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Maude Adams "Barrie has gone out of his mind, Froh- hearing the play; but Barrie must be mad. man. I am sorry to say it; but you ought He has written four acts all about fairies, to know it, we are both so fond of him," children, and Indians, running through said Sir Herbert Tree to Frohman one the most incoherent story you ever listened night. "He's just read me a play. He to; and what do you suppose — the last act is going to read it to you; so I am warning is to be set on top of trees!” you. I know I 've not gone woozy in my But the following day Frohman heard mind, because I have tested myself since "Peter Pan,” and accepted it at once.
Long after, he gave these as his reasons: ences instantly revolt from ‘unhappy end“First, it was written by Barrie; next, ings' not because they are unhappy, but it was unmistakably a fine novelty. The because they are usually contradictions of most emphatic play in any theatrical sea- the hopes implanted in them by the playson, the one that is most likely to focus wright and cherished until dashed by the general public attention, is the most novel. unhappy ending. Detective play's almost You can estimate its novelty by the always succeed because they make actors amount of fineness a play contains; for the of auditors. For popular success it is imcommon in life, like the poor, is always portant in the theater to work your auwith us and can never seem novel. Only diences into that state of mind where the fine registers with the emphasis of every man and woman feels certain that novelty. People go to the theater not to they could save the situation, prevent a see life as it is, but as they wish it were. tragedy, avert a catastrophe, or effect the The theater's business is to present not escape of a likable thief, if only they could life, but the illusion of life. Youth is step over the footlights or cry out. Then the illusion of life, old age the delusion, your audience is acting with your play. and Peter Pan' is packed with youth ; so The best situation, in a theater sense, ever I was for it."
put on the stage is the screen scene in ‘The When he talked plays, Frohman always School for Scandal.' That is because there relied upon certain pet formulas. He are three characters on the stage, - two are knew nothing, and cared less, about the in the foreground, and one is in the backtechnic of the drama; he hated the term; ground, behind a screen, --and the susbut he ordered or accepted plays for him- pense of the situation, what makes it fine self or accounted for the success of play's drama, is that the audience knows all that produced by other men by squaring them the characters on the stage know and a with two or three formulas as quaint as little more besides; the auditors are just himself.
enough ahead of the plot to be wishful "You can't find any better scheme for that it will work out their way. In such play-building than the old nursery-tales. a case an unhappy ending would be a vioMonsieur Beaucaire,' 'Cyrano de Berge- lation of the wishes already implanted in rac,' and all such plays in which youth is the hearts and minds of the audience. triumphant, are variations, and of course When I ask an author for an upward endamplifications of the tale of Prince ing to an act or play I mean an ending Charming.' 'Peg o' My Heart,' 'Daddy- that will justify the expectations built up Long-Legs,' and similar enormous suc- by the people who see that play on the cesses the popularity of which cannot be premises already laid down.” accounted for in themselves, always win But Frohman was most graphic when great audiences because the public, like so he talked of men,-especially when he told many tired children at the end of a long humorous stories,- for then he was really day, loves nothing so much as to hear the a remarkable actor; and by pantomime, story of 'Cinderella. “Within the Law,' facial expression, the crouching or the 'The Lion and the Mouse,' and that kind rearing of his shoulders and head, and the of play almost never fail because they con- dexterous use of his hands, he could put tain the formula of the woman trium- a whole scene before you.
