( Originally Published 1921 )
THE statement made in the first chapter of this book concerning the increased and always increasing interest in affairs dramatic needs no further exemplification than the rapid development of attention to all theatric arts in school and colleges. Nearly every high school does more than merely read and discuss classic masterpieces, scores of small colleges offer courses leading to fuller understanding of play production or active participation in it. A few universities have become renowned for the successful results se-cured in some special phase of study or creation. A few specialized schools of dramatic art have advanced to the front rank as producers of good drama in worthy manner. The term educational dramatics is so wide that it may serve to cover any interest even remotely associated with the actual house of dramatic energy—the theater. In some institutions it denotes merely an adaptation of the old-fashioned course in elocution. It may list a historical survey of the literary drama. It may advance to a discussion of acted literary drama, endeavoring, instead of cramming students' minds with the textual difficulties of the first two quartos of Hamlet, to show them exactly how the foils are exchanged in the fencing bout; or instead of discussing whether Portia's legal decision would hold in a court today, to indicate how the actress can deliver " The quality of mercy " so that it will not sound like a school exercise. In some institutions the plastic, design, scenery, costume, aspects of drama are emphasized, with attendant success in productions of a restricted class of plays. Others, leaving aside all the foregoing possibilities, concentrate entirely on playwriting, so that these courses are really composition practice directed towards a definite, supposedly quickly Iucrative investment.
The results are directly in line with the material considered. From such courses come actors, dancers, directors, scene designers, costume makers, playwrights, architects, and keenly interested versatile dilletanti. These last are not to be scorned or disregarded for from their growing number will be recruited the better class of amateur work-ers, and the nucleus of the intelligent audiences who will either help change the professional theater, or find else-where their continual stimulus in dramatic themes. Already in this country there are millions of them.
As the emphasis placed by different institutions varies, so the material considered, and the methods pursued, differ as widely as the locations of the schools. Except for the quite restricted purpose of playwriting, for the professional market, for general culture no aspect of educational drama-tics is a waste of time.
Many courses in schools avowedly devoted to acting be-gin with pantomime, but hardly any two, follow the same method or utilize the same material. Of course, one of the first essentials of dramatic appearance is control of the body. This mastery may be called the first element of the actor's technique. One school—it always seemed to me that this plan was easy for instructors—assigned among its early appointments the reproduction before the class of some bit seen in real life. When this was presented in pantomime the instructor and class were to guess the emotions behind the actions and the situation being depicted. Add to these difficulties of required attainment that the scene should delineate character and present a point or reach a climax, and you will have some faint idea of the distraction experienced by the novitiates who roamed the streets of New York straining their eyes to see some-thing they could reproduce. Make a list of all the possibilities which may occur—the railroad station, the sub-way, the elevated, the East Side, the steamship docks, the river boats, the restaurants, the cabarets, the moving picture houses, automobiles, building sites, engineering projects, the airplane—the surroundings are countless; but try to particularize some single event which might happen, and which might be effectively and clearly reproduced in pantomime, and you will appreciate the difficulty of this apparently innocent direction.
Even after you have found a bit of actual life, can you be sure the spectators will understand it? Can you make it plain to them? How many screen stories could you follow through all the changes without the captions?
Students who have experienced this search for actable material have described it as the most discouraging period of all their study.
Another method of employing a pantomimic beginning is to choose some play of marked nature, as one acted in a kitchen, an office, a restaurant, a camp, a trench, a prison, upon a ship, or in some past time, as the French Revolution, the Civil War, the Roman Republic, an oriental festival. Then during the study of this play, the members of the class are required to present in pantomime, scenes suggested by its environment, its situations, its characters. The direct value of such preliminary exercises is that they contribute bits of good stage business to be incorporated later as the lines are delivered. Every director of amateurs who has tried to produce say a Molière comedy knows how much time must first be spent in training amateurs to walk like ladies and gentlemen, how to " throw themselves into their clothes," how to bow, and how to walk without scraping their feet. Or in a modern comedy the time used in showing them how to pretend to eat or to drink tea, or to talk in dumbshow, or to join a group, or to announce a caller, or to sit down gracefully, or to leave a room, or to use the telephone expeditiously, is almost endless.
