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May 03, 1936 - Image 3

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The Michigan Daily, 1936-05-03

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY.

PAGE THREE

THsIHGA AL

?AQE THRICE

Drama Season Draws Praise From Noted

Critics
Hamlet' To Be

v -

Burns Mantle
Pays Tribute
To Program

IDisaffSide' Irriiig 11cr"Back,'f)'-("/pis

Lawford

Signs

"T' Heck With Consistency,"
Quoth Bill The Bard To Ben

Idea Of Spring Festival
Originated, He Says,
In Ann Arbor
Asks Greek Drama
Anticipates A Greater
Decentralization
Of Theatre
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following ar-
ticle has been written by Mr. Mantle
for the forthcoing issue of The The-
atre Arts.Monthly. Mr. Mantle is the
dramatic critic of The New York Daily
News, as well as editor cf the annual
"Best Plays of the Year" anthologies.
By BURNS MANTLE
I do not know just when the road
began to fail. It seems to me that
for the last quarter century at least
we have been hearing reports of the,
gradual disintegration of that one-
time glamorous antennae of the
theatre that is bedded and bred on
Broadway. Probably the road first
began to fail shortly after the first
surprised promoters of the nickolo-
deon found that they were entertain-
ing increasingly larger and larger
crowds in their niickel and dime mov-
ing picture theatres. Those were the
days when even a fourth or fifth view
of the Empire State Express hurtling
down the tracks into the very faces of
a quivering, wide-eyed audience was
an exciting adventure, however hard
it was on the eyes.
Certainly attendance upon the so-
called popular-priced circuits began
dwindling shortly after the early in-
troduction of feature pictures.
There was, I think, a temporary.
revival of interest in legitimate
attractions on tour during the- days
of prosperity bordering on and apper-
taining to the boom that crashed in
1929. After that it was- the theatre
that went boom aftd practically noth-
,ing save abandoned playhouses,
shreds of scenery and the loyal mem-
ories of those theatre lovers whom
positively nothing can dismay, was
left of it. -
Then it was that for a year or two
we had reports of the formation of x
this Little Theatre group and thatv
Art Theatre group in literally hun-c
dreds of towns and villages that were i
already missing the living theatre i
and determined that it should not die.
At least not as predicted.V

Blanche Yurka returns to the Dramatic Season after an absence of
five years to play the sympathetic leading role of Evie Millward in John
Van Druten's "The Distaff Side." She has just added to her stage
laurels by a brilliant success as Madame DeFarge in the film version of
"A Tale of Two Cities."
Mr. Van Dru ten Wonders Just

