Authors and Actors, or, Engaging A Company,

A Dramatic Sketch

Scene—The Manager's Room. The Manager discovered.

Manager.—Well! my theatre is built at last, and I have now only to think about opening it. My walls are so dry that they cannot throw a damp upon my prospects. My stage is all ready for starting; and every one, I am happy to say, seems inclined to take the box-seat. Everything now must go as smooth as a railroad. I have always heard that a manager must lead a devil of a life; but I am in hopes I shall be an exception to the rule, and that management to me will be a delightful pastime.

Fitz-Growl (without).—But I must see him.

Manager.—Who the deuce can this be?

  (Enter a Servant.)

Servant.—If you please, sir, here's a person wants to speak to you.

Manager.—I'm busy about the opening of the theatre; tell him you can't get near me.

Servant.—But he says he's an author, sir, and has called about his piece.

Manager.—His piece! why, these authors let me have no peace at all.

Servant.—He would come up, sir, though I told him you wouldn't suffer any one behind the scenes.

Manager.—And particularly an author; for he makes people suffer enough before them.

Servant.—Here he is, sir; he would force his way up.

  (Exit Servant. Enter Fitz-Growl.)

Manager.—My servant says you would force your way up.

Fitz-Growl.—And isn't it natural an author should wish to do so?

Manager.—Well; but, sir, it is not usual in theatres for the manager to see any one.

Fitz-Growl.—Not usual to see any one! It must be a very poor look-out.

Manager.—Well, sir, as you are here, may I ask your business?

Fitz-Growl.—Why, being anxious for the success of your theatre, I sent you three of my pieces to begin with. Now, sir, I've had no answer.

Manager.—My dear sir, we cannot answer everybody. Theatres never answer in these times. However, your pieces shall be looked out. You can believe in my assurance.

Fitz-Growl.—Certainly; a manager ought to have assurance enough for anything. But I tell you, sir, if you want to succeed, you must open with my piece.

Manager.—What is the nature of it?

Fitz-Growl.—Nature! The beauty of my piece is, that there's no nature at all in it; it's beautifully unnatural.

Manager.—Indeed! I hope there is some spirit in the dialogue?

Fitz-Growl.—Some spirit, sir! there is a ghost in it.

Manager.—A ghost, my dear sir! that won't do for my theatre; my audience would have too much sense for a thing of that kind.

Fitz-Growl.—Then you'll never do any good, sir; but, may I ask what sort of pieces you intend producing?

Manager.—Variety and novelty, sir, will be my aim.

Fitz-Growl.—Novelty! then my piece is the very thing. I sink the whole stage.

Manager.—Thank you; but I'd rather leave the task of sinking the stage to others; my aim shall be to raise it.

Fitz-Growl.—My dear sir, you know nothing of effect; if you could only cover the stage with people, and then let them all down at once, it would be terrific!

Manager.—My dear sir, I don't want to cover my stage with people, and then let them down; I'd sooner hold my performers up than see them let down.

Fitz-Growl.—That's very fine talking; but you must get the money, and I can assure you mine are the only pieces to do it.

Manager.—Indeed, sir; then I'm too generous to my fellow-managers to think of monopolising the only author whose pieces will draw.

  (Enter Servant.)

Servant.—A gentleman named Scowl is below.

Manager.—Oh! the gentleman I was to see respecting an engagement. Beg him to walk up.   (Exit Servant.)

Fitz-Growl.—Ah! he's an old friend of mine. He plays the devil in all my pieces.

Manager.—Plays the devil, does he?

Fitz-Growl.—My best friend, sir; he has made the character I allude to his own.

Manager.—It is to be hoped, for his sake, that the character you allude to will not return the compliment.

  (Enter Scowl.)

Fitz-Growl.—Ah! my dear Scowl, how are you?

Scowl.—So, so; I swallowed a quantity of the smoke last night in your new piece.

Manager.—Did the audience swallow it too?

Scowl.—Sir?

Manager.—I beg your pardon, sir; I believe you wish to lead the business at my theatre?

Fitz-Growl.—He's the very man for it.

Manager.—What is your line, sir?

Scowl.—Why, I don't mind the heavy business; but I prefer the demons, or the singing scoundrels.

Manager.—But I don't think I shall do that sort of thing.

Scowl.—More fool you. If you want your theatre to pay, you must stick to the melodrama: the people are sure to come if you can only frighten them away.

Fitz-Growl.—Yes, I find it so with my pieces; they draw the same people over and over again, because they are forced to come several times before they can venture to sit them out.