Besides these realistic uses of pantomime there is a conventionalized historical system brought to the highest degree of perfection by the Italians and French. It is in French and Italian theaters that a spectator sees mimetic art raised to certainty of effect by means of stabilized de-vices. To groups of spectators long trained in the convention the results are unerringly illuminating, to the uninitiated the general impression may be correct, although many of the fine details are unperceived. It is like trying to understand the enthusiasm of a Spanish bull-fight mob when you do not know the custom of the award of the bull's ear. In a training course in England I stood fascinated by the beauty of poise and the grace of gesture of a class of over forty men and women as they reproduced the formal gestures of the instructor. Riveting as the evolutions were, I must admit that if the phrases being interpreted had not been continually repeated, " Mademoiselle is beautiful; Monsieur is splendid," I might have thought some of the students were trying to indicate that some person had a moon face and that somebody else or the same person was stout around the waist. Many of the others were easier to apprehend as " Monsieur is rich, but I am broke," and " I love you! will you marry me? "
As the intended thoughts grew in subtlety and the situations became complicated by the inclusion of several characters I should have been totally mystified had not eyes and brain been aided by the names, dispositions, and relationships of the persons being represented, the reinforcing music, and the running comments and directions of the instructor.
With all its drawbacks and difficulties, some practice in pantomime is of inestimable value in educational dramatics designed to help acting interpretation, or sympathetic attendance in the theater.
If the course is not a long, intensified, or diversified one, this first part, the pantomime, may be omitted as a distinct topic, and the work begin with another, here the second. This may be termed improvisation. Notice that pantomime tends to become reproductive, that it is fixed and formal. Observe a few screen stories to realize the truth of this. Much more self-expression, self-development comes from this second dramatic element. It entails much more valuable brain exercise. While it must be based on observation and delineation, it embodies many elements of creative ability. Sir Frank R. Benson once told me that a good actor must be a human kodak. This is a neat phrase, of course, but it covers only part of the equipment. Improvisation is a workable device for developing the others.
Situations in improvisation may be assigned by the instructor, chosen by the student, or built up by the class. Besides demanding that the acted scene and the delivered speeches must show characterization, that they should have some point, and that they should produce a climax or conclusion, there should be no restrictions of either material or method. Hints for securing these may be discussed at length. To secure point or climax or conclusion the device of planning backwards should be exemplified. This may be done by analyzing either a few actual scenes in plays, or suppositious circumstances suggested by observation. An entire class may depict variously the same theme. The following simple suggestions illustrate the plan.
You are sitting at a table or desk. The telephone rings. You pick up the receiver. A person at the other end invites you to dinner. Deliver your part of the conversation.
1. Speak in your own character.
2. Speak as a busy, quick-tempered old man in his disordered office.
3. Speak as a tired wife who hasn't had a relief for weeks from the drudgery of house-work.
4. Speak as a young débutante who has been entertained every day for weeks.
5. Speak as the office boy.
6. Speak as an over-polite foreigner.
7. Delineate some other kind of person.
As you deliver the dialogues suggested by the exercises try to make your speeches sound natural. Talk as real people talk. Make the remarks conversational, or colloquial. What things will make conversation realistic? In actual talk, people anticipate. Speakers do not wait for others to finish. They interrupt. They indicate opinions and impressions by facial expression and slight bodily movements. Tone changes as feelings change.
Try to make your remarks convey to the audience the circumstances surrounding the dialogue. Let the conversation make some point clear. Before you begin, deter-mine in your own mind the characterization you intend to present. Discuss from all possible angles the following situation. A girl buys some fruit from the keeper of a stand at a street corner.
What kind of girl? Age? Manner of speaking? Courteous? Flippant? Well-bred? Slangy? Working girl? Visitor to town?
What kind of man? Age? American? Foreigner? From what country? Dialect? Disposition? Suspicious? Sympathetic?
Weather? Season of year? Do they talk about that? About themselves? Does the heat make her long for her home in the country? Does the cold make him think of his native Italy or Greece? Will her remarks change his short, gruff answers to interested questions about her home? Will his enthusiasm for his native land change her flippancy to interest in far-off romantic countries? How would the last detail impress the change, if you decide to have one? Might he call her back and force her to take a gift? Might she deliver an impressive phrase, then dash away as though startled by her exhibition of sympathetic feeling?