When

-A

Play Is Not

A

Plya

For Featured
Part In 'Libel'
Highly Praised New York
Star Will Play
Attorney
Robert Henderson. director of thec
Dramatic Season to be presented for
five weeks from May 18 through June
20 in the Lydia Mendelssohn theatre,
announced last night the engagement
of the distinguished character actor
Ernest Lawford for Edward Wooll's
"Libel!", the opening play of the
season.
Ernest Lawford is at present one of
the stars of the New York produc-
tion of "Libel!", and will have his
original role of Sir Wilfred Kelling,
K.C., M.P. in the Ann Arbor per-
formances. Mr. Lawford has been
featured in numerous Broadway pro-
ductions, including "The Circle" with
Estelle Winwood, the role of Polonius
in the Mary Ellis-Basil Sydney "Ham-
let," and last season in "Accent on
Youth" with Kenneth MacKenna
Again he will play opposite Mr. Mac-
Kenna, who has the part of Sir
Mark Lodden in "Libel!", with Doris
Dalton as Lady Lodden, George Som-
nes as the opposing lawyer Thomas
Foxley, Reginald Pole as the Judge
and Nancy Sheridan as the street-
walker Sarah Carleton.
"We regard the engagement of
Ernest Lawford for "Libel!", Robert
Henderson said, "of the greatest piece
of good fortune for the season. His
success in the New York production
has been among the outstanding hits
on Broadway this winter. His special
quality in the irole is quite irreplace-,
able. In fact, as all agree who have
seen the New York production, he is
the very pivot of the entire play. With
Mr. Lawford in the cast, we feel we
have a brilliant opening for the fest-
ival."
The New York critics have been
lavish in their praise of Mr. Lawford's
performance. "Ernest Lawford as1
the counsel for the plaintiff," recently
wrote Robert Garland in the New
York World-Telegram, "is wrapped
in a mocking gentility that is fasci-{
nating. His is a performance quite un-
forgettable.''
Charles Parnel's
Little Black. Bag
Fright ed English
' For years, wherever Charles Par-
nell went lie carried with him a
mysterious small black bag which he
never explained when people asked
him about it. A suspicion began toc
grow that the little bag contained I
dynamite with which to blow up thee
Liberal Party, or at the very least,.
Mr. Gladstone, if they or he shouldr
refuse to support Home Rule fors
Ireland.
One day Parnell went with a Mr.
Harrington to Scotland Yard to in-q
quire about an adversary who had
strangely disappeared (ever the mel-
odramatic in this man's life), and of
course he carried the little black bag
with him. But when he left thes
headquarters'of England's police, he
forgot to take it with him.1
It can readily be imagined withl
what thrills of anticipation the bagf
was opened. But the Scotland Yard
officials discovered to their relief and
disappointment that it contained onlyI
a pair of socks and shoes
Parnell's doctor had ordered him tot
be careful not to catch colds, so Katie
O'Shea had insisted that he carry a
pair of dry shoes and socks with him
wherever he went in case his feet got
wet. Thus he had provided a sen-
sation for years for English news-
papers, always ignoring the gossip
and pointed queries about the bag,
because he was ashamed to confess

his weakness for colds.
A

great

EDITOR S NOTE: Don Marquis, crea-
tor of "The Old Soak'" andthe famous
Meitabel a solves in a new way the
problems of "Hamlet" which have been
worrying scholars from Dr. Stol to J.
Dover Wilson for generations. The
following article first appeared in Stage
and is reprinted by special permission.
It was one night in the winter of
1603, two or three days before the
first production of Shakespeare's
"Hamlet" was to open, and a num-
ber of those concerned were sitting
about the Mermaid Tavern discus-
sing the prospects of the new play.
"There are some bad holes in this
show, Will," said Heminge, moodily.
"The rehearsals are showing them
up."
"Such as?" said Shakespeare.
"That ghost stuff is all balled up
and inconsistent. Of course Ham-
let's soliloquy with the Ghost comes
out, that's all," sal iHeminge.
"Over my dead body!" said Dick
Burbage who was to play the part
of Hamlet. "Gentlemen, if that soli-
loquy goes, I go. You can put that
in your tankards and drink it down.
I know what I can do with that
speech - I don't say that anybody
could'do it, mind you - I don't say
that it doesn't have to be read just
right - but if you want a new leading
man, you can cut that speech and
go and get him. I'm through, and
that's that!
"The show's all wrong," muttered
Heminge, a little heated, "I don't see
how the hell we can open with such
a mess!' I wouldn't even think of it,
but there's been an advance sale. We
can't give that money back." He
made a last appeal. "Will," he begged,
"can't you see the logic of what
Ben Jonson says?hLeave the putrid
speech in that Burbage is so damned
anxious to tangle his adenoids with
-I grant you that, if Imust; Dick
is such a favorite he may get away
with it, bad as it is - but for God's
sake, Will, for your own sake, for
my sake, for the sake of the com-
pany, for the sake of our patrons,
the earl, for the sake of the throne
and England, rewrite the rest of the
ghost stuff, the way Ben wants you
to. Have a little consistency for
once, Will--do!"
"It's only a play after all," said
Will, "I think perhaps all of us may
be taking it a little bit too seriously."
"You've got to respect your art,
Will, and your material," said Ben
Jonson. "I've told you before that you
never seem to regard literature as a
serious profession."
There was a silence, and then
Shakespeare seemed to make a great
efIort. He said:
"You fellows know more about lit-
erature than I do. I know that. More1
about verse. More about logic. More
about consistency. More about phil-
osophy. But none of you knows as
much about showmanship. Let me
ask you a question or two.
"Heminge, is the ghost right where
he first appears to the soldiers on the
platform? I mean, is it a scene that
will act? Is it interesting in itself?"
"Yes," admitted Heminge. "It holds
in itself."
"Is he effective when he tells the
story of his murder to Hamlet? Now
don't think about consistency, or the
kind of ghost he is, or what you fel-
lows know is to come later- does he
feel right in that spot?"
"Yes."
"When he appears to Hamlet, and
Hamlet's mother doesn't see him, is
he right? Isn't it more effective in
that spot that the mother shouldn't
see him?"
Yes, but -"
"But me no buts, Boanergs Jon-

