THE ACTING TECHNIQUE OP MINNIE MADDERN FISKE A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the School of Speech The University of Southern California In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirextents for the Degree Master of Arts .■by Josephine Crawford June 1940 UMI Number: EP66004 All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. Dissertation Publishing UMI EP66004 Published by ProQuest LLC (2014). Copyright in the Dissertation held by the Author. Microform Edition © ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code ProQuest ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, Ml 48106- 1346 T h i s thesis, w r i t t e n by JOSEPHINE CRAWFORD u n d e r the d i r e c t i o n o f h.^.T.. F a c u l t y C o m m it t e e , a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l its m e m b e r s , has been presented to a n d accepted by the C o u n c i l on G r a d u a t e S t u d y a n d Research in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l m ent o f the re q u ire m e n ts f o r the degree o f MASTER OF ARTS D ean Secretary D ate. F aculty C om m ittee 'hairman "Those who are enamoured of practice without science are like a pilot who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty where he is going* Practice should always he hased upon a sound knowledge of theory. Leo Tolstoy TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. II. PACE STATEMENT OF THE P R O B L E M .............. 1 Importance of the s t u d y ............ 2 Review of the literature . . . . . . . 2 Organization of remainder of the thesis 3, "A STAR IS BORN" , . . Heritage • • • • ' • .............. . . . . . . . . First appearance • • ........... • 5 . 5 • 5 Minnie Maddern, a young star . . . . . 10 First performance of Ihsen . . . . . . 14 III. .A STAR FLICKERS AND F I G H T S ............ Marriage and retirement .......... Mrs. Fiske, a new personality • • • • 15 15 18 Contribution of realism to the new theater • • • • • • • • • • • • Fight for American playwrights • • . • Stand against the Syndicate IV. •• • • • 19 19 21 A DIGEST OF A STAR’S CONVERSATION (MRS. FISKS. HER VIEWS ON THE STAGE RECORDED BY ALEXANDER Y/00LLC0TT).......................... 28 Training of an actor • • . 28 Voice • • • • • • • ........ ................ 29 CHAPTER PAGE Imagination . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Reflection 31 • • • • • • . . • • • • • Audience control V. VI. • • • • • • • • . » A STAR *S C O U R S E ............ 44 Mrs. Pi sice’s acting technique • • • • 44 Historical significance . . . . . . . 52 A STAR BECOMES A DOCTOR OE LETTERS Personal life . . ......... Views on the stage 55 55 .................. Education VII. 37 • • • • • • • • • SCRIPTS EOR A S T A R 60 64 . 72 "less of the d*Urhervilles" • • • • • 74 •'Little Italy*'............ 76 "Magda" 76 "Becky Sharp" . • • • • • • • • . • • 77 "Miranda of the Balcony" • • • • • • 80 "Mary of Magdala" • • » • • • • • • . 80 "Hedda Gahler" . . . . . . . . . . . 31 "Leah Kleschna" . . . • • • • • • • • 32 "The New York Idea" • • • • • • • * » 82 "Rosmersholm" . . . . . . * ♦ • • • • 83 "Salvation Nell" 84 •*••••••■•• "Pillars of Society" 85 PAGE CHAPTER VIII. NEARING THE PINAL CURTAIU........ 86 Acting continues "but is sublimated to personal desires •• • • • • • • • 86 Last plays and criticisms . . . . . . . 90 THe curtain f a l l s ............. 94 Conclusions 94 BIBLIOGRAPHY • • • • . . . . . . . . • . • .... 97 CHAPTER I STATEMENT OP THE PROBLEM There always have been differences of opinion existing as to just what constitutes technique in anting• Proponents of various systems advance con trasting theories until the student of the theater often becomes confused. In acting, one is obliged to interpret the written symbols of another*s'high aesthetic experience. He must act as the communicator— the emissary of a dramatist to his audience. The message entrusted to him he must re-create in his own body and during the process of re-creating, he adds to it something of his own personality. There is an in dividual technique, then, for each artist, a technique determined by his own personality. Inborn genius is that rare, unknown quality which cannot be imitated by the student, yet it should be studied as a pattern of technical proficiency, for with true genius goes a supreme mastery of the science of.acting, a precision of performance so satisfying that it beckons irresistably to the student who would perfect his acting technique. * The adventurous, colorful career of Minnie Maddern Fiske, who for forty years, dominated the theater as America’s First Actress, should provide a fitting text for the study of technique in acting* Unfortunately, far too little has been written concerning her life and her career, which traces a continuous search for truth. Only one hook has “been devoted solely to this mystery woman of the theater--Alexander Woollcott’s, Mrs. Fiske Her Views on the Stage. A few hooks; At the Hew Theater and Others hy W. P. Eaton, Forty-Odd Years in the Literary Shop hy J. L. Ford, The Stage in America 1897-1900 hy Horman Hapgood, and Heroines of the Modern Stage hy Forrest Izard have chapters dedicated to her, hut for the most part the source material for this study was gleaned from periodicals. The information here will attempt to follow the life of Minnie Maddern Fiske, depicting hoth her short comings and her virtues as expressed hy contemporary critics and personal friends. The thinly scattered hut rich reviews and reminiscences reveal her as prohahly the most delightfully interesting and brilliant actress of the American stage. Mrs. Fiske1s acting was the natural out-pouring of a dynamic soul, fitted to a scientific pattern of excellency. Intelligent, sym pathetic, tireless study was given to her roles, and 3 enthusiasm for her technique grew with each passing year. Mrs. Fiske was a lonely woman. Few people be came acquainted with her and only three or four knew her intimately, for she devoted her time, her energy, her heart to the theater. Her life belonged to the theater from the early months of her babyhood, when she was carried onto the stage, to her last performance when the final curtain was rung down. During her later years on the stage Mrs. Fiske retired from the strenuous roles of Ibsen and his contemporaries. Her life had been devoted solely to presenting, before the public, a-production with per fection in every detail. How, although her strength was slowly ebbing away Mrs. Fiske continued on in the theater surrendering only to the unpremediated call of Death. The theatrical dramatic training and progress of Mrs. Fiske will he related according to the follow ing periods: her appearance as a child star; her girl hood stardom as a second Dotta Crabtree; her reapparance on the stage as Mrs. Fiske; and her self-imposed retire ment from the stage, the period when she entertained with light comedies. In the following pages, the widely scattered material concerning that mysterious human dynamo, that was'Mrs. Fiske, has been compiled and arranged together for the first time in the hope that the in-' formation may prove stimulating and valuable in the study of the theory and technique of acting. CHAPTER II MA STAR IS BORN" Heredity and environment share equal, honors in the development of the personality of any individual. If this stereotyped form is true with any lay individual then it must also he even truer in the case of the artist. Fiske. Certainely this is true in the case of Mrs. Her parents, Tom Pavey and Lizzie Maddern, were hoth of the theater. They were wshow folks,** actors of the primitive and adventurous days of the American stage. It was in the year 1863, in answer to a call for entertainment, that a theatrical group, led hy Tom Pavey, ran the blockade, dodged the snipers who were lingering on the shore, and arrived safely in Hew Orleans to open at the old St. Charles Theater* This was a wild hazardous journey for this adventure loving troupe of players to make for the men in blue. After the Civil War closed the majority of the cast returned to the'north, hut the Pavey*s lingered on in Hew Orleans. It was here, on Pecember 19, 1865, that a new star appeared on the Maddern horizon;, * Marie Augusta Pavey. At the age of four months Marie, or as we know her, little Minnie Maddern, made her dehut on the stage as a property baby. Alexander Woollcott be lieved Minnie Maddern casually strayed onto the stage to the accompaniment of theatrical squalls: Sleeping in the dressing room when the folks were playing, being carried on squalling when a baby was needed, becoming a walking lady as soon as she could walk, and getting a part for herself as soon as she could talk.1 Mrs. Fiske herself described Minnie Maddern1s first appearance on the stage and the manner of its happening. One night the nurse had left the baby unguarded and upon awakening she crawled from her bed and began to dress. As her colored mammy did not return to stop her progress, she went out of the room and down the street looking for the theater and her mama. I forgot to cry, I forgot to be frightened, and I saw some fascinating things before a goodnatured fellow picked me up, discovered my identi ty and took me safely to the theater. I recall distinctly being held by my new friend and identified at the box office, then being passed over to a boy who took me around to a narrow, dark door and carried me into a lunchery place and put me into a chair where I looked out into what seemed a bright, sunshiney world with queer trees and fairies. Just then I spied my mother. 1 Alexander Woollcott, Mrs. Fiske Her Views on the Stage (Mew York: The Century Company, l^TTfT p7 ~S58. She was just coming out of a water lily--for it was the transformation scene of a spectacle* I slipped right out of that chair, and, before anyone saw what I was going to do, I ran right to her and began explaining my nurse’s treachery* I am told that I was received with applause, and that my first ap pearance- even though it was impromptu, was a success.2 This performance was such a success that the curtain was rung down immediately* Minnie’s first experience playing any consider able part was as the Duke of York in MBichard III,” at the age of four* For the succeeding eight years she played a great variety of roles. These included: Duke of York in "Richard III" Willie Lee in "Hunted Down" Prince Arthur in "King John" The crowned child in "Maebeth" Damon’s son in "Damon and Pythias" Little Fritz in "Fritz, our German Cousin". Paul in "The Octoroon" Franko in "Guy Mannering" Sybil in "A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing" Mary Morgan in "Ten Mights in a Barroom" The child in "Across the Continent" 2 Forrest Izard, Heroines of the Modern Stage (Mew York: Sturgis & Walton Company, 19l5), p. 208* The hoy in "Bosom Friends" Alfred in "Divorce" Lucy Fairweather in "The Streets of ¥ew York" The gamin and Feachblossom in "Under the Gaslight Marjorie in "The Rough Diamond" The child in "The Little Rehel" Adrienne in "Monsieur Alphonse" Georgie in "Frou-Frou" Hendrich and Meenie in "Rip Van Winkle" Eva in "Uncle Tom*s Cabin" Dollie in "Chicago Before the Fire" Ralph Rackstraw in "Pinafore" Clip in "A Messenger from Jarvis Section" The Sun God in "The Ice Witch" Francois in "Richelieu" Louise in "The Two Orphans" The Widow Melnotte in ?The Lady of Lyons"3 Surely this was no mean repertoire for a twelve year old child* There are many amusing stories told of Minnie1 experiences with the distinguished actors with whom she appeared* One story tells about her performance 3 Woollcott, op* cit*, pp* 204-207. as the crowned child in "Macbeth** with Barry Sullivan* Her part was to come out of the witches caldron and say her lines: •Be lion-metted, proud and take no care Who chafes, who frets or where conspirers arel* Instead of using the word "conspirers" she said "perspirers" with the result that Mr. Sullivan could not suppress his laughter and the curtain had to he rung down. Other stories tell of her qualities as a trouper, and she remembers being handled very roughly in one of Lucille Westerns plays* She wanted to cry out, but stoutly declared it did not hurt. When the scene was over Miss Western would call to one of her cast, "I say, Pike, this girl*.8 got grit in her*"^ The critics gave her childhood career high praise for even as a small child Minnie Maddern could control her voice and change her tone at a momentis notice* When she played with Agnes Booth in "King John" the story goes that Miss Booth would stand in 4 Alexander Woollcott, "The Story of Mrs. Piske, Collier*8, 76:5-6, Hovember 7, 1925. 