Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

lets. I decided at once that they would do, and told her to bring them at night in their prettiest dresses, to which I would make any needful additions. The children do not make their appearance on the stage until the last act. After retouching their toilets, instructing them in what they had to do, and feeding them with sugar-plums, I told their mother to make them a bed with shawls in the corner of my dressing-room. She did so, and they slept quietly through four acts of the play. We gently awakened them for the fifth act. But their sleep was too thoroughly the sweet, deep slumber of happy childhood to be easily dispelled. With great difficulty I made them comprehend where they were, and what they must do. Even a fresh supply of sugar-plums failed to entirely arouse them. The sleepy heads would drop upon their pretty round shoulders, and they devoured the bon-bons with closed eyes. The curtain had risen, and the children must appear upon the stage. I led them to the wing, and gave them in charge of Francis. Francis walked on the stage, leading a child by each hand. The trio hardly made their appearance when the little girl, thoroughly wakened by the dazzling light, gave one frightened look at the audience, broke away from Francis, and, shrieking loudly, rushed up and down the stage, trying to find some avenue through which to escape. The audience shouted with laughter, and the galleries applauded the sport. The poor little girl grew more and more bewildered. Francis pursued her, dragging her brother after him. The unexpected exercise, added to his sister's continued cries, alarmed the boy. He screamed in concert, and, after some desperate struggles, obtained his liberty. Francis had now both children to chase about the stage. The boy he soon captured, and caught up under his arm, continuing his flight after the girl. She was finally secured. The children, according to stage direction, are

[blocks in formation]

to be taken through a little cottage door, on the left of the stage. Francis, panting with his exertions, dragged them to the door, which he pushed open with his foot. The struggling children looked in terror at the cottage. They fancied it was the guard-house, in which colored persons are liable to be confined if they are found in the streets after a certain hour without a “pass.'. Clinging to Francis, they cried out together, 'Oh, don't ee put me in ee guard-house! Don't ee put me in ee guard-house ! The accent peculiar to their race, and their allusion to the 'guard-house,' at once betrayed to the audience their parentage. The whole house broke forth into an uproar of merriment. Francis disappeared, but the audience could not be quieted. I was suffering not a little at the contemplated impossibility of producing the children at the end of the play. But nobody cared to listen to another line. Mrs. Haller's colored children had unceremoniously destroyed every vestige of illusion. I made my supplication to “kiss the features of the father in his babes,' in the most suppressed tone possible, yet the request produced a fresh burst of laughter. We hurried the play to a close. The entrance of the children, and the excitement produced upon the parents by their presence, we left to the imagination of the spectators. The play ended without the re-appearance of the juvenile unfortunates."

My sister, Eliza Logan, during her brilliant theatrical career, was very popular in Savannah. Once, after enacting the character of Mrs. Haller, the little creature who had just figured as her child ran into her dressing room to return a pocket handkerchief which my sister had dropped as she fell at the feet of the unrelenting husband. Observing the child carefully, she detected her color, and inquired who her mother was. The reply was that her mother was a colored woman.

[blocks in formation]

“Singular, but I remember hearing that Mrs. Mowatt, when she played this part here, had a colored child for the part of William."

“Dat's so, missis ; I is de bery chile.” “You? why it's ten years ago."

“ Yes missis, but I is a Quadroon Dwarf, an' I been playin' de Stronger's chile for all de Stronger's wot been comin' to Sawannah for de last twelve years.

So it is clear that, whatever the vicissitudes of her de.but, the frightened little heroine of “ee guard-house." was not driven from the stage thereby.

44

THE NECESSITY OF STUDY.

CHAPTER IV.

goes, I must

Training for the Stage.-False Notions about "Genius.”—The Road to

Success a Road of Hard Work.-How Fanny Kemble Studied Walk, Gesture, and Accent for Years before Making a Public Appearance.— The Severe Training of Rachel, the Tragedienne.-A Woman's Criticism of Rachel. – Her Wonderful Powers, her Serpent-like Movements, her Thrilling Intensity.— Brief Sketch of Her Life.- Kate Bateman's Training. — Anecdote of Julia Dean.- Mrs. Mowatt's Training.–Betterton, the Great English Actor. The Severe Discipline by which He Overcame the Most Extraordinary Disadvantages, an Ugly Face, a Grotesque Figure, a Grumbling Voice, and Great Awkwardness.

I know that many people claim that actors, like poets, are “born, not made;" but so far as my own experience

say

that I never knew an actor or actress to reach distinction without having passed through many long and weary years of study and toil. Of course the natural genius must be there, or all the study and toil would go for nothing; but as well might you expect a painter or a sculptor to bring forth perfect works of art without learning the rudiments, as to expect any man or woman to give, without study, a perfect delineation of a part. On the other hand, all the study in the world will not make a genius,-dramatic or other.

That is a very prevalent error in regard to “genius,” which believes it capable of rising superior to the mechanical appliances of art. No more dangerous a fallacy can the mind, gifted by nature, but uncultured by art, labor under, than that of easy reliance on the intangible thing called genius; and there can be no doubt that many great intelligences, in every department of learning, art, and science, have defeated their own noble missions from their very self-sufficiency as regards their native power, and their culpable neglect of the practical methods by which

[blocks in formation]

alone that power can be fostered and developed. This is especially true of the dramatic art, and yet the fact is far from being recognized by the world at large, or even the exponents of Shakspeare themselves.

It is willingly conceded that genius, and that, too, of a very high order, is indispensable to a great actor, but like the gift of the poet, it is expected to be all-sufficient,indeed, there are many people who would be amazed to learn that there is any regular apprenticeship to be served to the trade of acting. It seems to be tacitly agreed that great actors spring, Minerva-like, into the full possession of their histrionic powers at a single bound.

We often hear the remark, “Oh, what a splendid actress Miss C. would make !” or, “If John would go on the stage he'd make his fortune!"

Now, in nine cases out of ten, the individuals in question, if put to the test, would fail signally. I remember a case in point:

A young married lady, who had two years before, when she was a girl of seventeen, vainly urged her family to allow her to go on the stage, took a sudden resolve to relieve her pecuniary embarrassments by becoming an actress.

She called on an actress for instruction; but so well assured was she that she possessed inherent tragic power that it was out of the question to teach her much. She was a genius—everybody said it, and if further proof were needed, she felt it!

Mysterious feeling,-it was in her!

She was little, to be sure, but so was Kean. Stagefright had no terrors for her; oh, no, the illusion would carry her far beyond and above the reach of anything like that!

The important night arrived, but, as may be expected, she failed to establish herself as a worthy successor of the

« PreviousContinue »