Monthly Archives: May 2014
“Irving and Stage Lighting” was a nonfiction article by Bram Stoker. It was first published in the May 1911 issue of the The Nineteenth Century and After: A Monthly Review, Leonard Scott Publications Co., New York.
To read this article visit:
“Irving and Stage Lighting” at bramstoker.org
“The Censorship of Stage Plays” was a nonfiction article by Bram Stoker. It was first published in the December 1909 issue of the The Nineteenth Century and After: A Monthly Review.
To read this article visit:
“The Censorship of Stage Plays” at bramstoker.org
‘It was when I was with the Windsor Theatre Company in America in the ‘eighties. I was then Second Lead. Things change, alas! Well, we had been North and East and West, and were entering on the last quarter of an eight months’ tour when we got to New Orleans. There had been an unusually dry fall, and the rivers were down to the lowest known for years. The earth was all baked and cracked; the trees were burned up with drought, and the grass and undergrowth were as brown as December bracken. The Mississippi was so low that the levees were visible down below the piles, and the water that went swirling by looked as thick as pea-soup. We were playing a three weeks’ engagement, before, during, and after Mardi Gras; and as we had been doing two months of one-night stands, we were all glad to have the spell of rest in one place. No one can imagine, till they try it, what a wearisome business it is changing camps every day or every few days. Sometimes you get so dazed with it all that when you wake up in the morning you can’t remember where you are – even though you had not been up with the boys the night before.
‘Just before Mardi Gras the weather changed. There came for two days a close, damp heat, which was the most terrible thing I ever experienced. It was impossible to keep dry, and I was in nightly fear that the whole paint would wash away from everyone. It was just a miracle how moustaches stuck on; and as for the flush of youth and beauty on the girls’ cheeks! – well, “there is a Providence that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will.” Then the rain came down. Great Scott! what rain, both as regards quality and quantity! It seemed as if the sky was full of angels emptying buckets. The ground was so hard that at first the rain didn’t sink into it, but ran off into the streams and the river. You know what a place New Orleans is! It has its head just above water, when the level is low; but when the Mississippi rises, the levees fill up and the river rushes on high over the city level. We didn’t mind the rain, though it spoiled the show in the streets, for it cooled the air, and that was much.
‘I certainly never saw anything uglier than the streets of New Orleans. Theoretically, the place is delightful, and if I were only to give you bare facts I should mislead you altogether. What would you think, for instance, of streets by each side of which run streams of water whose gurgling is always in your ears as you walk? Sounds nice, don’t it? But then the whole place is clay, and the water is muddy with it; the streams in the streets are full of dirty water, with refuse of all kinds tumbling lazily along. If you dig a foot deep in any street you find water; that is why the gas-pipes are in the air, and why the dead are buried above ground in stucco-covered vaults like bakers’ ovens. Well, the rain kept on, and the Mississippi rose till it was up to the top of the levees, and we in New Orleans began to wonder when the city would be flooded out. One day, when I saw the base of the banks beginning to cave in, I felt glad that we were leaving the neighbourhood that night. We were bound for Memphis, and our train was scheduled to leave at one o’clock in the morning. Before turning in, I met the Sectional Engineer tramping up and down and chewing the end of his cigar in a frightful fashion, and we got into conversation. I saw he was anxious, and asked him the cause. He told me in confidence – “in my clothes,” he called it – that there had been a “wash-out” in the Valley section of the line, on which it had been arranged that we should travel; and so we would have to go round another way. As I was going on the journey, I was naturally anxious, too, and began to pump him, pretending that I was not at all afraid. He tumbled to it, and explained the trouble to me:
‘”You see, I am afraid of Bayou Pierre. There’s a spongy gap a couple of miles wide, with a trestle bridge across it over which you have to pass. At the best of times I am anxious about that trestle, for the ground is so bad that anything might happen at any time. But now, with a fortnight’s rain and the Mississippi up the levees and the bottoms flooded all over the country, that blessed place will be like an estuary of the sea. The bridge isn’t built for weather like this, and the flood is sure to be well over it. A train running on it will have to take chance whether it is there at all; and if any of it is gone – swept away or caved in – well, God help the train! That’s all I can say, for everyone in it will die like a rat in a trap!”