5 Anna Leach, "The Stage," The Munsey, 22:594597, January, 1900. 10 in the wings and listen to Minnie’s, ’’Grief charged voice to get the key and tone for her own scenes of anguish to follow.”6 Lawrence Hutton said, “Her knowledge of stage business, her general carriage and the careful delivery of her lines throughout the play were remarkable for a child of her years.”7 The Hew York World spoke of her thus, ’’This Miss Minnie Maddern is made a prodigy by the absence of anything prodigious about her performances, and her acting is entirely unexceptionable.”8 York The Hew remarked, ”She is the first infant actress we remember whose efforts do not relish of the familiar mechanism of word and manner.”^ While her critics and her co-actors had great faith in her, this was not true of her stage managers who invariably distrusted her. In later years we find that Mrs. Fiske invariable distrusted all stage managers• Her childhood was far from that of a typical child. Even in its games Minnie reflected her 6 Woollcott, og. cit., pp. 7 L o c . ext. 8 £££• ^ Loc. cit. 5-6. 11 theatrical atmosphere, and her favorite game was playing stage manager in an tyrannical fashion, Mrs, Fiske writes of her own childhood: I wish I could give you some glimpses into the life of the child brought up from babyhood in the theater. It is picturesque and in a way pathetic. Just think of the little child who from infancy up to twelve years of age has known nothing but the life of behind the scenes! Then the increasing going from place to place— it is a strange life for a child,10 On May 15, 1882, at the magnificent age of seventeen, Miss Minnie Maddern starred at Abbey1s Park Theater, and was hailed as another Lotta Crabtree, Her first starring vehicle was "Fogg’s n Ferry by Charles Callahan, in which she played Chip, the heroine. Her opening night was a triumphant success, with her dressing room packed with flowers and the front of the house packed with people. The Hew York Sun of May 16, 1882, recorded the performance of the young star with: A new Lotta, young, slender, sprightly, quite pretty, arch of manner, ra§h in the manner of her stockings, as Lotta always was, and possessed of un-deniable red hair,,,,She had not been on the stage a minute before she had jumped on the edge of a table and established, with the audience, relations of the most agreeable intimacy. Her self possession is complete. She has a native 10 Minnie Maddern Fiske, "Mrs, Fiske on the Fthics of Drama," The Arena, 35:183, February, 1905* 13 regret* Following "Foggfs Ferry1* Minnie Maddern played in "Caprice" by Howard P* Taylor* The critics were unfavorable in their reactions to "Caprice," but the audiences were captivated by the scene in which Minnie Maddern sat in the firelight and sang "In the Gloaming." For the next eight years, 1882-1890, Minnie Maddern toured the country playing one night stands* This was the period of extravagant titles and melo dramatic plays* Juanita in "Juanita," by Charles Callahan. Chip in "Fogg#s Ferry," by Charles Callahan. The leading role in "The Puritan Maid," by Ver Planch and Pevereux. The leading role in "The Storm Child." The leading role in "The Child Wife." The leading rolein "The Professional Beauty? by Ver Planck and Pevereux. The leading role in "Lady Jemima." Mila in "Mila, Queen of the Hatchez." Mercy Baxter in "Caprice," by Howard P. Taylor. Alice Glendinning in "In Spite of All," adapted by Steel Mackaye from Sardou’s "Andrea." Mrs. Coney in "Featherbrain."14 ^4 Ibid., p. 35. 14 During these years the critics, throughout the country, vied with each other in extravagant praises of Miss Maddern^ work. ”The Hew Orleans papers embarrassed her inexpressibly hy coming out with the announcement that she was just a shade better than Sarah B e r n h a r d t . ”^ While handbills, which pub licized her as an actress, reads Step by step, gaining victory after victory, she has steadily advanced until now, at the age of eighteen, she can look back through the dim vista of the past and point with the pride of a self-made artist to a history recording series of the most unprecedented successes in the annals of the stage and the phenomenal develop ment of almost magical process from a child actress to an acknowledged star. And yet, though she has gained the goal, she pauses not within its portals. Onward, into the unknown future, she fearlessly continues her way, gathering garlands from the immortal trees of fame and weaving them, as plucked beneath the argus eyes of a critical public into a wreath of glory to crown herself on ambitions heights. It was in Minneapolis that Miss Maddern first appeared in the work of Henrik Ibsen, a playwright then unknown in America. The play was ”A Dollfs House,” and the first performance was given in a Minneapolis boarding house before a troupe of actors. The players gathered around Miss Maddern at the end 3-5 Alexander Woollcott, MThe Story of Mrs. Fiske,” Collier^, 76:9, November 14, 1909. 3-5 Doc. cit of the performance to assure her that she should not attempt the play, and if she did that it would not he well received in San Prancisco, where they were hooked to appear. Because of this discouraging advice from her fellow players Ibsen1s flA Boll’s House” was relegated to the bottom of Miss Maddern’s trunk where it was to remain for four years. CHAPTER III A STAR FLICKERS AND EIGHTS In 1890, Minnie Maddern married Harrison Grey Eiske, editor of the Hew York Dramatic Mirror, and thereafter was to he known as Mrs* Eiske* Pour years of retirement followed her marriage during which period she devoted her time to the study of Ibsen1s plays. It was her belief that Ibsen had not been ap preciatively studied either by producers or by actors, and she felt that his plays, if they were truly por trayed, would be welcomed by the public. Mrs. Eiske expressed the thought that an Ibsen plays Is but one phase of the whole story--the finale, the denouement,... .The principal characters were living their lives many years before the writing of the play. Stage drama may be worked out from child hood.-1* This statement reveals the emphasis Ibsen placed upon the development of his characters from their actual birth to their birth upon the stage. In Mrs. Eiske Ibsen found an ardent disciple. To her, his plays had: Warmth, gaiety, and infinite humanity....There are such limitless depths to be explored. Many a ^ Alexander Woollcott, Mrs. Eiske.*. (New York: The Century Company, 1917), p. 54. 17 play is like a painted backdrop, something to be looked at from the front. An Ibsen play is like a black forest, something you can enter, something you can walk about in. There you can lose yourself; you can lose yourself. And once inside, you find such wonderful glades, such beautiful sunlit places. And what makes each one so fascinating to study is that Ibsen, for the most part, gives us only the last hours. By the keys he provides you can unlock the past. He gives us the last hours; we must re create all that have gone before.2 Because Ibsen gave only the last hours in the character’s lives Mrs. Fiske believed he was the: Most interesting and powerful figure in dramatic writing....and that rightly projected in the theater, Ibsen always has paid and always will. The fine thing sensibly and rightly projected in the theater always does pay.5 However, she believed the author and the player must be in accord, and that the cause for the unpopularity of Ibsen was due to, "The fact that the producer had not studied the play long enough, and Ibsen must be studied long and faithfully• Mrs. Piske confirmed the fact that it was necessary for a player to have at least a years preparation behind him before attempting an Ibsen role, and stated: To play an important new role in one play by Ibsen or any of the great moderns would take an actor all of a year. I could not possibly do two in a season and do either of them well. And so it ^ *9 P • &1• 5 Jbi d * , P. 47. ^ Tbid., p. 53. is with most of the players I know.^ Two years of intensive study and preparation were given hy Mrs. Fiske to the study of the character of Hedda in tfHedda Gabler,” while Rebecca in ’’Rosmersholm” occupied three. Because Mrs. Fiske knew the theater and the public, her challenge to producers was: The greater the play, the more carefully must it be directed and acted, and for every production in the theater there is a psychologically right moment. Move wisely in these things and the public will not fail.^ During the years of Mrs. Fiske’s retirement the study of Ibsen was a constant joy to her. As her acting career went on an Ibsen play was always to be found in her repertoire. However, her favorite play was, ”As You Like It,” by William Shakespeare. And, as she stated: The philosophy of the banished duke is a delight. Into this play Shakespeare has put so many exquisite things? it moves in so spiritual an atmosphere.7 In 1894, Mrs. Minnie Maddern Fiske emerged from her retirement to play in a charity performance of Ibsen’s ”A Doll’s House” in the Empire Theater in Hew York. In her performance she gave her audience a Hora 5 Xhid., p. 56. 6 Ihid., p. 48. 7 Kenyon West, ”The Personality and Art of Mrs. Fiske,” The Arena, 39:33-44, January, 1908. which has perhaps never “ been equalled hy any other actress. That her characterization ?/as accepted hy the public was shown hy Mr. West’s criticisms flA living, breathing portrait, rendered with a masterly force and conviction. ”8 During the next decade, 1900-1910, Mrs. Fiske was battling for modernism in the theater and for free dom of its organization. The first step in promoting realism on the stage wan accomplished when-Ibsen was brought to the public’s notice. Before the turn of the century realism' had made distinct gains in its effort to control the American stage. Mrs. Fiske was tireless in her leadership of this new movement. Mr. Izard said of her activities in the movement; By the unalterable fixity of her high aims, the dignity and strength of what she has tried to do, she has earned the gratitude of'all those who look forward to an influential, high-minded American stage.9 Mrs. Fiske was also interested in the possibil ities latent in the dramatized novel. In 1896, she commissioned two American writers, Lorrimer Stoddard and Langdon Mitchell, to make acting adaptations of ^ lb id., p. 44. 9 Forrest Izard, Heroines of the Modern Stage (Hew York; Sturgis & WalTon Company ,“"1916)', p. 269. 