These are mere suggestions. Two students might present the scene as indicated by these questions. Two others might show it as broadly comic, and end by having the girl—at a safe distance—triumphantly show that she had stolen a second fruit. That might give the fruit seller the cue to end in a tirade of almost inarticulate abuse, or he might stand in silence, expressing by his face the emotions surging over him. And his feeling need not be entirely anger, either. It might border on admiration for her amazing audacity, or pathetic helplessness, or comic despair, or determination to " get even " next time.
Before you attempt to present any of the following suggestive exercises you should consider every possibility care-fully and decide definitely and consistently all the questions that may arise concerning every detail.
1. Have a man come into the room and try to induce the mistress of a house to have a telephone installed. Make the dialogue realistic and interesting.
2. Have a girl demonstrate a vacuum cleaner (or some other appliance) to the mistress of the house.
3. Have a man dictate a letter to a gum-chewing, fidgety, harumscarum stenographer.
4. Have this stenographer tell the telephone girl about this.
5. Show how a younger sister might talk at a baseball or football game to her slightly older brother who was coerced into bringing her with him.
6. Show a fastidious woman at a dress goods counter, and the tired, but courteous clerk. Do not caricature, but try to give an air of reality to this.
7. Show how two young friends who have not seen each other for weeks might talk when they meet again.
8. A foreign woman speaking and understanding little English, with a ticket to Springfield, has by mistake boarded a through train which does not stop there. The conductor, a man, and woman try to explain to her what she must do.
9. Have three or more different pairs of students represent the girl and the fruit seller cited in the paragraphs pre-ceding these exercises.
10. A young man takes a girl riding in a new automobile. Reproduce parts of the ride.
11. A woman in a car or coach has lost or misplaced her transfer or ticket. Give the conversation between her and the conductor.
12. Have various pairs of pupils reproduce the conversations of patrons of moving pictures.
The next step is logically to short scenes from long plays. In such cases delineation is to a great extent fixed by the dramatist. One would imagine that a modern playwright alive to the vagaries of individual producers and performers would leave nothing so important as characterization to appearance or chance. Yet there are always matters for individual decision. A striking one is this. The printed version of Lord Dunsany's Fame and the Poet contains no direction about the costume of the Lieutenant-Major who is calling upon a poet friend in London before he goes off to the theater. In one city an amateur actor asked the British consul. He said that British officers do not wear their uniforms except when in active service, but on the stage one famous actor had by his example created the convention of wearing the uniform. In all probability he meant Cyril Maude. At just that same time I asked Lord Dunsany the same question in another city. He said that by no means should the actor wear a uniform. Likewise in most performances of A. E. W. Mason's Green Stockings the British officer back from Somaliland wears mufti, or civilian clothes, but in a photograph of a university performance, he is in khaki. As in such a minor matter as costume so in the larger, essential matters of characterization, a performer may have to supply a conception from elements outside the play itself.
When you speak lines from a play inject as much naturalness and sincerity into your delivery as you can command. Speak the words as though they really express your own ideas and feelings. If you feel that you must exaggerate slightly because of the impression the remark is intended to make, rely more upon emphasis than upon any other de-vice to secure an effect. Never slip into an affected manner of delivering any speech. No matter what kind of acting you have seen upon amateur or professional stage, you must remember that moderation is the first essential of the best acting. Recall what Shakespeare had Hamlet say to the players.
In taking part in a play you must do more than simply recite words spoken by some one other than yourself. You must really act like that person. This adds to the simple delivery of speeches all those other traits by which per-sons in real life are different from one another. Such complete identification of your personality with that of the person you are trying to represent in a play results in character delineation, or characterization.
You may believe that you cannot represent an Indian chief or a British queen, or an Egyptian slave, or a secret-service agent, but if you will recall your childish pastime of day-dreaming you will see at once that you have quite frequently identified yourself with some one else, and in that other character you have made yourself experience the strangest and most thrilling adventures. When you study a rôle in a scene or play, use your imagination in that same manner. In a short time it will be easy for you to think as that other character would. Then you have become identified with him. The first step in your delineation has been taken.
