception of the drama as an

. 'S c. . -' ta iaea -I 'ashamed of remaining seated a long tamnamount of naturalism. When
que's "Corbeaux was played at the th a mone omprlled Woet
Comeie ranaise th ledingFredh O >cic0to lack of money compelled Antoine t~o
Comiedie F rancaise, the leading F ranch spectatorsi etc.) On March 31), 1 887 gieu tedretin tehar
theatre. (It is to be noted, however, the first performance of the Theatre Lire in t189 . aftor a, most heroic
that "Les Corbeaux," Becque's nias- Libre owed its success to "Jacques ight against financial embarassnents,
terpiece, was not strictly from all Daniour, a one-act play adapted from he cofoi't ed ina elfmwith tshe thought
points of view,a "slice of life". and Zola's novelette, which was im - n e omtft, after a, e iy w hromisingwrt -
that it had no pretensions to be an iately requested by the manager of the ;,, o aifeal, e y promisha t r'hi
'experiment on life.") Another point Odeon, who had rejected the man - whit o ~yn1ed dshellswhtever hfs
was scored when "La Parisienne", by script some time previously. In Octo- !t,.ry re d had now won ful
the same author, was performed at er "Sour Philomene" (from the (ognitiion, and thlat his task was
the Renaissance in 1885. Still, after novel by the Goncourt brothers) was it
this, the triumvirate Augier-Dumas- enthusiastically received by an audi-; It would b unfair not to mention
Sardou, supported by the omnipotent ence which was startled, but not an- at this paintthat Antoine is not the
critic Sarcey, was as strong as ever, tagonized, by the opening scene in a only one to deserve praise for having
and naturalism had at best gained a hospital-including a most realistic encouraged and helped men who lat;er
very precarious foothold on the stage. nom de dieu! And as long as the becai im e leading draia8istbs. The
It was certain that even plays of the Theatre Libre lasted (1887-1896) a pTheatre('Art, founded in 1890 by the
class of "Les Corbeaux" and "La large number of naturalistic plays was young poet Paul Fort, did for the
Parisienne" would be rejected by most found on the program every season. symbolists (especiallly Maeterlinck)
theatrical directors and no one could It should not be forgotten, however, what Antoine was doing at the same
confidently predict that naturalism thatiin spite of his early assocnation ime for the naturalists. Lugne Poe,
would again inspire great plays. with the naturalists Antoinewsntn of the actors of this group, was

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Antoine, with his world-famous primarily interested in the triumph of
Theatre Libre, was the providential any particular school. He was first
man who extracted naturalism from and foremost an actor eager to set in
this apparently hopeless situation. motion all kinds of new ideas, to try
But nothing is more remote from the new things and to judge them by the
truth than the oft en repeated state- reaction of the public, not by tradi-I
rnent that the Theatre Libre was tional standards. If he listened with a
founded for the express purpose of good deal of respect to the conversa-
fighting the battles of naturalism. One tions of Edmond de Goncourt, Zolaj
has but to read the fascinating Mem- and Daudet, he was also fascinated byI
oirs of Antoine to realize the all-im- the paradoxical views of Villiers de
portant part played by fate in his l'Isle Adam and lie tells us in his

the founder of the Theatre del'Oeuvre
(1593), especially devoted to symbo-
lism, plays of ideas and foreign plays.
The effort of Jacques Copeau at the
Theatre dFu Vieux Colombier have.not
I proved so successful with regard to,
the revelation of dramatic geniuses,
still the daring experiments of this


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