20 the novels, "Tess of the d’Urbervilles" hy Hard# and "Becky Sharp" hy Thackeray. Her encouragement of American writers and American plays brought fresh impetus to her Hew York stock company which was to achieve the reputation of being the finest American company to appear in Hew York. It was Mrs. Fiske who gave Edward.Sheldon his start as a dramatist by acting in his play "Salvation Hell." It was she who made possible heavy royalties for Harry James Smith by appearing in "Mrs. Bumpstead Leigh.11 Women dramatists, as well as men, profited by Mrs. Piske*s interests in the American playwright, and no woman more than Marion de Forrest whose "Erstwhile Susan" served as a starring vehicle for Mrs. Piske. The Sheldon’s, Smith’s, and de Forrest’s could not provide her with "lines" comparable to those of Ibsen, Hardy, or Thackeray. Because Mrs. Fiske was interested in furthering the cause of the American dramatist she worked, "As a means to the end to attain a theater of artists. " H When Minnie Maddern Fiske first played on the stage the theater was an independent organization, but 11 Walter Prichard Eaton, "The Theater Mrs. Fiske Knew," Theater Arts Monthly, 16:371, May, 1932. 21 in 1896, Charles Frohman, the head of the Theatrical Syndicate, was controlling the large theaters in all cities* The Syndicate resulted in destroying the individu ality of the local theaters and lowered the standards of the plays* The theater of Mrs. Fiske was no more and in its place was a cheap imitation*12 Bitter opposition arose to this control, for the actors were given no freedom in their choice of repertoire or in their use of theaters. The artists leading the opposition were: Francis Wilson, James A. Herne, George Tyler, Nat Goodwin, Richard Mansfield with David Belasco, and Mrs. Fiske. This group stood against any digression of standards in the theater. The Syndicate soon controlled both the theaters and the stars that opposed them. The artists did not wish to join the Syndicate, because they felt they could not afford the financial risk. Soon Mrs. Fiske, Belasco, and Tyler were the only independents. Mr. Belasco, by owning two theaters in New York and one in Washington, was able to remain independent. During this time Sarah Bernhardt, while under the management of George Tyler, toured the country playing in old theaters and circus tents* But in time 'Mr. Belasco and Mr. Tyler had to submit to the dic tates of the Syndicate. 12 Loc. cit. Mrs. Fiske then stood alone; she 22 "believed the Trust was: ' A scheme pure and simple whereby half a dozen shrewd speculators of middlemen combined for the purpose of••••making the theaters and most of the persons engaged in theatrical enterprises tributary and contributory to their greed. Mrs. Fiske upheld the artistic freedom of the theater; never compromising nor catering to poor taste; hence sh&, ."Has. dignified her .profession, glorified her art, and worthied her sex." Contrary to expectations Mrs. Fiske*s productions did not suffer during her controversy with the Syndicate* for: ....Mrs. Fiske made her very best productions, and demonstrated that the independent artist who is not forced to produce for the greatest common denominator achieves the most admirable results. Throughout the life of the Syndicate Mrs. Fiske* while on tour* had played in shabby theaters and summer gardens. However, her tours were successful and in the San Francisco Bulletin of August, 1915, her exceptionable tour was described by the press as, "The most remarkable, owing to the peculiar circumstance, ever accorded to a 13 "Mrs. Fiske*s Struggle with the Theatrical Trust," Current Literature* 39:193, August, 1905. "Contemporary Celebrities," Current Literature, 33:405, October, 1902. -*•5 Eaton, op. cit., p. 371. 23 to a player or a company on the coast*1,16 Mrs. Fiske won respect and success for her courage in opposing the Syndicate* Many critics showered her with unjust criticisms, and oftentimes ignored her work; hut, "In late years she conquered the good-will and admiration of every critic of any standing and scholarship*1,17 The San Francisco Bulletin issued this statements Although press and public agreed and still agree that Mrs* Fiske is the greatest American actress of her time, theater after theater has closed its doors against her. Discomforts’and hardships have been her portion, hut she has fought for the freedom of art and her courage has never failed her. To-day she is battling on, confident that the people will soon see the light•••.Hot until the trust is able to keep Mrs. Fiske from touring the country by buying up whole towns will she cease, for she is determined to go on even if she has to play in a tent. Already a tent has been offered her, and rather than submit to the Syndicate she will play in it. Such is the pluck of an American woman. The country should be proud of her; not only that, but the people should take up her fight, and force it to a successful conclusion.18 In the eyes of many, Mrs. Fiske lost this fight with the Syndicate suffering untold humiliation; however, since 16 "Mrs. Fiske*s Struggle with the Theatrical Trust," Current Literature, 39:193-194, August, 1905. 17 Kenyon West, "The Personality and Art of Mrs. Fiske," The Arena. 39:33, January, 1908. 18 "Mrs. Fiske*s Struggle with the Theatrical Trust," Current Literature, 39:193-194, August, 1905. 24 that time, her ideals for the theater have continually truimphed. Much of Mrs* Fiske*s success, during her opposition to the Syndicate, was due to the help of her husband, Harrison Grey Fiske, who assisted her in the capacity of co-producer* Together, they opened the Manhattan Theater in Hew York on September 24, 1901. Here she anticipated the play of the future which would have no stars to up set its perfectly balanced company. Each player was given the opportunity to make his part contribute to the total effect of the play. Since her first consider ation in production was unity, she disregarded her own stardom to satisfy that ideal. Her power." of obtaining a well-rounded company has been expressed by Mr. Ford: There is one actress in this country possessed of an artistic conscience of such a high order that she always regards a performance as a whole and not as a vehicle for self-exploitation. So far from:seeking to minimize the work of her associates she encourages them to do their best, the result being that her audiences leave the theater, in which they have been so well entertained, declaring that she is a great actress. The result of this blending of intelligence with the best form of dramatic art, is that her career, as a star, which began in 1882, leaves her, not gasping her last breath in a house of refuge for senile art, the vaudeville stage, but with popularity as yet undimmed and herself possibly the most dis tinguished actress in this country. Consider the number of stars that have come and gone since Mrs. .Fiske made her first appearance.19. 19 James L. Ford, Forty-Odd Years in the Literary Shop (New York: E. P. Button & Company, 1921) , 196. 25 Mrs* Piske*s theatrical organization became the country's outstanding training school for actors. The players were able to secure excellent instruction and had the opportunity of playing with such stars as George Arliss, Tyroma*- Power, Fill B. Mack, and John Mason. The vivid acting of Mrs. Piske was an inspiration to all who knew her. Her genius was shown at rehearsals; she acted every part in the drama yet encouraged any expression of orginality as shown by the actor. Harmony in the company led to the perfect note in her productions; this she always attained. That her work met with success was evident by this statement from one of her critics, "Even those that do not consider her a great actress-cannot fail to find her productions of much interest and unusual merit— mu'st admit the power of the whole effect."2® Her art, which extended to. group techniques as well as to individual instruction, is exemplified by the manner in which she handled the famous ball-room scene in "Becky Sharp," and the attack of the fanatic Jews upon "Mary of Magdala." Mrs. Piske was one of the most competent stage directors of her time, mainly, because of her personal 20 Falter Prichard Eaton, "Mrs. Piske and her Influence on the American Stage," The Century, 81:866, April, 1911. 26 direction of all rehearsals: When one recollects the practically flawless stage management of a Piske production, her merit as an imaginative producer 'becomes apparent. Like her acting, her stage management is quiet, effective, tensely alive.21 With her technique of stage management one recalls.the statement of Madame H^jane in 1911, ^As a producer of plays Mrs. Piske has no superior in Europe,**22 21 *Porrest Izard, Heroines of the Modern Stage (Hew York: Sturgis & WaltorTYJompany, 1^15) , p, 2^1. 22 Eaton, op. cit., p. 866. CHAPTER I V . A DIGEST OP A STAR'S COBVERSATION (MRS. PISKE HER VIEWS OH THE STAGE) RECORDED BY ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT tf ....There is a complete technique of acting* Great acting, of course, is a thing of the spirit; in its "best estate a conveyance of certain abstract spiritual qualities, with the person of the actor as medium. It is with this medium our science deals, with its slow, patient perfection as an instrument. The eternal and immeasurable accident of the theater which you call genitis, that is a matter of the soul. But with every genius I have ever seen— Janauschek, Duse, Irving, Terry— there was always the last word in technical proficiency. The inborn, mysterious something in these players can only inspire. cannot be imitated. It Ho school can make a Duse. But 7*ith such genius as hers has always gone a supreme mastery of the science of acting, a precision of performance so satisfying that it continually renews our hope and belief that acting can be taught. ....The scientific actor is an even worker. Any one may achieve on some rare occasion an outburst of genuine feeling, a gesture of imperishable beauty, a ringing accent of truth; but your scientific actor 28 * knows how he did it. He can repeat it again and again and again....And just as Paderewski may play with a different fire on different nights, hut always strikes the same keys, so the skilled actor can use himself as a finely keyed instrument and thereon strike what notes he will. With due allowance for the varying mood and interest, the hundredth performance is as good as the first; or, for ohvious reasons, far better. Genius is the great unknown quantity. Tech nique supplies a constant for the problem. .