Visualize in your mind's eye—your imagination—the circumstances in which that character is placed in the play. See yourself looking, moving, acting as he would. Then talk as that character would in those circumstances. Make him react as he would naturally in the situations in which the dramatist has placed him.
Let us try to make this more definite. Suppose a youth is chosen to act the part of an old man. An old man does not speak as rapidly as a young man does. He will have to change the speed of his speech. But suppose the old man is moved to wrath, would his words come slowly? Would he speak distinctly or would he almost choke?
The young woman who is delineating a foreigner must picture her accent and hesitation in speaking English. She would give to her face the rather vacant questioning look such a woman would have as the English speech flits about her, too quickly for her to comprehend all of it.
The woman who tries to present a British queen in a Shakespeare play must not act as she does at a dinner party. Yet if that queen is stricken in her feelings as a mother, might not all the royal dignity melt away, and her Majesty act like any sorrowing woman?
The dramatist may be very careful to set down clearly and accurately the traits, dispositions, actions of the people in his plays. In this second case the performer must try to carry out every direction, every hint of the dramatist. In the first case, he must search the lines of the play to glean every slightest suggestion which will help him to carry out. the dramatist's intention. Famous actors of characters in Shakespeare's plays can give a reason for every-thing they show—at least, they should be able to do so—and this foundation should be a compilation of all the details supplied by the play itself, and stage tradition of its productions.
In early printed plays there are practically no descriptions of the characters. Questions about certain Shakespeare characters will never be solved to the satisfaction of all performers. For instance, how old is Hamlet in the tragedy? How close to madness did the dramatist expect actors to portray his actions? During Hamlet's fencing match with Laertes in the last scene the Queen says, " He's fat, and scant of breath." Was she describing his size, or meaning that he was out of fencing trim?
Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Julius Caesar a de-tailed description of the appearance and manner of acting of one of the chief characters of the tragedy.
Let me have men about me that are fat;
Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
In As You Like It when the two girls are planning to flee to the forest of Arden, Rosalind tells how she will disguise herself and act as a man. This indicates to the actress both costume and behavior for the remainder of the comedy.
Were it not better,
In many cases Shakespeare clearly shows the performer exactly how to carry out his ideas of the nature of a man during part of the action One of the plainest instances of this kind of instruction is in Macbeth. The ambitious thane's wife is urging him on to murder his king. Her advice gives the directions for the following scenes.
Modern dramatists are likely to be much more careful in giving advice about characterization. They insert a large number of stage directions covering this matter. Speed of delivery, tone and inflection, as well as under-lying feeling and emotion are minutely indicated. These lines from Lady Windermere's Fan leave nothing to indefinite guess.
DUCHESS OF BERWICK
Mr. Hopper, I am very angry with you. You have taken Agatha out on the terrace, and she is so delicate.
(At left of center) Awfully sorry, Duchess. We went out for a moment and then got chatting together.
(At center) Ah, about dear Australia, I suppose?
Agatha, darling! (Beckons her over),
(Aside) Did Mr. Hopper definitely
And what answer did you give him, dear child?
(Affectionately) My dear one! You always say the right thing. Mr. Hopper! James! Agatha has told me everything. How cleverly you have both kept your secret.
You don't mind my taking Agatha off to Australia, then, Duchess?
(Indignantly) To Australia? Oh, don't mention that dreadful vulgar place.
Agatha, you say the most silly things possible.
In addition to definite directions at special times during the course of the dialogue, modern writers of plays describe every character quite fully at the first entrance into the action. This gives the delineator of each rôle a working basis for his guidance. Such directions carefully followed out assure the tone for the whole cast. They keep a subordinate part always in the proper relation to all others. They make certain the impression of the whole story as a consistent artistic development. They prevent misunderstandings about the author's aim. They provide that every character shall appear to be swayed by natural motives. They remove from the performance all suggestions of unregulated caprice.
Dramatists vary in the exactness and minuteness of such descriptive character sketches, but even the shortest and most general is necessary to the proper appreciation of every play, even if it is being merely read. When a student is assimilating a rôle for rehearsing or acting, these additions of the author are as important as the lines themselves.