Manager.—But I sha'n't aim at that.

Scowl.—More fool you. But if I can be of any service to you in the combat way,—I can fight with a sword in each hand, a dagger in my mouth, and a bayonet in my eye. What do you think of that?

Manager.—Astonishing!

Scowl.—My friend Mr. Fitz-Growl has written me an excellent new part.

Manager.—What's that about?

Fitz-Growl.—Oh! nothing particular. I write down a few horrors, make a list of the murders, and my friend Scowl knows what to be up to.

Manager.—Really, gentlemen, I don't see that we can come to terms.

Fitz-Growl.—Don't see!—what! you don't want my pieces?

Scowl.—Nor my acting?

Manager.—Neither, gentlemen, I thank you.

Fitz-Growl.—Then I'll go home and write a melodrama, called the "Doomed Manager," and you shall be the hero.

Manager.—Thank you.

Scowl.—And I'll play the part.

Manager.—What! you represent me? That's too cruel. But I must wish you good morning.

Scowl.—Farewell! remember me!

Fitz-Growl.—And me too. I say, sir, remember me!

  (Exeunt Scowl and Fitz-Growl with melodramatic eye-rollings.)

Manager.—Well, I hope all the applications won't be like this, or I shall never get a company.

  (Enter a Bill-sticker.)

Manager.—Well, my good fellow, who are you?

Bill-sticker.—Why, I'm one of your best friends; I'm the bill-sticker. Nobody sticks up for you like I do.

Manager.—Well, but what do you want?

Bill-sticker.—Why, sir, I'm sorry to say that as fast as I put your bills up, somebody else comes and pulls them down.

Manager.—How is that?

Bill-sticker.—I don't know, sir. It's werry ungentlemanly, whoever does it. The fact is, sir, your bills meet with as much opposition as bills in Parliament; and I'm sure I don't know why, unless it is that they are what we call money-bills.

Manager.—Perhaps they are too large, and occupy too much space: you know the printing is very large, the type is bold, and the capitals are immense.

Bill-sticker.—That's it, sir. It's the immense capital; it's such a novelty in theatres that they're all afraid of it. Shall I pull down their bills, sir?

Manager.—Certainly not. I will never sanction those whom I employ in unworthily attempting to hurt the interests of others. My theatre is for the amusement of all, and the employment of many; but the injury of none.

Bill-sticker.—Oh! if that's your motto, everybody ought to stick up for you; and I'm sure I will for one.

Manager.—Thank you, friend, for the promise of your influence.

Bill-sticker.—And it's no mean influence, either; for, though only one poor fellow, I carry more bills in a day than the House of Commons carries in a whole session.

  (Exit Bill-sticker.)

Manager.—Well! management does not seem so smooth, after all: one meets with vexations now and then, I fear. Oh! who comes now?

  (Enter Queershanks.)

Manager.—Your pleasure, sir?

Queershanks.—My name is Queershanks. You have built a theatre, have you not?

Manager.—I have, sir.

Queershanks.—Very good: then you will want a model.

Manager.—A model after it is built?

Queershanks.—Certainly: but not a model of a theatre; a model of a man.

Manager.—What for, sir?

Queershanks.—Why, sir, you will want occasionally to give representations of statues. I am an excellent hand at it.

Manager.—But, sir, my theatre is dedicated to Apollo.

Queershanks.—The very thing, sir: I have stood as the model of the Apollo Belvedere to the cleverest artists.

Manager.—They must have been clever artists to make an Apollo Belvedere with you for their model; but I cannot entertain your engagement in that shape.

Queershanks.—Not engage me in that shape! My shape is unexceptionable. Only look at this muscle. Here's muscle for Hercules, sir! Feel it, sir; will you be so good?

Manager.—I see it.

Queershanks.—No,—but feel it.

Manager.—Quite unnecessary, sir. I don't think what you could do would suit our audience.

Queershanks.—Do you mean to say, sir, I should do you no good? Look at this muscle, sir. Would not muscle like that make a tremendous hit? (Striking him.)

Manager.—Sir, I'm quite satisfied.

Queershanks.—Satisfied, sir! so you ought to be: I've got the nose of Mars, sir.

Manager.—My dear sir, what is it to the public if you've got Mars' nose and Pa's chin.

Queershanks.—I mean the classical Mars,—not my mother, you silly fellow. Then I've got the eye of a Cyclop, and the whiskers of Virginius. As yours is to be a classical theatre, will you give me a trial?