son! Is the speech which Dick Bur-
bage likes, an effective speech in it-
self? Can a good trouper do things
and go places with that speech?"
"Yes, but-"
"Then to hell with everything else,"
said Shakespeare. "I've got what I
was gunning for. The ghost is this
kind of ghost when I want him this
way, and that kind of ghost when I
want him that way; and ghosts come
back when I want them to come back,
and they don't come back when I
don't want them to! And you're go-
ing to find when it's played through
in a gallop, the way I'm staging it,
that not one person in a hundred will
notice the inconsistencies. They'll
be too interested in what is going to
happen to Hamlet next. This isn't
an essay on ghosts. It's a show!"
"They'll walk out on us," said'
Heminge.
"You'll get a laugh in the wrong
place," said Ben Jonson.
"Listen," said Shakespeare, "I may
not know much of anything else, but
I do know this London public and I
know its theatre. You'll see."
"It may be all wrong," said Bur-
bage," but that damned old mouldy,
thrice-tinkered melodama will play
like a house a-fire the way Will's got
it revamped this time. I know just
the stuff I'm going to give it! You
can trust me to cover up all of Will's
mistakes! I don't say i everybody
could carry it."
"Well," said Heminge, with a sigh,
" it may get by. God knows, it's lousy
enough to be a popular success. And
there's the advance sale - that's
something in hand, even if it's a flop.
The earl has bought the entire first
performance."
"And I'm sorry to see," said Ben
Jonson, "that this advance sale mon'
ey seems to mean more to all of you
than any pride of artistry."
"You may have the enduring fame,
dear Ben," said Will. "The perman-
ent glory, and the acclaim of future
ages for you, true poet and sweet
scholar - but as for me, what I want
out of my plays, Ben, is to have some
fun and make some money."
Five Week Dramatic
Season Starts May 18
Gala opening, Monday, May 18,
through Friday, May 22 -Edward
Wooll's Libel! with Kenneth MacKen-
na, Ernest Lawford. Matinees Wed-
nesday and Friday.
Saturday, May 23, through Friday,
May 29--Ivor Novello's comedy with
music, Party with Estelle Winwood,,
Eddie Garr. Matinees Saturday,
Tuesday and Wednesday.
Saturday, May 30, through Wed-,
nesday, June 3 -Shakespeare's
Hamlet with Ian Keith, Estelle Win-
wood. Added performance Sunday
night, June 1. Matinees Saturday,
and Wednesday.
Thursday, June 4, through Tues-
day, June 9- John Van Druten's
The Distaff Side with Blanche Yurka,
Estelle Winwood, Margalo Gillmore
and Effie Shannon. Matinees Friday
and Saturday.
Wednesday, June 10, through Mon-
day, June 15-Elsie Schauffler's Par-
nell with Margalo Gillmore and Effie
Shannon. Matinees Wednesday and1
Saturday.
Tuesday, June 16, through Satur-
day, June 20-Ayn Rand's Night of
January 16 with Margalo Gillmore,
and Eddie Garr. Matinees-Wednes-j
day and Friday at-3:15 p.m. Satur-
day matinee, June 20 at 2 p.m. e