Excellent descriptions of characters are in the stage directions of most modern plays. Instructor and students should endeavor to secure variety of interest in rôles. At first, assignments are likely to be determined ,by apparent fitness. The quiet youth is not required to play the part of the braggart. The retiring girl is not expected to impersonate the shrew. In one or two appearances it may be a good thing to keep in mind natural aptitude.
Then there should be a departure from this system. Educational development comes not only from doing what you are best able to do, but from developing the less-marked phases of your disposition and character. The opposite practice should be followed, at least once. Let the prominent class member assume a rôle of subdued personality. Let the timid take the lead. Induce the silent to deliver the majority of the speeches. You will be amazed frequently to behold the best delineations springing from such assignments.
Such rehearsing of a play already studied should terminate the minute analysis in order to show the material for what it is—actable drama. It will vivify the play again, and make the characters live in your memory as mere reading never will. You will see the moving people, the grouped situations, the developed story, the impressive climax, and the satisfying conclusion.
In dealing with scenes from a long play—whether linked or disconnected—students will always have a feeling of in-completeness. In a full-length play no situation is complete in itself. It is part of a longer series of events. It may finish one part of the action, but it usually merely carries forward the plot, passing on the complication to subsequent situations.
T0 deal with finished products should be the next endeavor. There are hundreds of short plays suitable for class presentation in an informal manner. Most of them do not require intensive study, as does a great Greek or English drama, so their preparation may go on entirely outside the classroom. It should be frankly admitted that the exercises of delivering lines " in character " as here described is not acting or producing the play. That will come later. These preliminary exercises—many or few, painstaking or sketchy-are processes of training students to speak clearly, interestingly, forcefully, in the imagined character of some other person. The student must not wrongly believe that he is acting.
Though the delivery of a complete short play may seem like a performance, both participants and audience, if there is any, must not think of it so. It is class exercise, subject to criticism, comment, improvement, exactly as all other class recitations are.
Since the entire class has not had the chance to become familiar with all the short plays to be presented, some one should give an introductory account of the time and place of action. There might be added any necessary comments upon the characters. The cast of characters should be written upon the board, or distributed in typed programs.
This exercise should develop the plot of the play, create suspense, impress the climax, and satisfactorily round off the play. In order to accomplish these important effects the participants will soon discover that they must agree upon certain details to be made most significant. This will lead to discussions about how to make these points stand out. In the concerted attempt to give proper emphasis to some line late in the play it will be found necessary to suppress a possible emphasis of some line early in the action. To reinforce a trait of some person, another character may have to be made more self-assertive.
To secure this unified effect which every play should make the persons involved will have to consider carefully every detail in lines and stage directions, fully agree upon what impression they must strive for, then heartily co-operate in attaining it. They must forget themselves to remember always that " the play's the thing."
The following list will suggest short plays suitable for informal classroom training in dramatics. Most of these are also general enough in their appeal to serve for regular production upon a stage before a miscellaneous audience.
ALDRICH, T. B Pauline Pavlovna
When roles are determined or assigned there enters into the studying the educative value of rapid, accurate memorizing. Anything delivered by the faddist pedagogues to the contrary notwithstanding, there is a decided value for every person in ability to memorize. Various schemes for perfecting this mechanical ability have been described in the Chapter on Rehearsing.
In the delivery of memorized lines of plays the instructor of a class in dramatics has the widest field for permanent effects. So much has been spoken and written about all the disagreeableness suggested by the term, " the American voice," that no amplification need be set down here. It would not be an inappropriate thing to have the beginner learn and comment on every precept of Hamlet's advice to the players. Beginning with the simple needs of pronunciation and enunciation, the training—never losing touch with these—should extend to mastery of diction, sense of rhythm, and beauty of utterance. Good prose has these qualities as well as blank verse, though training is easier when linked with the poetic form. There is no occasion here to lament the miserable delivery of blank verse upon our stage, until we have lamented more effectively the lack of any poetry at all. However in schools, both prose and verse can be made to yield lasting results of far-reaching - significance. The student actress may never deliver a line from the professional stage, but if she marries she can influence her immediate household by the charm and beauty of her speech. The school may get to be so renowned for results in speech betterment that it will attract interested school teachers. Think of the enormous influence which would be exerted if all the teachers of the nation learned to speak clearly, interestingly, and beautifully.