♦..Consider your voice; first last, and always your voice. of acting. It is the beginning and the end Train that till it responds to your thought and purpose with absolute precision. Go at once, this very evening, to some master of the voice, and, if need be, spend a whole year with him studying the art of speech. Learn it now, and practice it all your days in the theater. ....With his voice perfectly trained, he can then go as far as his imagination. After all, an actor is exactly as big as his imagination. Most of us would put the imagination first in the actor1s equipment....If I put the voice first he will remember it longer. voice. The all-important thing, then, is the 29 The voice, then, and the imagination,♦..1 set my imagination to the task of recreating the life of Hedda Gabler. In my imagination I live the scenes of her girlhood with her father* I staged in my own ghost theater her first meeting with Ml e r t Lov~borg--Lovborg whom Hedda loved, as so many women love, not with her heart, hut with her nerves. I staged their first meeting and all other meetings that packed his mind and hers with imperishable memories all the rest of their days. I staged them as we sat in funny little German chapels or sailed down the Bhine. I spent the summer with Hedda Gabler, and when it came time to sail for home I knew her as well as I knew myself. There was nothing about her I did not know, nothing she could do that I could not guess, no genuine play about her— Ibsen’s or another’s --that would not play itself without invention. I lived Hedda Gabler. ....And so, if Hedda, and better still, if both Hedda and Lovborg, have been studied in this way, the moment in the second act when these two come face to face after all their years of separation is for each player a tremendous moment. To Hedda the very sight of Lovborg standing there on the threshold of of her drawing-room “brings a flood of old memories crowding close. It must not show on the surface. That is not Ibsen’s way. There are others— alien spirits— present, and Hedda is the personification of fastidious self-control. everything for that. She has sacrificed Ho, it may not show on the surface, "but if the actress has lived through Hedda* s past, and so realized her present, that moment is electrical. Her “blood quickens, her voice deepens, her eyes shine. A curious magnetic something passes “between her and Lovborg. And the playgoer, though he has “but dimly guessed all that Hedda and Lovborg have meant to each other, is touched by that current. 3Por him, too, the moment is electrical. ....And be reflective. Think....An appalling proportion of the young players who pass our way cannot have spent one really reflective hour since the stage-door first closed behind them. they haven’t. I am sure It would have left some tra.ce. Why, the whole world may be the range of the actor’s thoughts. ....Be reflective then, stay away from the theater as much as you can. Stay out of the the atrical world, out of its petty interests, its 31 imbreeding tendencies, its stifling atmosphere, its corroding influence. Once become ♦theatricalized1 and you are lost, you are lost. ....Dwell in this artificial world, and you will know only the externals of acting. Never once will you have a renewal of inspiration....Go into the streets, into the slums, into the fashionable quarters. courts. Go into the day courts and the night Become acquainted with sorrow, with many kinds of sorrow. Learn of the wonderful heroism of the poor, of the incredible generosity of the very poor— a generosity of which the rich and the wellto-do have, for the most part, not the faintest conception. Go into the modest homes, into the out- of-the-way corners, into the open country. Go where you can find something fresh to bring back to the stage. It is as valuable as youth unspoiled, as much better than the other thing as a lovely com plexion is better than anything the rouge-pot can achieve. There should be, there must be a window open somewhere, a current of new air ever blowing through the theater....It is the irony of things that the theater should be the most dangerous place for the 32 actor. But, then, after all, the world is the worst possible place, the most corrupting place, for the human soul. And just as there is no escape from the world, which follows us into the very heart of the desert, so the actor cannot escape the theater. the actor who is a dreamer need not. only strive to remain uncontaminated. And All of us can In the world we must he unworldly; in the theater the actor must he untheatrical. Stay hy yourself. When a part comes to you, establish your own ideal for it, and striving, for that, let no man horn of woman, let nothing under the heavens, come betv/een it and you. Pay no attention to the other actors unless they he real actors. Unless it is a hitter matter of bread and butter, pay no attention, or as little attention as possible, to the director, unless he is a real director. The chances are that he is wrong. The overwhelming chances are that he is 1theatricalized,f doing more harm than good. I)o not let yourself he disturbed hy his funny little ideas. Bo not he corrupted, then, hy the director. ....A director should search out the mental state, the spiritual fact, of a scene. Once that is 33 found, the scene will almost take care of itself. This is really the director’s first task, the study of the play in its spiritual significance. It is this interpretation he must supply to his company, and there is no earthly reason why he himself should have to "be an actor to "be able to do it. Let him go away into the mountains, then, with the manuscript in his valise, and let him stay there until he understands its people as if he had known them all the days of their lives, until their salient characteristics and their relation one to another are fixed in his mind like the expressions of a dear friend’s face, until all the meaning of the play is crystal clear to him. It is this meaning that he established at the first reading when he assembles the company before him for the first time. For the director interprets the play. ...»As a matter of fact, I have always relied so largely on the help and advice of Mr. Fiske that I cannot work alone. I am colossally ignorant about the mechanics of production. Once I was left alone during a tour of the South to rehearse the company in ’The Pillars of SocietyI’ The tangle which I finally achieved in the matter of ’business,’ positions, exits, and entrances, and the like was quite too wonderful. I 34 used to survey it from the orchestra-stalls, marveling at the ingenuity of the snarl, and wondering how Mr. Pishe could possibly unravel it in the few days given to him in Hew York. Of course he did succeed in re lieving the congestion and setting all straight, but I remember that after the first rehearsal he was in a cold perspiration. ••••In the theater the vanity that poisons and kills is the vanity of the actor, the egregious vanity of the ’my-part* actor. The directors first business is to guard the interest, to preserve the integrity, of the play. The actor who does not work in this same spirit should be banished. the theater at all. He never should have entered His attitude is wrong. Prom the beginning he must have approached it in quite the wrong spirit— -the spirit that takes, not the spirit that gives. He should be shown the stage-door for good and all without more ado. There are really no terms in which one can discuss this bane of the theater. simply should not be. It Fight and day, from the first rehearsal to the hundredth performance, the director should dedicate himself to the utter obliteration of the ’my-part’ actor. The ’my-part* actor is the low creature who thinks of every scene in every play in terms of his own role. 35 He sacrificies everything to his own precious opportun ities* ,What makes it so hard to suppress him is the fact that he is forever "being encouraged. Instead of "being shot and fatally wounded hy some discerning, hut irritable, playgoer, as likely as not he will he rap turously applauded for his sins. The papers next day may report that his was the onoy performance that ’stood out *’ Stood out, indeed, as if that were necess arily a compliment I I remember that the most con- spicious and warmly applauded performance in ’Sumurun’ was an outrageously protruding figure that robbed of its po?/er and proper values the more shy and reticent beauties of the other players. It ’stood out* like a gaudy lithograph included by mistake in a portfolio of etchings. It is so easy for the unthinking to mistake for distinction the ’my-part* actor’s protruding from the ensemble. Hot at the first glance do we appreciate the lovely reticence of Venice. .•..We need not be supercilious. We may be merely impressed by its pastel neutrality. I do not know what we expect; the brave colors of the Grand Canon", possibly* So it is that we do not always apprec iate at first the modest beauty of pastel playing. The 36 lesser actor who tries hard to protrude from the en semble is guilty of a misdemeanor; hut, then, his sin is as nothing compared with the felonious self-assertion of the so-called star who not only basks in the center of the stage at any and all times, but.sees to it that no one else in the company shall amount to anything. Thus are plays first twisted out of shape and then cast on the rubbish-heap. I remember once attending receptively the performance of one of our most popular actresses in one of her most popular plays. I was simply appalled by the quality of her company, compared with which she ’stood out* with a vengenance. Finally I saw a passage of exquisite light comedy intrusted to an actor that the manager of a fifth-rate stock-company would have blushed to have in his employ. At the end of the scene I rose from my seat, made for the open air, and never returned. The great people of the theater have indulged in no such degradations. Duse’s leading man, Ando, was as good as she was or nearly as good. best she could find in all Italy. At least he was the The companies that come to us with Irving and Terry are artists all. ••••When we gave ’Leah Kleschna,’ my role was the fifth in importance. Do you know, the only dramatic 37 criticism that ever enraged me was an account of ’Mary of Magdala’ that spoke zestfully of Mr. Tyrome^ Power as ’carrying away the honors of- the play,’ quite as though it had not.been known all along that Mr. Power would carry away the honors of the play, quite as if we had not realized perfectly that the role of Judas was the role of roles, quite as though that was not the very reason why Mr* Power was invited to play it. It was too obtuse, too exasperating, yet a common enough point of view in the theater, Heaven knows. It is the point of view of the actor who tries to thrust his own r$le forward, and he should he hissed from the stage. The successful actress who seeks to have in her company any hut the very best players to be had should be calmly and firmly \viped out. Prom morning till night, from June to September, the director must war against the actor’s vanity. ••..And above all, above all, the actor must ignore the audience’s very existence. Above all, ignore the audience....An actor who is guided by the caprices *of those across the footlights is soon in chaos. A great artist, a great pianist, say, must command the audience; no actor can afford to let the audience command him. He must be able to give as true a performance 38 before three frigid persons as before a house packed to the brim with good-will. This is his business. ••••After all, a piece of acting is not only a thing of science, but a work of art, something to be perfected by the actor according to the ideal that is within him. The critic who is within every artist should be his only acknowledged audience. Besides, the audience often tells you wrong. I tremble for you if you are confirmed in your weakness hy popular success. done your best. Beware of that. Perhaps you have The audience may forgive you, the reviewers may forgive you. Both may be too lenient, too indulgent, or they may not know what your best really is. Often that is the case. forgive yourself. You must not. But you cannot It seems to me that Modjeska once told me there was nothing easier in the theater than to get applause. ware of an ovation. Remember that, and be If you have had a great night, if they have laughed and applauded and called you again and again before the curtain, accept their warming kindness gratefully, but on your way home that night, as you value your artistic soul, bow your head, looking into your heart, and ask yourself, ’Bid I really play well tonight?’ Or, better still, ’What was so very wrong 39 with my performance to-night?1 ....’This persistent phrase, “You must forget the audience’s very existence,” lingered in the air and brought trooping in a host of old memories— old memories of Mrs. Fiske confiding her emotions to the back-drop when it was apparently no part of her in tention that those out front should catch the exact content of her speech, memories of many a critic’s comment on her diction and many a player’s fretful complaint that sometimes he "couldn’t hear a word she said." I could not resist singing a bit of F. P. A ’s "bit of deathless rhyme." "Time was, when first that voice I heard, Despite my close and tense endeavor, When many an important word Was lost and gone forever; Though, unlike others at the play, I never whispered, ’What’d she say?’ "Some words she runstogetherso; Some others are distinctly stated; Some cometoofast and s o m e t o o s l o w And some are syncopated. And yet no voice— I am sincere— Exists that I prefer to hear." And did she defend herself? Hot she. Quite the re verse. ’ , My friend, that was no part of a misguided theory of acting; it was simply slovenliness. For years I had no appreciation whatever of the importance of 40 careful speech. Only of recent years, after some preliminary lessons given to me hy Victor Maurel, have I learned to use my voice. Three hours of voice practice every day of the season— that, properly, is the actor’s chore. one hour He must have such practice at least day. •••.RestraintI•••.Is it anything more than nor mality in acting, the warning from the critic that dwells in the inner consciousness of every artist? X& not it merely good taste controlling the tumult of emotion? ....The actress who used to shake the very theater with her sohs was a humuliating, degrading spectatle. Such acting, the hysterical emotionalism of a day gone hy, was ignohle, essentially ignohle. head is hloody, hut unbowed* — there is the ideal. fl&y The quivering hand, the eyes moist, hut the upper lip stiff, the hrave smile— that is it. The hrave smile in the face of adversity has more of the stuff of tragedy than all the outward emotionalism ever ranted, more moving to the reflective mind, touching far more readily the human heart than all the stage tears ever shed. ....Hoes the actor feel the grief he tries to picture? It is different with different players. I should say he feels an intense sympathy.... in addition 41 to that sympathy, the more poignant his expression, the more cheering is the approval from the critic within him. He may he sobbing his heart out, hut, such is the dual nature of the actor, at the same time he hears the inner voice sayings ’Well done to-nightI Well done!’ And he is glad. And the intense suffering he may feel in the earlier performances becomes a matter of memory* He remembers the means, and relying on that memory, need not himself feel so keenly. The greater the artist, the less keenly need he feel, ••••The actor must go on the stage with love in his heart— always. curtain. He must love his fellows back of the He must love even the ’my-part* actor, though he die in the attempt. He must love the people who in his subconsciousness he knows are ’out there*’ He must love them all, the dull, tired business man, the wearied critic, the fashionably dressed men and women who some times (not often) talk too loud, and thereby betray a lack of breeding and intelligence. splendid souls ’out there,’ There are always But most of all he will love the boys and girls, the men and women, who sit in the cheapest seats, in the very last row of the top gallery. They have given more than they can afford to come. In the most self-effacing spirit of fellowship they are listening to catch every word, watching to miss no slightest gesture or expression. To save his life the actor cannot help feeling these nearest and dearest. He cannot help wishing to do his best for them. He can not help loving them best of all* .*••There is no good dramatic school.••.The young actors are pitched into the sea, poor children, and told to sink or swim. Many of them swim amazingly well....I myself have half a mind to start a dramatic school. Seriously, I may some day. It is an old dream of mine, for while I have never particularly admired my own acting, I have always been successful in teaching others to act. 1 Alexander Woollcott, Mrs. Piske..♦ (Hew York: The Century Company, 1917), pp. 62-144* T CHAPTER V A STAR’S COURSE It was Mrs* Fiske’s realistic characterization, • naturalness, and feeling which made her one of the leading actresses of the day. Thoda Cocroft strongly declared that Mrs. Fiske re-created her characters for every performance and that she: Fever repeated lines like an automaton. Fever imitated herself....I have watched Mrs. Fiske in the same r6le more than two hundred times, and on the two-hundredth occasion she has "built a more vibrant creation than on her very first performance. Challenging this statement some of her critics expressed the opinion that she became static after her first presentation, and that she was a mere mechanist, lacking deep, emotional feelings in her role. C. Strang^ Lewis belonged to this class of adverse critics and declared that Mrs. Fiske did not know how to create a character, and after the first performance she copied the originjp.ll even to the exact details. This criticism was a direct opposite of what Mrs. Fiske believed and what she strived to attain. 1 Thoda Cocroft, "Three Famous Theater Women and Their Sacrifices for Art," Saturday Evening Post, 197:18 April 11, 1925. ^ Lewis C. Strang, Famous Actresses of the Pay (Boston: L. C. Page & Company, 19021,' pp. 110-114. Mr. Strang continued "by saying that he was completely disillusioned when he saw her for. the second time in the same role. In the first performance he gave her credit for spontaneity and naturalness, hut for the second time, he believed she was only an elaborate piece of mechanism and not an actress, drawing similiar conclusions to those presented hy Lewis Strang, the eminent critic, John Ranken Towse3 was of the opinion that Mrs, Fiske was fitted for light comedies only and that she was completely out of her class when she tried to create a r8le such as "Hedda Gabler,” Her aggressive and inquisitive manner, and her snappy replies seemed to belong to such roles as "Featherbrain.M She was full of promises in these parts, but her ambition for serious, dramatic rSles led her astray because she did not have the necessary histiionic or artistic qualifications. She was entirely out of her element when she played in social melodrama in 1887, according to Mr. J. R. Towse. And in 1896, when she appeared in "Cesarine,M he recognized her advancement in stage knowledge, but he also believed her early habits were 3 John Ranken Towse, Sixty Years of the Theater (Hew York & Londons Funk & Wagnalls Company, I9l6} , pp. 423-431. 45 ‘becoming bad mannerisms, Deceitfullness, callousness, and vindictiveness were, in Mr. Towsefs opinion, easily within Mrs. Fiskefs reach. However, he considered-the plausibility of a character, the fascination, the passion, entirely beyond her grasp. He said she had to rely upon impersonation— poor impersonation? that she failed to reveal evidence to the contrary. He expressed his disapproval for he believed Mrs. Fiske was always Mrs. Fiske, because her personality seeped into every role. A -» The majority of Mrs. Fiske*s critics, however, were of the opinion that her success as an actress was due to the thought and feeling she gave to her roles, combined with her stage technique and intelligence. They felt she had mastered her art by painstaking, conscious effort. Mr. Elliott Henderson^ confirmed the belief of many by stating that, in his opinion, Mrs. Fiske had more intelligence and more presence of mind than any actress on the stage. He further stated that by her intellectual power she was able to portray realistic characterizations, playing them with a self-restraint and a quiet force that became the envy of all.and the 4 . E l l i o t t Henderson, "Mrs. Fiske and her Hew Theater,1* Harper*s Weekly, 45*1061, October 19, 1901. 46 acme of acting. Some thought she had great emotional power, and "because of that, she was the most intelligent actress on the stage.5 Mr. William Winter, dean of the American critics, made this statement: Mrs. Fiske is one of the most intellectual women upon our stage, and her dignity of mind, strength of character, and inflexible stability of worthy purpose made her an object of unusual interest, and have gained for her the respect and admiration of all persons who wish for the prosperity of a respectable, useful and influential stage.5 Richard Dana Skinner said: In remaining herself she was also able to absorb the essentials of the part so completely that the resultant character presented to the audience was a complete and satisfactory whole.7 The key to Mrs. Fiske*s acting is similar.* to the dramatists Conception of naturalistic drama. Mr. Forrest Izard declared that: There is no staginess, none of the aggressive grace of the actress playing a part; she is rather the woman living it. There is obviously none of the routine technique which actors frequently learn in schools. Her style may be the outgrowth of an earlier technique of a period when no doubt she was "stagey” and conventional. In the latter period she 5 "The Players," Everybody*s, 20:418, March, 1909, 6 Kenyon West, "The Personality and Art of Mrs. Fiske," The Arena, 39:33, January, 1908. 7 Richard Dana Skinner, "The Play," The Commonweal, 15:496, March, 1932. 47 has refined, out of this earlier experience and her own insight, a method remarkable for its suggestion, its repression, its freedom from fa miliar device.8 Mr. Iz.ard° further stated that her gesture, facial play, intonation, pause, and her power of imparting the details of impersonation are worked out with a definite precision and a, naturalness which makes her acting •stand out so effectively. He concluded with the state ment that it was an impossibility to please everyone’s tastes and that? What some find to be her repressive force is in the eyes of others stilted awkardness. The qualities which to most are her most salient characteristics are to some her intolerable mannerisms. Her speech, at times, is disconcertingly rapid. Her ennunciation has seldom been called indistinct, her so-called awkardness and mannerisms full of significance, and her cerebral acting and personality the means of true int erpretat ion*-1-0 As has been suggested previously, Mrs. Fiske was considered by a group of critics as a mere technician and not a great artist. But her army of admirers be lieved that, by the constant study and cultivation of her art, she succeeded in interpreting the emotions of the character with no loss of intellectual intensity. ® Forrest Iza.rd, Heroines of the Modern Stage (Hew York: Sturgis & Walton dompany , 1915) , p. "2“7"S".' 0 hoc, cit. 10 Ibid., p. 280-. 48 They felt she was able to conceal her art and thus, the technique was forgotten and only the picture remained. A great artist must have versatility and variety to give individuality to the character. Mrs. Fiske has proved these points conclusively by her wide range of roles and "by her realistic character portrayals. She appeared a quiet, suppressed actress, hut she had a mysterious, hypnotic intensity which reached the audi ence when it was brought forth. Perhaps, without this gigantic tempermental force with which she charged all of her characterizations, her acting would have appeared superficial and crude, even unintelligible.