By DON MARQUIS

Says Director
Robert Henderson Predicts
High Points Of
Festival
By ROBERT HENDERSON
(Director, the 1936 Dramatic Season)
A director in the theatre knows, in
advance, many of the "surprise" ele-
ments in a season, but can frequently
be as wrong as the most uninitiated
patron in his audience. As safe
prophecies, however, may we predict
for the 1936 Dramatic Season, to open
with its traditional "gala" perform-
rnce on Monday, May 18, in the Lydia
7endelssohn Theatre, these few
guesses:
That by all odds the most popular
production will be "Hamlet" with Ian
f Keith, Miss Winwood, George Somnes
and the rest - and its beautiful 12th
century costumes by Norman-Bel
Geddes. This is scarcely a daring pre-
diction as to date its booking has
exceeded all other plays.
That George Somnes' performance
of King Claudius will run Mr. Keith's
Hamlet a close second. He is the most
insidious and sly King I have seen
in America or on the continent. He
plays it as something found under a
rock. He wears flaming red hair,
reminiscent of one of Lynn Fon-
taine's wigs.
That Ernest Lawford, as defense
lawyer for the plaintiff in "Libel!"-
his original part in the New York
production - will "walk off with the
show," despite the excellent perform-
ance of the star. Mr. Lawford's part,
while not technically the star role of
the play, actually is "Libel!" He re-
ceived the notices in New York.
That the "surprise hits" of the sea-
son will be Eddie Garr and Frances
Maddux, of the smart New York night
clubs, in Ivor Novello's "Party." Eddie
Garr's impersonations have been a
sensation; his Ed Wynn and George
Arliss (doing "Minnie, the Mooche:')
are uncanny in their subtle combina-
tion of caricature and imitation.
That "Party" will be the most pop-
ular play, next to "Hamlet."
That the other "surprise hit" of the
season will be Effie Shannon's per-
formance of Aunt Ben in "Parnell";
again, like Ernest Lawford in "Libel!"
her part in the original New York
production. The original costumes by
Stewart Chaney are used.
That the finest performances of
lesser roles will be Alan Handley's
brilliant Laertes in "Hamlet," and
the portrait of John Graham Whit-
field, the grasping millionaire, in
"Night of January 16" by John Win-
thiop.
That the second act curtain of
"Libel!" where the madman Numero
Quinze is brought in, will mark the
high in excitement for the season.
Robert Benchley said, "I found myself
quivering at this curtain. You will
love it."
That Etelle Winwood's characteri-
zation of Liz (again an original role)
in "The Distaff Side" will introduce
an entirely new standard in what
makes a woman attractive,
And that, as always in the theatre
which is neither certain nor predicta-
ble, none of the guesses may be right.
Perhaps Blanche Yurka, great artist
that she is, will repeat her usual suc-
cess, sweeping everyone and every
play before her. In "A Tale of Two
Cities" even Irving Thalberg left his
office to watch her in the filming of
that breathtaking trial scene, and at
the end cheered as loudly as the 1,200
;xtras.

Success,

It is the Ann Arbor activity asso-
ciated with the University of Michi-
gan to which I wish to call attention.
It was there that the idea of an
annual Spring dramatic festival was,
born. And it was there that the
liveliest spark in the banked fires of
the legitimate theatre interest was
first fanned back into a healthy flame
by a young man named Robert Hen-
derson, promoter of the festival.
The festival idea admittedly was
neither new nor original. There had
been a May music festival conducted
most successfully in Ann Arbor for
years. It still precedes the Dramatic
Festival each year. The idea was new
in America and the fact that Mr.
Henderson took the high standards of
similar European festivals as a guide
is responsible, I believe, for not only
the high standards he has main-
tained, but also for the success of the
enterprise and the satisfaction of the
following it has. builded.
Now May is come again and the
festival workers are about to barge
into their seventh five-week season.
There is, as might reasonably be ex-
pected, excitement in the festival re-
gion and surrounding territory.
I see by the advance program that
Mr. Henderson has again decided to
leave the Greeks alone. Personally I
should like one of the older classic
dramas included in each festival bill,
both as a contrast and as a reminder
to youth that there were great drama-
tists at work molding the foundations
of their theatre some years before our
modern dramatists both enriched and
cheapened it.
However, this year there is to be a
series of lectures on the drama by