So far this discussion has taken cognizance only of the acted side of the play. There may be in the class, or parallel to it, a group more interested in the other arts of the theater than in acting. What shall have been assigned to them during this training of the performers themselves? All the work so sketchily outlined here can easily be made to serve for them. At the same time that scenes are considered for acting problems in scene designing may be distributed to the student architects, costume designers, interior decorators, scene designers, and builders. A series of individual methods may be instigated to induce original self-expression and to help discover latent talent. Or severe restrictions may be imposed. The treatment assigned may be severely historical. Or it may prescribe only pylons, flats, and draperies. The sketches, finished models, and even constructed paraphernalia for a full-sized stage, all the elements of which were restricted to platforms and cubes, assigned by Josef Urban to a student group were an unusual contribution to such a scheme. Various other plans to follow will have been suggested by other portions of this book. A full set of costume plates or make-up sketches might also be prepared. Even furniture made to scale will help all the participants in a dramatic study project.
If, as frequently happens, artists work more rapidly than actors, they can be kept busy with material not under preparation for presentation. While every play may be made to present problems—as for instance, Hamlet with permanent frames but moveable set pieces, and draperies and tapestries, or Richard III within permanent side walls —many of these are beyond students. Some of the following offer nice adjustments of opinions to text, of design to action, of originality to requirements, of style to fitness.
1. Should the entire masque of Comus by Milton be acted out-of-doors? When presented on an indoors stage what should scene 2 be? Inside the palace of Comus? How then do the two Brothers get in? How and where do Sabrina and her attendant Nymphs rise? From a pool, or fountain? Might the stage show an exterior? Would the palace be on one side? The edge of the woods on the other? The banks of the river at the rear? Would such an arrangement make entrances, exits, dancing, acting, effective? Search until you have reasons for all your opinions.
2. A Midsummer Night's Dream, scene i. Interior? Exterior? Color? Lighting?
3. Hamlet, Act I, scene 5. Castle battlements? A graveyard? Open space in country some distance from castle?
4. Comus, scene 3.
5. The Tempest, Act I, scene 1.
6. Twelfth Night, Act II, scene 3.
7. Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene z.
8. Julius Cæsar, Act III, scene 2.
9. In a long, high-vaulted room, looking out upon a Roman garden where the cypresses rise in narrowing shafts from thickets of oleander and myrtle, is seated a company of men and women, feasting.
William Sharp: The Lute-Player
10. A room, half drawing-room, half study, in Lewis Davenant's house in Rockminister. Furniture eighteenth century, pictures, china in glass cases. An April afternoon in 1860.
George Moore: Elizabeth Cooper
Ir. An Island off the West of Ireland. Cottage kitchen, with nets, oil-skins, spinning wheel, some new boards standing by the wall, etc.
J. M. Synge: Riders to the Sea
12. Loud music. After which the Scene is discovered, being a Laboratory or Alchemist's work-house. Vulcan looking at the register, while !a Cyclope, tending the fire, to the cornets began to sing.
Ben Jonson: Mercury Vindicated
13. Rather an awesome picture it is with the cold blue river and the great black cliffs and the blacker cypresses that grow along its banks. There are signs of a trodden slope and a ferry, and there's a rough old wooden shelter where passengers can wait; a bell hung on the top with which they call the ferryman.
Calthrop and Barker: The Harlequinade
Long before any play is produced there should be made a sketch or plan showing the stage settings. From this sketch a working model should be constructed. If it is in color it will reproduce the appearance of the actual stage. One important point is to be noted. Your sketch or model is merely a miniature of the real thing. If you have in it a splotch of glaring color only an inch long it will appear in the full-size setting about two feet long. A seemingly flat surface three by five inches in the design will come out six by ten feet behind the footlights.