^ She had thoughts of a visionary future, and once she was certain of the right course, her convictions were unalterable. At times she was considered a little vague, and her blunders made her shrewd; but, on the other hand, she was luminous- and shy. Was it this strange formula that made the audience feel her strange charm and personality^ Her critics felt the conviction and pathos of each characterization; and, if, at times, Elliott Henderson, "Mrs. Fiske and her Hew Theater," Harper*s Weekly, 45:1061, October 19, 1901. 12 Stark Young, "Mrs. Fiske," The Hew Republic, 70:71, March 2, 1932. 49 there were technical flaws to "be found, they were put aside, for the mystic power of Mrs. Fiske*8 realistic portrayals stayed uppermost in their minds.^ Probably the true greatness of Mrs. Fiske’s acting lay in the fact that she aimed for and obtained the necessary essentials of a characterization, A critic expressed the opinion that one, ”Can compare others with her, for she has many imitators, but the peak of the mountain, where she stands, is not peopled by many. Greatness is always solitary.”14 Mrs. Fiske had many admirers and many fault finders, but as Walter Prichard Eaton said, ”Ardent admirers and cordial enemies are a sign of a vital artist.”1® admirers. Her main criticisms were laughed at by her Many lovers of the theater complained she did not truly impersonate a character. Mr. J. H. Towse said that Mrs..Fiske had portrayed many different roles, but that, ”In none of them did she exhibit any perceptible development of dramatic power or versatility.”1^ In fact, 13 IiQC. cit. 14 Kenyon West, ”The Personality and Art of Mrs# Fiske,” The Arena, 39:33, January, 1908. 15 Walter Prichard Eaton, ”Mrs. Fiske and her Influence on the American Stage,” The Century, 81:869, April, 1911# 16 Towse, op. cit., p. 434. 50 Mr. Towse spoke of Mrs. Fiske as an ambitions woman,oftentimes floundering in her theatrical progress; moreover, he did not consider her an actress of unusual merit. Critics scoffed at her unpleasant voice, her ungainly carriage, and her intellectual acting, but those that complained of her lack of emotional appeal . missed one of the finest points in her acting career. True, Mrs. Fiske did have her limitations and her mannerisms, and perhaps she was too self-conscious to permit her emotions to hold sufficient sway, "But it is a graceless thing to criticize the very slight defects which arise from the quality of her imagination and from the distinctive methods of her acting. Variations of opinion such as these cannot help but remind one that genius is rarely understood. Students of the stage who look to Mrs. Fiske as the dominant character of the American stage will agree with Richard Dana Skinner, who stated that oftentimes: Mrs. Fiske seemed to have been transported to another age and another place. In that respect some call her a technician. But, she is the exception to this view of artistry. When the vitality or force of the actor is so great that he or she can, as Mrs. Fiske did, absorb the character rather than ^ Henderson, op. cit., p. 1061. 51 "be absorbed by it, we have something which passes beyond mere artifice. It is this peculiar fire and intensity which made us feel that we were seeing Mrs. Fiske in all periods of history and under stress of all varities of circumstances. It remains the artistry of superabundant vitality and emotion expressing itself through the medium of superb technique. In the timing of her lines and gestures, in the radiant vigor of her attack, and in the rich ness of her devotion to the task in hand, Mrs. Fiske was not only a trouper, but also a great artist. She was also a great person....To some she was a mere technician, to others she was the summation of all the finest qualities of the actor.-*-8 In a pool of public opinion taken by the Good Housekeeping Magazine^ in 1932, the twelve most famous women of America were selected. From out the ranks the favored one of the theater was chosen....Minnie Maddern Fiske. Mrs. Fiske took her place among the twelve with such immortals of American history-as Jane Addams and Helen Keller. Truly, Mrs. Fiske was a woman of note, not only behind the footlights but in the social and political circles as well. Her fame spread abroad, and "Many authoritative appraisers of dramatic art regarded Mrs. Fiske as the greatest actress who is now appearing on 18 Richard Dana Skinner, "The Flay," The Commonweal, 15 8496, March 1932. ^ "Have you Hamed Your Great Woman? ,M Good Housekeeping, 91:83, December, 1930. any stage,1,20 The leader of the American stage! Mrs. Fiske was fitted to portray that role because of her notable accomplishments: Work distinguished for brilliancy, for finish, for intellectual power, subtle perception of character, and a wide range of interpretations, sounding as it does the depths of tragedy, and sparkling with the most delicate, vivacious comedy-- work distinguished for strength and depth of original thinking, for sincerity and earnestness of feeling and appeal; above all,manifesting in every phase that imaginative fire and glow, that subtle, illusive quality which can be described by no other word but genius Because of her magnificent stage management and her spiritual and mental qualities, some critics said it was an impossibility to even form a comparison be- . tween Mrs. Fiske and any stage contemporary. Since Hichard Mansfield1s death there has been no one to equal Mrs. Fiske, and she has held the reigns of the American theater in her hands. The cause of the theater was upheld by Mrs. Fiske at every rough turn with hope and inspiration. She fought the Syndicate; she opened her famous stage 20 «jjrama an€j Art,” Current Opinion,” 76:809, June, 1924, Kenyon West, HThe Personality and Art of Mrs. Fiske,M The Arena, 39:185, January, 1908. 53 company; she brought the American dramatist to the public’s notice; she paved the path for a new theater— a theater attuned to the spirit of naturalistic-realistic drama. In her own words Mrs. Fiske expressed the feeling that an actress could never be great, until "She had fought, had been conquered, and had conquered. "22 This phrase expresses the life of a great stage leader, one who will a.lways take first place among the American stars of the theater. Mrs. Fiske "Summoned up, and quite gloriously, the essence of an acting tradition that was in serious danger of being lost."23 22 Alexander Woollcott, Mrs. Fiske... (Hew Yorks The Century Company, 1917), p. 25 Hichard Dana Skinner, "The Play," The Commonweal, 15:496, March, 1932. CHAPTER VI A STAR BECOMES A DOCTOR OE BETTERS Minnie Maddern Eiske was as contradictory in her appearance, life, and personality as she was in her style of acting. She had a petite figure, and although her auburn hair, violet eyes, and graceless carriage did not give her the distinction of being called beautiful, her every .movement expressed sig nificance, poise, and compelling personal power* She was shy, unobtrusive, and of a humorous temperament. She talked little, and expressed her opinions rarely. Since Mrs. Eiske considered good health a primary requisite for an actress, she allowed neither her physical or mental balance to become upset. She seldom read the newspapers, and completely ignored the criticisms or praises she received. Through this habit she conserved her emotional energy and kept destructive materials out of her conscious mind; thus maintaining her emotional poise always at the same level. Her youthful appearance was thus attributed to her desire to let nothing interfere with her stage career. She followed with precision her habitual custom of studying her lines in the morning, having dinner, attending a rehearsal at the theater in the afternoon, resting afterwards, dressing for her performance, and walking to the hotel for the night. Her routine was work, rest, and exercise in familiar repetition. Unlike most actresses Mrs. Fiske enjoyed traveling in order to play one night stands. She loved to go hack to the shahhy theaters she had known as a child, and she wanted all America to have the opportunity of seeing a stage production. Her stage dressing table and her walls were covered with notes clamped with large pins. As the affairs were taken care of, the papers were torn down and new ones slipped into their places.'1. She v/as always prompt in her engagements, never forgetting an appointment. Because she considered her career first and her self last, Mrs. Fiske was denied the pleasures due-te a woman--any woman. Her success in the theater extended over half a century, hut upon the altars of her art she heaped sacrifices. The foremost actress of the American 1 Thoda Cocroft, "Three Famous Theater Women and Their Sacrifice for Art," Saturday Evening Post, 197*18, April 11, 1925. 56 stage was a lonely woman.^ Shopping for clothes is a woman’s delight, hut it was not for Mrs. Fiske to enjoy. She could not afford the energy involved, so she settled the problem by always wearing the same type of ensemble. She wore a long, blue coat and in cold weather added a blue sr/eater underneath. To her hat# she attached one white face veil and from one to three blue veils. When her Y/ardrobe needed replenishing duplicates were ordered. Her stage gowns were provided by a costumer, and only the designs and materials were submitted for approval*3 Mrs. Fiske was democratic with all, yet a definite barrier existed between herself and' her acquaintances. She had no home life; the theater or the hotel, in what ever town she was in, served as compensation. She owned a beautiful home in the Adirondacks, but was only able to be there for a week or so throughout the year. Mrs. Fiske appeared very lonely while there, for her time was occupied in resting to meet the strenuous hours of 2 Thoda Cocroft, “Three Famous Theater Women and Their Sacrifice for Art,” Saturday Evening Post, 197:18, April 11, 1925. 3 hoc. cit. 57 rehearsals that followed her return to town. Her so- called vacation routine was much the same as on tour. She rose early in the morning to take a walk and study her lines; she had no lunch and rested during the afternoon. At dinner she "became the perfect hostess when she met her guests; then she retired early in order to study or write "before sleeping.^ Mrs. Fiske had a love for neglected homes with gardens, and she owned a secret house in Connecticut where only three knew her retreat. When opportunity permitted she renewed her strength here. It was Mrs. Fiske1s belief that the rble of mother hood was the greatest one which any woman could under take: Perhaps I,m just a little "bit hipped on the subject, "but I really, truly believe that the most worthwhile thing in all the world a woman can do— the happiest thing a woman can do— is to mother a family of children.5 While in Danville, Pennsylvania, she found a three months-bld baby in a hotel closet with adhesive tape across his mouth; she immediately adopted him, naming him Danville Fiske. Mrs. Fiske soon found, however, ^ hoc, cit. 5 Alice Booth, wAmerica,s Twelve Greatest Women-Minnie Maddern Fiske,11 Good Housekeeping, 93:34, .November, 1931. 58 that she had no time for motherhood because she could see the baby only once or twice in a week. Her short experience in motherhood closed, and she placed the child in a nurse’s care. Mrs. Fiske had little forma,! education, but by mastering the technique of her art,, she ’’Broadened her thinking, enlarged her capacities for feeling, and deep ened her powers of sympathy."