U
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By JOhN VAN DR U'TEN
(Author of "'te Distali Side," "Young
woodley, ""'there's Always Juliet")
There are two qualities, I think,
which go to make up a dramatist.
One is a capacity for inventing and
portraying character in situations of
varying dramatic intensity, and Ilse
other is a capacity for inventing (or,
n the case of Shakespeare, borrow.=
ng) and serving up plots.
The former quality goes usualy
with the quieter, slower-moving type
of mind that is frequently driven to
writingInovels and short stoies of
the mote leisurely sort. This type
inds the invention of plot almost
ntolerably difficult and is given often
to despising the theatre, while secret-
y longing for it.
As a matter of fact, until about
30 years ago it held no place for hins,
having fallen into a considerable Vic-
orian disrepute which had no use
or his talents, and being domimn ed
by writers possessing only the se(ot
capacity of contriving fulsome "plot
Just as I was leaving tIhe Iheal-1%
after one of the performances in
New York of "The Distatr Side," I
heard a smart and intelligeibt-louk-
ing woman, standing behind me, re-
mark to her companion, "Il's very
good, and very interesting, belt, of
course, it isn't a play." 'T'his remark
has worried me a good deal ever
inceC, waking me up in the night to
ask myself, in the mianuer of Alice
n Wonderland questioning whethU'l
ats ate bat: "s "lic Iitalit ~-id"v
eally a play?" A , like Alice, I have
never been sure of the answe.
This 1 to know, how(eVel. ih a.leetie
Reginald Pole, which will prosibly
ring suflicient learnin1to the si-
dents properly to dignify t he festival.
The plays this year are to include a
evival of "Hamlet," with Ian Keith
laying the melancholy one in a ver--
ion of the tragedy he has arranged
or his own use.
Estelle Winwood will play the
Queen and Whitfod Kane the First
Gravedigger, parts for which they
were engaged by Leslie Howard weI
(Continie t on . I 4)

miniiing of the century two impor-
(ta t things have happened in the
theatre. The first was the irruption
Wto the field of Ibsen, Tchekov, Shaw
"ad Granville Barker. (Yes, I know
abeut Ibsen being of the last century,
but never mind about that now.)
These writers opened up an entirely
new vein in the theatre, showing to
autthos of my first kind that plays
cold ow be quite different from
what hey had been before and that
a pi anmoupt interest in human char.,
acter was not icompatible with be-
ing a playwright.
SIcre was soiething new in the
I hea tre, something that perhaps I
could have a shot at, too. And, earlier
in the cent ury, many, many other
11 ltaArated playwrights must equally
have shouted at their liberation. With
0 rker aid Tchekov a new group
rushed into the theatre, offering its
blood for transfusion.
The UtWher important thing that'
ha pp. d to the theatre was toe
ijm'-n - o' of the talking picture.
Whel iri( or uiot it is a menace to
the lugimat ctage, it has certainly
done one tiing to it. It has drawn
off Uihe ot ter class of dramatist, the
101-inventor pure and simple, and
provided hirm with a happier hunt-
ing ground. lie was beginning to feel
wconifortable in the real theatre,
anyway, with the introduction of the
new ideas.
Just as uiy kind of playwright had
a Ia ays found it hard to think of
plcl :;, so he ha d never been able to
in en ('laracter. Now, suddenly,
I hroe was no longer any need to
bohe(; t here never are any chai-
t ers iii the movies. All that is
wanted is incident, and in their shoals
the plot-writers have left the theatre
in order to provide it. The day of the
purely plot-play in the living theatre
is practically over.

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