In educational dramatics rehearsals should be considered as discussed in this book, whether the director be the instructor or a student from an advanced class. Productions of educational undertakings are different from all others. In others the test of a performance is its effect upon the audience. In educational dramatics-while the reaction of the audience is important—it is overbalanced by the effect upon the students themselves, in critical power, in self-examination, in improvement of method, in ease of acting, in application of technique. A recognition of the attitude of an audience before a school performance—whether ordinary high school or professional drama school —is necessary to a weighing 0f all constituent elements of success. An audience which has paid for its seats is easier to impress than a " free " audience. The audience which has wanted to attend will be more responsive than the one induced by invitation. The " free-pass " audience, or its amateur " dead-head " or " paper " equivalent is most frigid of all. An educational institution, therefore, must consider its kinds of audiences much more carefully than the usual little theater group. Means should be devised to prevent the attendance of merely friends of the performers. Whether too candid or too lenient such personal associates do not constitute a good audience. If the choice of play is correct and the acting reaches a high level it will not be long before a large number of exactly the right kind of persons will be attracted. The Carnegie Institute audience, which by the terms of the foundation must always be a non-paying one, has increased to some six times its original size. From it has developed directly the paying audience which supports the graduate organization, the Guild Players. The audience of the other most distinctive school of drama, the 47 Workshop at Harvard is expected to take part in the educational development by filling in and returning blanks concerning productions. Persons who neglect to grant this small return for the privilege of attendance are dropped from the mailing lists.
Unless the audience can become the cognate of the general public of the commercial theaters, acting before it has no special educational value for students. A play, a rôle must impress and interest because of its intrinsic appeal and merit. The smaller and fewer the adventitious aids to tolerance can be made, the better training does acting be-come.
The corollary of the foregoing is that a single performance is never enough for an amateur cast. One trial is no assurance of ability. In school productions it is a good practice to insist always upon an adherence to the dictum laid down in the chapter on Rehearsing that a dress rehearsal should be exactly like a performance, except that the audience at the regular performance is either a general paying one, or a group gathered by invitation of the class or organization offering the play. It is extremely easy to secure as large, if a totally different audience, for the dress rehearsal. In case the evening audience is a paying one, invite the members of the school to attend the dress rehearsal at a very small admission price. In case the evening performance is to an invited audience, ask to the dress rehearsal all the members of the school. There is no reason, if the play has been adequately rehearsed, why the dress rehearsal should not equal the performance. In many schools dress rehearsals are perfect in every de-tail. Appearing once before an audience insures ease at the second appearance, besides giving the amateur actors the feeling of having won twice as much recognition. Ease, speed, comfort, confidence, are secured for every person concerned, by this logical procedure.
The actors and the director must be prepared for one detail of supreme importance. The two audiences will be radically different in their responses, and even when they agree in time of reaction, they will be differentiated entirely in degree and reason of reaction. Amateur performers must be warned of this, and admonished to hold their characterizations, situations, and points, in spite of dress rehearsal experiences. Pathos will be effective to varying degrees, surprisingly far apart in their depth. Humor will be interpreted at contradictory points. Interest may rise in more rapid or more leisurely fashion. A dress rehearsal audience is having its curiosity satisfied. A regular audience is having its interest aroused or its emotions stirred.
This difference is true of a metropolitan audience. I have sat through the dress rehearsal of a comedy in a New York theater without hearing a single audible laugh from the fifty or seventy-five spectators. This difference of response is being cited to discount the reception of new plays by a first-night audience in New York, because it is made up largely of newspaper critics and professional theatrical workers.
For real knowledge of acting and producing the play should be repeated frequently. So far as the actors are concerned such repetitions will give them chances for self-examination. Having reduced the acting to the reflexive state they can concenter their consciousness upon the means employed and the ends attained—or missed. With ease of acting should come certainty of effect. With certainty of effect should come economy of effort. With economy of effort comes mastery of technique. Repetition makes criticism valuable. A report on a performer's exhibition after one performance is almost valueless. What will he do with the change suggested if he has no opportunity of incorporating it in a subsequent repetition of the same play? It is even doubtful if any criticism is listened to carefully enough, or apprehended clearly enough, to make any more than a fleeting impression. When, under the temperamental or nervous stress of a new production, it is listened to at all and fully understood, it is likely to be resented as a derogatory remark. Flung aside contemptuously it certainly will have no effect upon future interpretations. When, however, there are many performances, there are chances that sane and legitimate corrections will show in intelligent modifications of scenes.
When the sum total of all these detailed warnings and corrections has become part of the performers' instinctive method of attacking new roles, then it may be said that their student training is almost over, and they should become developing actors.