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Curious Stage Anecdotes.—The Mad King and the Drunken Actor.

Eliza Logan and the Creole Belle.—The Irish Greek in Ion.—An Actor who had Lived long Enough.—A Disgusting Glass.—The Cushman Sisters and their Bed-spread Balcony.—Queer Verbal Trips.Playing Behind a Ragged Curtain, the Audience Looking through a Hole in it. Kemble and the Apple.-A Horrified Auditor of Booth in Othello.– A Saucy Stage King.–A Boston Notion.—A Blonde's Wig on Fire.-An Amateur who Determined to Do Himself Justice, no Matter for the Part.-Not Dead Yet.—The Slipped Garter and the Dropped Skirt.—How Shakespeare Picked up a Glove while Playing. -A Luckless Lad. --Shaking Dangle’s Head.—Tickling a Stage Ghost. Fainting on the Stage.- A False Alarm.-Snow on Fire.

There are numberless curious stage anecdotes in circulation among the members of the profession, which in themselves would suffice to fill a volume. Some of the less hackneyed ones I propose to devote the present chapter to telling:

Let the reader imagine himself one of a circle of players “off duty," sitting about a pleasant parlor fire on a wintry afternoon “telling stories.”

The scene opens with a story about the “little giant” tragedian, Junius Brutus Booth, which I think has never been published, and which is strictly true.

During one of his visits to the West on a starring tour, Mr. Booth was engaged to appear at the Louisville, Ky., theatre, and my sister Eliza, who was then the “leading lady” at the National theatre, Cincinnati, was summoned from the Queen City to support him.

Mr. Booth, who was, as is well known, somewhat given to hard drinking, kept religiously sober throughout the week, until the night appointed for his benefit, when it was evident that he had taken a little stimulant. From



some unexplained cause his benefit night always seemed to be fatal to his sobriety, and to bring out his weak point.

The tragedy of “King Lear” was the play selected by the tragedian for the occasion. During the first three acts his acting was uncommonly brilliant. This actor often indulged in the utterance of sotto voce “ asides," for the benefit of his fellow actors, rather than for his audience. My sister says she has frequently been at his side at the footlights when she has been moved to tears by one of his magnificent and pathetic touches of nature, and in one minute after has been convulsed with laughter at a side-speech given “up stage" and as a sort of sequel to the sentiment delivered to the audience. It may not be generally remembered that Mr. Booth essayed farce as well as tragedy, and was equally successful in both. He excelled in the power of making you laugh and cry in the same sentence.

The play of “King Lear” had progressed to the fifth act, on the night referred to, and the tragedian's intoxication increased palpably as the tragedy progressed. Before the opening of the last scene, where King Lear and his daughter Ophelia are discovered in prison, the frantic Lear has a wreath of straw about his head. Eliza (the Ophelia), and Mr. Booth were arranging themselves as father and daughter for a touching posé as the scene opened, when suddenly the crazy king—or rather the intoxicated actordemanded the presence of the property man of the establishment, before he would allow the scene to be drawn.

“ Miss Eliza,” said he “the straw that they have made this wreath of don't suit me."

“Indeed,” said Eliza, who had supported him in more senses than one during the play, and trying to humor him till it could be got through with ; “what is the matter with the straw, Mr. Booth ?”

Why," he replied, “it is wheat straw and I require rye




straw for the wreath! I won't finish the scene without it! I always demand rye straw for this mad scene."

Here Pratt, the property man, made his appearance. "Ned," said Booth; "what kind of straw d'ye call this?"

The reader will bear in mind that before the footlights the audience were waiting impatiently while this absurd colloquy went on behind the scenes.

"Wheat straw, Mr. Booth," replied the property man. "Well, sir, I want rye straw."

"Ah," rejoined the man "I know you do, and I tried to get it for you but couldn't."

"Couldn't! why not, sir?"

"Because they didn't have it, sir."

"Did you go to Jonson's stables ?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't they have it there?"

"No, sir."

"Did you go to the jail?" "Yes, sir,"

"Didn't have it there?" "No, sir."

"Well," said Booth, turning to Eliza, "ain't that singular? When I was in that jail, five years ago, they had plenty of rye straw!"

At that instant the prompter's whistle blew, the scene drew, and discovered King Lear flinging his wreath of wheat straw at the unhappy property man, and Miss Logan, the fair Ophelia, in a most unmistakable fit of laughter.

The old Latin proverb, in vino veritas, was never more fully illustrated than in this case. The truth was that Booth had been in the Louisville jail exactly five years before. He had got through a very profitable engagement and was on a big spree. A man in town was



charged with petty larceny; he was a person whom Booth had known in better days, and having nothing else to do, he went to jail in the man's place; but only for a few days, and as he said “simply because he didn't like his boarding house."

During one of the many successful professional visits made by Eliza Logan to the city of New Orleans, a scene not set down in the bills occurred on one occasion whieh will never be forgotten by her, and no doubt made a lasting impression on every member of the goodly assemblage present.

The night was set apart for Eliza’s benefit, and the play selected was “ Lucretia Borgia.”

The grand old Saint Charles theatre was filled to overflowing. The seats had been sold at auction in the morning, and the choice places were filled with the beauty and aristocracy of the flourishing Crescent City—the “ Paris of America,” at that time. In those days ladies dressed en grande toilette when they appeared in the dress circle of their favorite Saint Charles, and on the present occasion the array of beauty and youth in brilliant colors, and all ablaze with diamonds, was a sight not often witnessed now-a-days.

The play had progressed to the last scene, when the bloody Borgia is about to be stabbed-stabbed by her own


The acting had been fine throughout the evening, for in those days pieces were cast with great strength. The interest and excitement of the audience had become intense, and as the unrelenting Gennarro raised his arm with the glittering dagger ready for its work, with the word “die!" on his lips, a beautiful Creole belle who had been worked up to a state of entire forgetfulness by the natural acting, appeared and almost threw herself out of a private box, shrieking,

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“Oh oh! don't kill Miss Logan, she's going to be my bridesmaid to-morrow !”

The effect on actors and audience can be more easily imagined than described.

The excited young lady in a moment recovered herself and shrank back in her box, much embarrassed. Gennarro was stayed for a moment from his deadly purpose, but recovering himself, he gave the death blow to the fair Lucretia, and as her prostrate form lay upon the stage, the same lovely girl was seen to stand up in her box and to lower from it to the stage a pair of beautiful carrier doves bridled with white ribbons, bound together with an immense diamond bracelet, and in their mouths a billet-doux for Miss Logan, containing cards for the wedding of the Creole belle. As the curtain descended, they perched their snowy forms upon the lifeless Lucretia, while shouts and bravos went up from the enthusiastic audience.

An incident of a somewhat similar character occurred one night in a Washington theatre where Eliza was playing. The occasion was her benefit, and Ion her character.

A more elegant or cultivated audience than was present on that evening never graced the inside of a theatre. Henry Clay occupied a box, and at his side sat his then protege, John C. Breckenridge.

The part of Clemanthe was assigned to a lady who, besides being a novitiate, had evidently at some period of her life visited the Emerald Isle, and had carried away with her a most unmistakeable brogue.

Throughout the tragedy the audience seemed “wrapt” with the language of a play which took its author twenty years to complete. The last scene was reached, when the “devoted youth" plunges the consecrated knife into his own bosom, when Clemanthe rushes on and throws herself upon the body of her heroic lover.

Fancy the effect on the audience when the excited Cle

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