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dent is related: “One evening, the property man—so the individual who has the charge of potions, amulets, caskets of jewels, purses filled with any quantity of golden coin, and other theatrical treasures, designated as stage properties, is styled-forgot the bottle containing Julieť s sleeping potion. The omission was only discovered at the moment the vial was needed. Some bottle must be furnished to the Friar, or he cannot utter the solemn charge with which he confides the drug to the perplexed scion of the Capulets. The property man, confused at the discovery of his own neglect, and fearful of the fine to which it would subject him, caught up the first small bottle at hand, and gave it to the Friar. The vial was the prompter's, and contained ink. When Juliet snatched the fatal potion from the Friar's hand, he whispered something in an undertone. I caught the words, 'take care,' but was too absorbed in my part to comprehend the warning. Juliet returns home, meets her parents, retires to her chamber, dismisses her nurse, and, finally, drinks the potion. At the words,
11. Romeo! this do I drink to thee!'
I placed the bottle to my lips, and unsuspiciously swallowed the inky draught! The dark stain upon my hands and lips might have been mistaken for the quick workings of the poison, for the audience remained ignorant of the mishap, which I only half comprehended. When the scene closed, the prompter rushed up to me, exclaiming, "Good gracious! you have been drinking from my bottle of ink! I could not resist the temptation of quoting the remark of the dying wit, under similar circumstances : “Let me swallow a sheet of blotting paper!' The frightened prompter, however, did not understand the joke.”
An amusing inventory of theatrical properties was recently furnished to the new lessee of the Drury Lane Theatre, on his taking possession. It was as follows: “Spirits
of wine, for flames and apparitions, £12 28.; 31 bottles of lightning, £1; 1 enowstorm, of finest French paper, 3s.; 2 snowstorms, of common French paper, 2s.; complete sea, with 12 long waves, slightly damaged, £1 10s.; 18 clouds, with black edges, in good order, 12s. 6d.; rainbow, slightly faded, 2s.; an assortment of French clouds, flashes of lightning and thunderbolts, 15s.; a new moon, slightly tarnished, 15s.; imperial mantle, made for Cyrus, and subsequently worn by Julius Cæsar and Henry VIII, 10s.; Othello's handkerchief, 6d.; 6 arm-chairs and 6 flower-pots, which dance country dances, £2."
Three shillings for a snowstorm? A rainbow for two shillings! Fifteen shillings for a new moon!
These things are certainly enough to stagger credulity. But such is mimic life, and such are the curious standards of value in “property,” as it exists behind the scenes.
When the old Chatham Theatre, in New York, came within the talons of the law, and Chancellor Kent was called upon to appoint receivers for its effects, he was astonished that there should be a “property man," when the Sheriff's return of property was, “non inventus”!
The property man “has charge of all the moveables, and has to exercise great ingenuity in getting them up, and keeping them up. His province is to preserve the canvas water from getting wet, keep the sun's disc clear, and the moon from getting torn; he manufactures thunder on sheet iron, or from parchment stretched, drum-like, on a frame; he prepares boxes of dried peas for rain and wind, and huge watchman's rattles for the crash of falling towers. He has under his charge demijohns, for the fall of concealed china in cupboards; speaking trumpets, to imitate the growl of ferocious wild beasts; penny whistles, for the Cricket on the Hearth’; powdered rosin, for lightning flashes, where gas is not used; rose pink, for
the blood of patriots; money, cut out of tin; finely cut bits of paper, for fatal snowstorms; ten-pin balls, for the distant mutterings of a storm; bags of gold, containing broken glass and pebbles, to imitate the musical ring of coin ; balls of cotton wadding, for apple dumplings; links of sausages, made of painted flannel ; sumptuous banquets of papier mache; block-tin rings, with painted beads puttied in, for royal signets ; crowns, of Dutch gilding, lined with red ferret; broomstick handles, cut up for truncheons for command; brooms themselves, for witches to ride; branches of cedar, for Birnam Wood; dredging boxes of flour, for the fate-desponding lovers; vermilion, to