The Rialto and the Drama


SCENE: The Rialto. Commonly called the Great White Way. A dark thoroughfare in New York City.

CHARACTERS: The Producer, The Public, The Author, The Actor.

THE PUBLIC: This is certainly the worst theatrical season that I can remember, and the most expensive.

THE PRODUCER: You always say this. There was never a season which you did not call the worst. I remember when I first put on Hamlet in “the spacious days of Elizabeth,” you said that the new play was too trivial compared with the old classical tragedies.

THE AUTHOR: I consider this season to be very bad myself. Royalties are extremely slim. My best works are failures, my worst ones succeed; and even when they succeed the returns are too slight. I expected to get a new Rolls-Royce. Now I must be content with a Packard.

THE ACTOR: I do not remember the time when I have been out of work so much as I have been this year. It is impossible to get a job that will last. Only a few of my friends are working steadily. Leo Ditrichstein, as “The King”, has a steady job; so has Leo Carrillo in “Lombardi Ltd.”, and Lou Tellegen in “Blind Youth”, and Emily Stevens in “The Madonna of the Future”, and Marjory Rambeau in “The Eyes of Youth”, and Grant Mitchell in “The Tailor-Made Man,” and, of course, Fred Stone in “Jack O'Lantern” and Barney Bernard and Alexander Carr in “Business Before Pleasure.” I must not forget to mention Al. Jolson at the Winter Garden. He'll be filling the house for the rest of the season. And there are a few others.

THE PUBLIC: I ought to support Arnold Daly. He is a delightful actor. I liked him as Napoleon, and I like him as “The Master.” But somehow or other he irritates me. He makes me feel what I am, mean and ignoble. Elsewhere I, mediocre I, am flattered. Daly scorns me. As yet I resent it; eventually I will be eating from his hand. As I treat Daly to-day, so I used to treat Richard Mansfield.

THE AUTHOR: As a matter of fact, you actors always presume too much, always imagine you are very important, and that, without you, the wheels of the world would not spin. Nothing could be more absurd than that. One can always find an actor. It is always difficult to find a good play. If you cannot find an actor, you can train a man to become one. You can never train a man to become a dramatist. The brilliant plays in this issue of The International are the works of men who never took “drama courses.” I was the only man at Harvard who did not take the courses of Professor Baker. Yet, I am the most capable dramatist in America. I have written a masterpiece. You have it in your desk, Mr. Producer! Why don't you produce it?

THE PRODUCER: For the simple reason that Mr. Public would not go to see it. He would not pay $2.50 for a seat and war tax to see a morbid, unhealthy, drama.

THE PUBLIC: But suppose it is not morbid, and suppose it is not unhealthy? How do you know I would not like it?

THE PRODUCER: Because I have experimented too often with you. People say that I have underestimated your intelligence. After thirty-five years in the business I can truthfully say that I believe I overestimated your intelligence. The fact of the matter is this: You are a person of exceptionally bad taste. You dislike tragedy, comedy, and music, but you do like some sort of performance which does not contain any of these.

THE ACTOR: That is quite true. Whenever I try to play naturally, as I love to, I feel that I am only carrying a portion of the audience along with me. The others expect me to talk very loudly and to bellow furiously all the time.

THE PUBLIC: Well, I think you really do me an injustice. I am like a child who has gone to a school where only one language is taught. Is it my fault that when I graduate from that school I am incapable of understanding other languages? Is it my fault that I am not stirred by alien beauty, touched by truth, moved by genuine grief and warmed by exquisite comedy?

POLICEMAN (Arriving on the scene): You will have to keep moving. No one is allowed to stand on the corners. Clear out of here, you bums! (The four characters slink off in the darkness.)


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