“I like auphant. Americans love to see woman tri- thors,” he once said ; "they are so like acumph over men. All great plays are writ- tors, only usually without an actor's sense ten backward, not forward, because every
of humor. But they always expect anygreat play is the solution of some human thing or everything of their work, just blunder. Every real dramatist, when like actors; and if the roof over the stage starting to write a play, begins with the should fall down during the performance climax of his penultimate act, working of a play dramatized from an author's backward and forward from that. Audi- book, I would not put it past any author
Ethel Barrymore to think of the catastrophe as a stage effect thought it would be a fine compliment to worthy of his book. In 1898, Bret Harte Mr. Harte to give him a special performand I were sitting in the auditorium of ance; so everything was got ready as carethe Garrick Theater, London. I was pro- fully as for a first night, with only Harte ducing a play called 'Sue' made out of and me as an audience. We took seats in one of his novels. Annie Russell was Sue. the stalls, Harte, well in front of me, as The piece was not to be shown to the pub- pleased as a child about to be shown a new lic until several nights later, but we all toy, and the company as excited as if the
king were present. The author looked plain. Almost all his sentences were his part. He had a fine head of wonder- short. In every one the idea and the exful white hair, and I remember he wore pression were closely knit. Sometimes he then, and always after when I saw him, would pause, seemingly for an interminaa rather large, curiously knotted scarlet ble period, filled only with "Ah's," and cravat-a kind of scarlet that I had never then to his lips would spring an expression seen but once before, and then in a cardi- of matchless conciseness, as well coined as nal's robe. Of course there was awful a perfect piece of stage dialogue. The tentension on the stage among the actors; sity of his attitude when he talked-his so much so that at the end of the second right hand resting lightly on his breast, his act Miss Russell became so wrought up eyes distended as if to hypnotize-held one that she Aung her hands above her head in a spell. His habitual manner was of and, just as the curtain fell, collapsed keen and controlled vitality. Nobody was
. from exhaustion. I was terrified, and as ever more eagerly alive than Frohman; quick as I could I jumped up from my and yet he directed all his life into a sinseat and ran for the stage, fearing the gle channel, and held it there. He never worst; but as I passed Bret Harte I heard said he loved his work; he did not need him murmuring, 'Great climax, real act- to say so. His love of the theater and its ing, wonderful scene!' He really believed people spoke spontaneously in his every it a part of the play."
sentence and glance. He never thought "Fine" was Frohman's favorite adjec- of it as a field for gain,-experience over ”
a tive when he spoke in admiration of peo- and over cruelly taught him the opposite, ple or plays. He had barely a working - but he loved it as the greatest of all invocabulary, and was always amused at the ternational games. England and America parade of words by others. Yet he had were his chess-board; stars, plays, and a gift that was like magic in cogently playwrights his pawns. packing whole sentences into words. Com- Frohman knew his playwrights as he pactness was the chief characteristic of his did his stars, their tastes, their habits, talk. In an hour Frohman could say as what they liked to talk about, what they much as some would say in three. Usu- liked to do, their big sides and their little ; ally when he talked he sat on the edge of but above all he knew better than they his chair, often with one leg under him, themselves how to get plays out of them, like a tailor. Even when he leaned for- how to stimulate them to work, and when ward in the eager earnestness of talk, his to bring pressure to bear on a play that shoulders were still square, and in the threatened never to be finished. And the position were his three salient traits, alert- blend of fear and fondness that they had ness, precision, and tensity of will. The for him usually made them anxious to alertness shone clearest in his eyes. They please him. One summer in Paris, Frohwere neither piercing nor searching, but man had five playwrights, three English steadily clear and bright. A fresh idea, a and two French, congratulating themrecollection recalled, an agreeable antici- selves on being his guests at his hotel, but pation, a disappointment, of which the hu- soon all found themselves hard at work mor, but never the bitterness, remained — in separate rooms laying out fresh sceall in turn animated him. Frohman had narios, revamping, or translating. Pereyes that were always seeing something sonal association with Frohman was al-plays, authors, conditions, plans, and ways conditioned by one's direct or inhopes, and seeing them as living things. direct connection with the theater. If you Some eyes see to the heart of things, and were an author and went for a stroll with others see all things as vague visions. him, the time would be put to immediate Frohman saw everything alive. Tena- use in a talk of possible plays in your ciously he would mentally grapple with books. Once Frohman's door opened, and words to make his meaning unmistakably in strode Henri Bernstein, as excited as a John Drew man almost out of his mind with the news one day entered my rooms, here in Paris, that “the master,” meaning Sardou, was
throwing himself into a chair with the dead. Frohman calmed the frenzied statement, 'It 's a pity, but Dumas fils is Frenchman by laying his hand upon Bern- dead.' I was amazed. stein's shoulder and saying:
“'You don't mean it!' I exclaimed ; 'I "Long live the master! Now let me
did n't even know he was ill.' tell you a little story. Under just these “ 'Oh,' replied Sardou, 'he breathes, he circumstances, years ago, Sardou himself walks about, and seems alive, but he is