tip the noses of jolly landlords; pieces of rattan, silvered over, for fairy wands; leaden watches, for gold repeaters; dog-chains, for the necks of knighthood, and tin spurs for its heels; armor made of leather, and shields of wood; fans, for ladies to coquet behind; quizzing-glasses, for exquisites to ogle with ; legs of mutton, hams, loaves of bread, and plum puddings, all cut from canvas, and stuffed with sawdust; together with all the pride, pomp and circumstance of a dramatic display. Such is a Property Man of a theatre. He bears his honors meekly; he mixes molasses and water for wine, and darkens it a little shade deeper with the former for brandy, is always busy behind the scenes, but is seldom seen, unless it is to clear the stage, and then what a shower of yells and hisses does he receive from the galleries! The thoughtless gods cry, 'Supe! supe!' which, if intended as an abbreviation of superior or super-fine, may be apposite, but in no other view of the case. What would a theatre be without a Property Man? A world without a sun; an army without a general; a body without a head; a Union without a President; a clock without hands; kings would be truncheonless and crownless; brigands without spoils; old men without canes and powder; Harlequin without his hat; Macduff without his leafy screen; theatres would
A POWERFUL PERSON.
close—there would be no tragedy, no comedy, no farce without him. Jove in his chair was never more potent than he. An actor might, and often does, get along without the words of his part, but not without the properties. What strange quandaries have we seen the Garricks and Siddonses of our stage get into, when the Property Man lapsed in his duty! We have seen Romeo distracted beneath the bottle of poison not to be found; Virginius tear his hair because the butcher's knife was not ready on the shambles; Baillie Nicol Jarvie nonplussed because there was no red-hot poker to singe the tartan pladdie with; Macbeth frowning because the Eighth Apparition did not bear a glass to show him any more; William Tell in agony because there was no small apple for Gesler to pick; the First Murderer in distress because there was no blood for his face ready; Hecate fuming like a hell-cat because her car did not mount easily; Richard the Third grinding his teeth because the clink of hammers closing rivets up was forgotten; Hamlet brought up all standing because there was no goblet to drink the poison from, and Othello stabbing Iago with a candlestick because he had not another sword of Spain, the Ebro's temper, to do the deed with. So the property man is no insignificant personage—he is the mainspring which sets all the work in motion; and an actor had better have a bad epitaph when dead than his ill will while living.”
DAUBERS AND ARTISTS.
The Scenic Artist.- His Strange Workshop in the Clouds. — Up in the
Flies. — Magic Transformations. Streets turn into Open Fields –Rivers into Dry Land. — The Stage Manager and his Duties. — Curious Letters between two Old Managers.—Borrowing Assassins.Lending Shepherds.--A Cupid who had to Find his own Wings.—The Prompter and his Duties.
In these days when such an extraordinary amount of money and care is lavished on the scenery of plays, scenic artists are extremely well paid.
Of course in no department does talent make a more marked difference than in this; fine artists being paid large salaries, and daubers getting no more than if they were painting signs instead of scenes.
There are several artists in New York who get as high as $100 a week; and there is one scenic artist who has a theatre of his own. It is one of the finest in Broadway, and the scenery is always beautiful.
The paint-room of a theatre is always situated in the “flies" or clouds above the stage; and it is curious to see the artists with their great brushes changing a street view into a landscape, or “the sea, the sea, the open sea!” into mountains, rivulets or railroad tracks.
Of course, being situated in such an airy region as the “flies," the painter's room has not always a very snug flooring; and many an actress has got a good dress covered with drippings of paint which have dropped from above her during rehearsal, However, scene painters generally use water colors, so there's not much harm done. The spots are easily rubbed off.
The stage manager is a person altogether distinct from the manager. While the manager, assisted by his treasurer, ticket-sellers and door-keepers, and bill-posters,