The Play by Jaques
If it be true that the future is revealed
in the past, then should there be
something in the dramatic season
which is dead to indicate the character
of the season not yet born. By
the straws of public approval is the
course of the dramatic current determined
by those master mariners of the stage, the
managers of theatres. The late season has
left no great store of such buoys to mark the
fair channel to success. Of such as there are,
the purport is not altogether convincing.
To record that "Du Barry" and "Beauty and
the Beast" are notable successes is but to record
that the public, as ever, is attracted by
display of rich vestments and spectacular
effect. Such straws indicate nothing more
than that a Circus or a Wild West Show will
seduce to Madison Square Garden an audience
that would fill a theatre for a month.
Mr. Hawtrey's triumph at the Garrick Theatre
is as little of a guide to popular opinion as was
Anna Held's or Weber and Fields'. No
manager in his senses would suggest that because
Mr. Hawtrey succeeded with "A Message
from Mars," the public are prepared to
support a series of like Christmas ghost
stories. It was the novelty that took, and the
personality of a refreshingly non-American
For myself I would seek the trend of public
opinion in a very different group of plays; in
a batch that did not chronicle one single great
success, but each of which received a fair meed
of popular support. I refer to such plays as
"The Second Mrs. Tanqueray," "A Modern
Magdalen," and "Tess of the D'Urbervilles."
In such plays lies the modern tragedy. They
are addressed to the times, actual, intelligible.
But such as held the New York stage in the
past season were timorously constructed,
bowdlerized by stage managers and, for the
most part, poorly acted. Two of the three
I have indicated are plays many seasons old.
The greatest of these is "The Second Mrs.
Tanqueray," interpreted for us by the greatest
actress who ever essayed the part. It
indicated a development I believe to be still
in its infancy—a development that was arrested
before it had been weaned from its first timid
The public does not desire the problem play.
It demands a play that will end with a curtain
definite, convincing. But in the problem
plays of the past it finds the material it fain
would see applied to a bolder, unequivocal
purpose. In the eight years that have elapsed
since the production of Pinero's "Tanqueray,"
the public's stomach has been strengthened.
It is able to digest tragedies in drawing
rooms. It no longer requires peptonized
drama. The playgoer no longer demands
whatever of primal passion is presented to him
to be dressed in doublet and hose. He can
accept plain truths in the speech of the day,
villains and heroines in the costume of the
clubs and Fifth Avenue.
The great play of the future must be a play of
the times, must deal with the real things of
life, must balk at no expression of modern tendencies,
must reveal the skeleton in the twentieth
The days of the historical romance are happily
ended. Such milk and water diet is food not
fit for men. The new dramatist must provide
us with strong meat, properly served by players
of intelligence and insight, if dramatic art
is to be rescued from the slough into which it
has so miserably sunk. The question is: Can
America produce a writer of sufficient originality,
a manager of sufficient courage, an actor
of sufficient understanding to give the public
what it asks?
If such there be, their names are not Clyde
Fitch or David Belasco, Charles Frohman or
Daniel Frohman, Richard Mansfield or Amelia