^ Mr. Stark Young, however, was of the opinion that Mrs. Fiske had to pay the price for her irregular education, lewis Strang said her method and her art were the result of her childhood stage experience; he believed both were her own a,nd were based upon: A unique personality, and nurtured by years of practical application in a range of impersonations far more comprehensive than that covered by any player of her age on the American stage. Ho one taught Mrs. Fiske her method and her art, and she can teach them to no one. In her case they are right, but for a more youthful enthusiast she is the worst possible model*? On the other hand, one finds that she had in fluenced many artists, and since she ranked as the 6 Kenyon West, "The Personality'and Art of Mrs. Fiske," The Arena 39:33, January, 1908, ? Lewis C. Strang, Famous Actresses of the Bay (Boston: L. C. Page & Company,”1902) , p. 1XH* 59 leader of her profession there must have been some secret power worth emulating.® Her education may have been irregular, but its irregularity did not prevent Smith College from award ing her the honarary degree, Master of Arts. In present ing the degree President Ueilson said of her: She is the first living American actress, who by her sensitiveness, insight, and technical shill retains for our stage the interest of intelligent citizens at home and respect for our theater abroad.9 The University of Wisconsin also awarded her the honarary degree of Doctor of Letters. At the time the award was made, Pr.- Glenn Prank, president of the University, said, "The crowd has turned to her as a trusted teacher, for hers is the art that has kept the theater vital and prophetic. Harvard, the school that did not believe in' pre senting female artists to their students, brought Mrs. Fiske as a guent speaker to the Harvard Ethical Society. Here she made one of her rare public appearances, speaking 8 Walter Prichard Eaton, HMrs. Fiske and,her Influence on the American Stage,11 The Century, 81:866, April, 1911. 9 Alice Booth, ♦♦America’s Twelve Greatest Women— Minnie Maddern Fiske,” Good Housekeeping, 93:34, Hovember, 1931. 18 Loc. cit. 60 against the degradation of the stage. The first part of the address was devoted to art. Ruskin proves what any philosophy must admit, that life without art is brutal. Art has a function beyond that of affording pleasure for the moment. It should be an inspiration; and it should be potent--in directly, of course, and by degrees— in mitigation of the terrors whose contemplation may induce a question as to its utility. True art in any form inspires esthetic feeling, and the psychologist will tell you that esthetic feeling, like any other feeling, may be a spring to actiong. ••..Verestchagin, the great Russian painter, whose work was so ls,rgely devoted to picturing war’s in humanity and terrors, and who lost his life in the midst of a .carnage that his brush would have revealed to assist in the reformation of humanity, did not live in vain. Tolstoi, the great man and the great artist, devoted his pen and life to a like end. The pen of Zola, like that of other artists whose purpose it has been to picture; miseries that they might be cured, has wrought and is still working reform in life. The great dramatists of the modern school have aims higher than for the moment’s amusement. They are striking at the root of evils that mankind, if it progresses, must see decay. ....An institution that has grown from human im pulse must be related closely to every ethical idea. • We know that for almost three thousand years the play, in one form or another, has been a factor in educat ing and delighting the world. Ever since man has been able to give voice to his impulses in song or to limn on flat surfaces his ideas or to make images of his conceptions— ever since melody, drawing, or painting, sculpture and living language have been known— drama, embodying them all, has been an inspiration to the world. What could have taken the place of the theater if it never had existed? ....One great play, like the leaven of Holy Writ, may serve to save the theater for any season that may appear to be given over to the world, the flesh, and the devil. And thus the theater survives, because always it may be found to project something on the side of ethics. ••••As to the masterpieces, we, of course, must eliminate Shakespeare's from any comparative analysis; and outside of Shakespeare the good old plays and the good new plays are so different in almost all things that we necessarily would have to enter upon a long series of dissertations to differentiate them clearly* Respectively, perhaps, they represent the romanticism, the sentimentality and the artificiality, withal, of the older time, as against the practicality, the greater seriousness in all literary treatment of the better class with reference to the ethics of life and the liberalism of thought to-day. One thing we may be sure of, however, that artificial and elementary as the lower forms of the plays of the older time were, they were greatly superior to the lower forms of plays of to day, if titles and billboards may be taken as an index. Good acting of to-day is so different from the good acting of the days that are gone that a comparison of the acting of then and now is as diffi cult as a comparison of the plays. ....We have improved in the acting of plays that revel in modern life. We are beginning to be true, and in being true we are beginning to find a world of beauty hidden heretofore, a glorious new world opened to us by the new dramas of Ibsen and his followers and disciples. ....Have not many of our fiercest inward battles been fought quietly in our solitary room at night? Have not the most dramatic moments of our lives been lived out in silence and secrecy? There may have been no cries, no outburst, no noise, but the great moments have been lived just the same. ••••We know that the great Norwegian has revolution ized the dramatic literature of every country. I do not know whether you are familiar with Maeterlinck opinion of Ibsen. Very likely you are. Maeterlinck says: 'The highest point of human consciousness is reached by the dramas of Bjornsen, Hauptmann, and, above all else, Ibsen. Here we touch the limit of the resources of modern dramaturgy.' ....It is curiously interesting to study the differences between two such modern authors as Ibsen 62 and Victorian Sardou— Sardou, the high priest of tricks, theatricalising and artificiality. In a Sardou play, climaxes chiefly composed of sound aid fury, meaning little or nothing of moment, are led up to with purely mechanical skill. The theatrical objective is the sole object— and the sole value— of a Sardou drama. The Sardou drama makes no demand upon the intelligence of the actor, beyond the purely superficial excitement of the moment. It induces no thought or reflection whatever in the spectator— unless the spectator, after witnessing it, becomes ashamed that he has been so played upon without reason. There is no mental stimulus whatever for the actor in studying the partd of dramas like those of Sardou. How different with the dramas of Ibsen and the best of his disciples I To the student, the best of Ibsen do not appear upon the surface as all they are. To properly conceive a performance of one of the parts of Ibsen, the actor must study the part from the childhood of the character up to the time when it is revealed, upon the stage. One need merely learn the lines of the objective playwright and, with some talent and temperament, and a fair measure of tech nique, succeed, but the actor who thinks he can master an Ibsen rSle in this manner soon discovers his error. In nearly all the Ibsen plays you will observe that the drama reveals merely the final castrophe. For example, take the plays ’Rosmersholm, ’ or ’John Gabriel Borkman,’ or ’Eedda Gabler.’ In these plays we see the final moments in the lives of the principal characters. The actors must of necessity have studied all that has, in the past life of these characters, led up to the final scene. In this way the new psychological drama has been a wonderful stim ulus. ....Ibsen and his worthy dramatic followers have made thinkers and students of those actors, who in the merely objective days had little exercise of the brain. The old fashioned ’emotional* or society play seems, indeed, a very weak combination of milk and water to the actor who has seriously begun the study of the Ibsen drama. 11 ’’Mrs. Fiske on the Ethics of the Drama,” The Arena, 35:183-185, January, 1905. her remarks before the Harvard Ethical Society indicate a, lack of education? She may not have learned the three H fs in school, as a child, hut, as an artist, she added a fourth R— realism— for the greater school for all children, the theater. First performances are considered a delight by audiences, but, to Minnie Maddern Fiske, first nights brought her a period of depression and excitement the,t stilled her ability to develop the characterization. She said: With one or two exceptions, I n^rself, at my ITew York performances have, on first nights, emerged with a vivid personal sense of failure that has been confirmed by critical opinion, no matter how fortunately that first night inadequancy may have been made up for in subsequent performances. And an impressioh of failure has far reaching influences. A critics opinion is final; no reverses are possible once an injustice is done to an excellent play. Mrs. Fiske1s first Hew York performance of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles” was a failure. The opening night per formance of "Becky Sharp” was not satisfactory, in fact, the last act was received with no understanding. Later in the season, however, the same act became the most 12 Minnie Maddern Fiske, "The Effects of a"First Eight" Upon the Actor,” The Critic, 39:317, October, 1901. highly -entertaining. Ho explanation for the change was offered; the illusive something that should make a 13 brilliant performance, .was missing on the first night. Her first performance of STidermannfs ’’Magda” was not even reviewed by some critics in their columns and was condemned by others. The actors failed to catch any spark of empathy from the unsympathetic audience, until suddenly, a small group of listeners gave the actors their cue, and the play became an instant success Prom then until the closing date the theater was packed with enthusiastic people. Mrs. Fiske believed her greatest personal success on the stage was experienced at the final performance of - ’’Magda.”1^ She offered no explanation for these first night feelings, stating only These are odd facts and are unconsidered by writers on the stage. They deal with some of the hidden springs that work for failure or for success in the theater. They are but abstracts from the strange realizations of many actors that the actors themselves wonder at and cannot explain.15 Mrs. Fiske deplored the themes selected for use on the stage by the dramatists. Their standard subjects were the theater and the people of the theater; both were consistently misrepresented. Not believing the author's conclusions were arrived at through ignorance or unfamilarity with the subject,' she concluded they must be deliberate. To her, it was wrong to present a drama before the public that might give them a distorted impression of the theater and the acting profession.^ Opposing the presentation of sex on the stage, Mrs Fiske pointed to the fact that the majority of heroines became distorted when viewed by the eyes of masculine playwrights. Their women chatted about their sorro?/s and their woes, and at the end were overcome by the tragic solution* This is a false picture of American womanhood. Granville Barker instituted the theory of the New Theater in America. An institutional playhouse was proposed which was to have a stationary company for holding alternating performances of good dramatic art. The actor would have the opportunity of playing many different rSles which he could not do under his own management. Mrs. Fiske objected strenuously to Granville Barker's theory of an institutional theater because she said it would gives 16 Minnie Maddern Fiske, "Plays of Stage Life,” Harper 's Weekly» 58:12. August 23. 