To read the rest of this story visit:
“Mick the Devil” at bramstoker.org
‘I remember once being called on to be humorous under circumstances which made me feel that fun was as difficult to catch as a bat with a fishing rod.’ With the cultivated instinct of listeners, which all actors must be able to pretend to be, the Company gave simultaneously that movement of eagerness which implies a strained attention. The perfection and simultaneity of the movement was art, but the spirit of truth lay behind it, for all felt whatever was coming was real. The Low Comedian, with the trained instinct of an actor, felt that his audience was with him – en rapport – and allowed himself a thought more breadth in his manner as he proceeded:
‘I was playing “Con” in The Shaughraun for want of a better, having been put into the part because I could manage a kind of brogue. We had a wretched Company, and we went to wretched places, places nearly bad enough to do us justice. At last we found ourselves in a little town on the west side of the Bog of Allen. It was hopeless business, for the people were poor; the room we played in was an awful hole, and the shebeen which they called a hotel where we all stayed was a holy terror. The dirt on the floor had caked, and felt like sand under your feet. As to the beds -‘
‘Oh, don’t, Mr Parmentire; it’s too dreadful!’ said the Leading Lady, shuddering. So he went on:
‘Anyhow, the audience – what there was of them – were fine. They weren’t used to play-acting, and I think most of them took what they saw as reality – certainly while the curtain was up. We played three nights; the second night when I came out a big-made young man came up to me and said:
‘”Kin I have a wurrd wid ye, sorr?”
‘”Begob! but ye may,” said I, in as near a brogue as I could get to his. “Twinty av ye loike!”
‘”Then whisper me,” said he, and, taking me by the arm, he led me across the street where we were alone. “What is it?” I asked.
‘”I seen ye, sorr, at the wake to-night. Begorra, but it was an illigant toime. Shure the fun iv that would have done good to a rale corpse, much less to his frinds. I wondher now wud ye care to do a neighbourly act?” He said, this with considerable diffidence. There was something genial and winning in his way, as there is generally with Irishmen; so I said as heartily as I could that I hoped I would, and asked him how I could do it. His face brightened as he answered:
‘”Well, there’s a wake to-night, a rale wake, yer ann’r, at Kenagh beyant and the widdy is in a most dishtressful state intirely. Now, av yer ann’r as is used to the divarshins iv wakes would come, shure it might help to cheer her up. It’s only a rough place, surr, an’ the byes an’ the girrls is all there is; but there’s lashins iv whiskey an’ tobaccy, an’ wan iv the quality like yer ann’r will be mighty welkim.”
‘That did it! For a man who took me for one of the quality I would have done anything! I tell you, you have to be mucking about for a spell in such places as we had been, and treated with the contempt which used to be the actor’s meed in his private life in such places in my young days, to appreciate fully the help such a thing was to one’s self-esteem. I told my pals that I was going to a local party, for I didn’t want to disturb my new dignity all at once, and went off with my friend. We went on a donkey cart without springs. Such a cart, and such a road! There was a bundle of straw to sit on, so I was comfortable enough; except when the jolting through an unusually deep rut banged me about more than was consistent with physical self-restraint. At last we stopped where a small house stood back some hundred yards from the road. The light was coming through the little windows and the open door, that seemed quite bright through the inky blackness of the night. I separated myself from the straw as well as I could, and got down. A small boy appeared out of the darkness, like an attendant demon, and took away the donkey and cart. It seemed to fade into space, for, as it disappeared through a gap in the hedge, the wheels ceased to sound upon the soft turf. My friend said:
‘”Stiddy, surr! the boreen is a bit rough!” He was right; it was! I stumbled towards the house through what seemed the bed of a small watercourse floored with peculiarly uneven boulders. When we got near the house, the light from within told more on the darkness, and as we came close to the projecting porch, the white oblong of the open doorway to the right became darkened as a figure came out to meet us – an elderly woman with grey hair and a white cap and a black dress. She curtsied when she saw my dress, and said with a certain air of distinction that most Irish-women have in their moments of reserve, and which all good women have in their grief:
‘”Welkim, yer ann’r. I thank ye kindly for pathernisin’ this house iv woe!”
‘”God save all here!” said my cicerone as he removed his caubeen.
‘I repeated the salutation, feeling a little bit chokey about the throat as I followed the woman into the house.
To read the rest of this story visit:
“A New Departure in Art” at bramstoker.org