Manager.—What can you do?

Queershanks.—I'm very good in the ancient statues, only I've made them modern to suit the time. You know the "African alarmed by thunder?"

Manager.—Yes: a fine subject.

Queershanks.—I've modernised it into the "Black footman frightened by an omnibus:" this is it. (Music; he does it.)

Manager.—Very good! What else have you? Can you give me "Ajax defying the lightning?"

Queershanks.—I have modernised it into the "Little boy defying the beadle." (Music; he does it.)

Manager.—Capital! Have you any more?

Queershanks.—One more. You've seen the "Dying Gladiator?" I think my "Prize-fighter unable to come up to time" beats it all to nothing. (Music; he does it.)

Queershanks.—That's something like sculpture, isn't it?

Manager.—Yes; but it won't do in my theatre.

Queershanks.—Won't do, sir! what do you mean?

Manager.—Why, I think the audience I wish to attract will like something better than dumb show. Good morning!

Queershanks.—I'm gone, sir; but remember you've lost me. I tell you, sir, that my statues would have made your season; but I leave you, sir, with contempt (striking an attitude). Do you know that, sir? It's the celebrated statue of Napoleon turning with contempt from the shores of Elba, which, as you know, he left because he wanted more elbow room. (Exit Queershanks with an attitude.)

Manager.—Well; each person that applies for an engagement seems to think he is the man to make my fortune for me, and gets quite angry that I won't let him have an opportunity of doing so; but I begin to see I must think for myself.

  (Enter Servant.)

Servant.—A lady and two children wish to see you, sir.

Manager.—Show them in. (Exit Servant.) Some new candidates, I suppose: here they come. Ladies! they are the first that have done me the honour to apply to me.

  (Enter Mrs. Fiddler, Miss F. and Master F.)

Manager.—Your pleasure, madam?

Mrs. F.—My name is Fiddler, sir; did you ever hear of me? I've got a friend, a supernumerary at Astley's who has great influence in the theatrical world; he promised to speak to you; has he done so?

Manager.—Really, madam, I do not remember to have had an interview with any such person.

Mrs. F.—Indeed! that's strange: but I suppose you've heard of the clever Fiddlers?

Manager.—You mean Paganini, perhaps, and De Beriot?

Mrs. F.—No, indeed, I don't; I mean my clever children here, Master and Miss Fiddler.

Manager.—Indeed, madam; I'm happy to make their acquaintance.

Mrs. F.—And so you ought to be, sir. Come here, Julietta: this young lady, sir, has got such a voice! It goes upon the high C's as safe as an East-Indiaman. I want you to engage her.

Manager.—I should like to hear her sing, before I thought of engaging her; she might fail.

Mrs. F.—And if she did, sir,—if the public were so unjust,—how great would be the consolation to you to know that you partially repaired the injury by paying the dear child a salary!

Manager.—I am afraid, madam, I could not proceed on that plan.

Mrs. F.—You will excuse my saying, sir, that you have strange notions of liberality; but you shall hear her sing. Come, my dear, let's have the Baccy-role; it's beautiful in your mouth, my dear.

Manager.—(Aside.) Baccy-role, indeed! (Aloud.) Let's hear you, my dear.

(Miss F. looks stupid and does not sing a note. Mrs. F. moving her hands and arms, sing for her very badly, a bit of the Barcarole from Musaniello.)

Mrs. F.—You see, sir, that's what the dear child means; though she can't do it before you, she is so nervous. But all that will wear off when she gets before the audience.

Manager.—It's to be hoped so, but what can the young gentleman do?

Mrs. F.—What can he do! anything—he's a dancer; his pirouettes are tremendous: only look here! (She turns him round and round till he falls down giddy.) See! he spins like a top; in fact he'll soon be the top of his profession.

Manager.—Why, bless the boy! you don't call that dancing, do you?

Mrs. F.—Of course: the dear boy has over-exerted himself, that's all; but he'll soon come round.

Manager.—Why, he has come round too much; but I can't engage him.

Mrs. F.—Then, sir, let me tell you, you'll never do.

  (Exeunt Mrs. F. Master F. and Miss F.)

Manager.—Why, that's what everybody tells me. Here, Tom! don't let me be annoyed by any one else. I find there's no small difficulty in exercising one's own discretion in these matters. I may do much to improve the race both of authors and actors, if I think and judge for myself; but to render my efforts of any avail, the public must do so too. And when will they begin to do it?

(Curtain falls.)