1913. 17 Minnie Maddern Fiske, "Mrs. Fiske Bisects and Ridicules Sex Nonsense on the Stage," Current Litera&u&g. 72:69, January, 1922. 66 Deserved "but unexpected longevity to master pieces too frail and precious perhaps, to fill the auditorium eight times a week, and yet well Yforth while nursing along in repertory.18 She believed the lleY/ Theater was headed for ship wreck from the beginning, that repertory was bound to v-rreck it— it v/as but a lovely dream which would never come true. In the first place, she knew a company could not give five different plays and produce them properly although they had years in which to prepare them. A company suited for one production would automatically destroy the other four. It is grandiose presumption to pretend that a repertory theater can compete artistically with such a production as Mr. Belasco could make with a specially selected cast.1^ This is an age of specialization, and in !lSuch an age the repertory theater is an anachronism, a ludicrous• * . anachronism. f,20 Mrs. Fiske was of the opinion that repertory advocated too staggering a program which, while it had succeeded in Germany and France, was no signal it could sticceed in America.21 She did not believe repertory was 1® Alexander ?/oollcott, Mrs. Fiske...(Dew York: The Century Company, 1917), p. T 5 4 • 19 Ibid., p. 136. 20 Alexander Woollcott, "Mrs. Fiske Punctures the Repertory Idea," The Century, 93:332, January, 1917. 21 Woollcott, op. cit., p. 151. 67 necessary for an actor’s training when it was done at the public expense of forfeiting good dramatic fare. An actor does not need several roles a year to keep him fresh and unstagnated. To Mrs. Fiske, an actor with one good role could hardly exhaust its possibilities in less than a year, and in all probability he could not play it perfectly until the end of the first season. Then, if the director was incompetent, she asks whether the actor in the making is better off if he plays one role badly or five relies badly? If an actor feels at the end of the season that he had exhausted his part he should not continue in that role. And if he was not stimulated, during that first season, he should study.22 "Actors should always study, a singers studies a,re never done. It should be so in the theater.”^3 Mrs. Fiske believed whole-heartedly that the untalented individual deserved no place in the theater. She was willing to sacrifice ninty per cent in order to achieve a perfect ten per cent. of ’’Salvation Fell” every part was the roles were recast perfect? 22 rbidt , p.' 155. 23 Ibid.. p. In her production 156. at the end of until rehearsals 68 she had a new company. It was in this production she felt that Mr, Fiske and herself had achieved an absolute ly perfect performance: Only once in twenty years. Only once has ray own personal critical sense been completly satisfied in our own personal effort. That satisfaction came to me in our first production of "Salvation Hell."^ A producer must search for his cast until per fection is found. Arnold Bennett abandoned his pro duction of "The Honeymoon" because he could not find the right star to play the rSle of the aviator: "If people produce plays without the right actors the plays are crushed as the wings of a butterfly,"^ Mrs. Fiske summoned up her objections to Mr. Granville Barker’s theory of the new theater by saying, "It is destructive of valuable theatrical property. That is it, it destroys property."^8 After four years of struggle the new theater folded its wingn, and, as Mrs. Fiske prophesied,'., it was shipwrecked in America. Mrs-. Fiske^^ advocated a national Theater— a training school for young actors. 24 * P* 168* 25 Ibid.,p. 161. 26 rbid..p. 29. 27 rbid.,p." 128. This was to be a 69 self-supporting traveling company. Her formula for a National Theater was an idealistic one; first, to find an ideal director, to endow him, and then to leave him alone. She spoke of this ideal director as, ^An amiahle and gifted tyrant. He must he of the theater. Must have that mysterious sixth sense, the sense of the theater. op The ability to teach the young to act.” The director should remain constant; he would choose the plays, stage them, and follow them on their journeys. A lieutenant would take his place as a watcher, when he could not he present. In order to have the three hundredth performance as smooth as the first there must always he a watcher. If the watcher wa,s correct in his details the three hundredth per formance would he much better. Critics claimed there would be difficulties in finding actors, hut Mrs. Hiske knew there would he aplenty, for young actors would want and would enjoy the training, prestige, and good times concerned with the National Theater--a home training school. The expense to the public would he nominal as endowments could reduce the admission to as low as fifty cents a seat. 28 rbid». p. 130. 70 The actors would he changed continually, in order to have the perfect company at all times, for Mrs. Fiske said the ideal for all in the theater was: The hest possible performance of the immediate play at hand. Aim for that directly and for that alone. Then the training of the actors, the encouragement of playwrights, the upbuilding of a responsive public, and the slow formation of a National Theater will take care of themselves. 29 IMd., p. 138 CHAPTER VII SCRIPTS FOR A STAR Alexander Woollcott Has given us the listings Mrs, Fiske*s performances* These include: Hester Crewe in MHester Crewe,” by Harrison Grey Fiske. Marie Leloche in "The Queen of Liars,” adapt ed from the French by Harrison Grey Fiske* Nora in ”A Lollfs House,” by Henrik Ibsen* Toinette in "A Light from St. Agnes,” a oneact play hy Mrs. Fiske. Cesarine in ”La Femme de Claude,” by Lumas. Cyprienne in "Livorcons,” as adpated by Harrison Grey Pis!ke. Madeleine in "Love Finds the Way,” adaptation by Marguerite Herrington. Adelaide in ”Not Guilty,” one-act play by Mrs. Fislce. The Little Marquis in ”The White Pink,” adapt ed from the French.by Harrison Grey Fiske. Tess in "Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” a dramatizationhy Lorrimer Stoddard. Giulia in "Little Italy,” one-act play by Horace B. TFcyZ Saucers in ”A Bit of Old Chelsea,” one-act play by Mrs.Oscar Berringer. Magda in "Magda," by Herman Sudermann. Gilberte in "Frou-Frou,” adapted by Harrison Grey Fiske. Becky in "Becky Sharp," a dramatization "by Bangdon Mi t che11* Miranda in "Miranda of the Balcony," a drama tization hy Anne Crawford Flexner. Mrs. Hatch in "The Unwelcome Mrs. Hatch," hy MrsT‘T2urtbn Harrison. Mary in "Mary of Magdala," William Winter* s English version of Heyse*s play* Hedda in "Hedda Gabler," by Henrik Ibsen. Leah in "Leah Kleschna," by C* M. S. McClellan. Cynthia Karslake in "The Hew York Idea," by Langdon Mitchell. Dolce in "Dolce," by John Luther Long. Rebecca West in "Rosmersholm," by Henrik Ibsen. Hell Sanders in "Salvation Hell," by Edward Sheldon. Hannele in "Hannele," by Gerhart Hauptmann. Della Bumpstead-Leigh in "Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh, by Harry dames 3mith. Agnes Bromley'in "The Hew Marriage," by Langdon Mitchell. Julia France in "Julia France," by Gertrude Atherton. Lady Patricia Cosway in "Lady Patricia," by RudoIph Besier. Mary Page in "The High Road," by Edward Sheldon Lady Betty in "Lady Betty Martingale," by John Luther "Long. 73 Juliet Miller in "Erstwhile Susan," by Marion de PorrestT^ 7/hen the variety of scripts in which Mrs. Eiske starred is considered, one is almost overwhelmed hy the demands made upon any one actress. Fine plays were to appear in electric lights “before her greatest of p,ll triumphs, "Tess of the d* Urbervi lies,M in 1896, appeared ‘ Lorrimer Stoddard, an American writer, made an adaptation of Hardy’s novel. Advice was given to her, “by “both managers and critics, that this production ’ would not “be welcomed “by the public. In spite of this she proceeded with her production, and at the end of one season the enthusiastic support of the audiences led to the plays revival. This proved Mrs. Eiske*s contention that the public was ready for a higher type of drama. Despite the fact that Mrs. Eiske did not possess the physical qualifications for the role of Tess, she portrayed the character with keeness of perception, with Remarkable.power and pathos. Most of the critics believed she was the spirit of Har&y’s Tess, but there were others who did not hold the same opinion. John Alexander Woollcott, Mrs. Eiske... (Few York? The Century Company, 1917) , p. 5T5. 74 Banken Towse^ stated that she gave a very interesting performance, hut to him she did not portray Hardy* s Tess.. He enjoyed her simulation of dumb amazement, fear, and perplexity, hut he thought she failed in her emotion al power. In contrast, Mr. Izard^ believed Mrs. Fiske made her own characterization of Tess, and that her power of repressed emotions was very effective. Although she remained almost motionless, the audience caught the feeling of horror and amazement across the footlights. Edith Wharton said of her performance: "She swept away a mass of super annuated conventions, and in the most direct and simple terms of which dramatic art is capable she gave a superbly living presentment of Hardy's heroine."4 Kenyon Y/est said, she was called: "America's pride,,f "our greatest actress," the "peer of Fuse and ’Bernhardt"--in fact the critics agreed that her interpretation of Tess was one of the highest and most emotional acting given on the American stage. She showed herself to be a master of suggestion, taking account of the repression of emotion as well.5 ^ John Banken Towse, Sixty Years of the Theater (iTew York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,' I9I6T7 PP* 412-416 • ^ Forrest Izard, Heroines of the Modern Stage (Hew York: Sturgis & Walton dompany, 19 15) , "pp• 266-274. 4 Kenyon West, "The Personality and Art of Mrs. Fiske," The Arena, 39:33-44, January, 1908. 5 i M d * » P* 44* In the interval between her production of "Tess of the d ’Urbervilles" and that of "Magda" by Herman Sudermann in 1899, Mrs* Fiske brought to her public a one-act play, "Little Italy," by Horace B. Fry. Despite its brevity, the script, whose scene was laid in a tenament, was a play, "Charged with violence and tropi cal passion. "6 Mr. Towse was of the opinion that Mrs. Fiske impersonated the character of Giulia, the Italian woman, with a great deal of cleverness. He also gave her credit for an excellent "make ups" But in dealing with the elemental emotions of the more melodramatic episodes a relapse into her habitual mannerisms destroyed all illusion. She needed the primeval passion, the gripping sincerity, with which Duse glorified "Santuzza."' However, Horman Hapgood believed her acting was brilliant, and Kenyon West® said her personality be came that of the Italian woman. She was the living, breathing character, and she showed a fine, powerful art. In 1899, Mrs. Fiske produced "Magda" by Hermann Sudermann. Her interpretation of the title role 6 ToWSe, op« SXX* * P* 7 rbid., pp. 416. 423-428. 8 West, op. cit•, pp. 33-44. "bronght dissention among the critics* J. R. Towse^ said her limitations were sharply defined, and she made her character appear rude, arrogant, selfish, and cynical. This was probably due to the fact that she was trying to emphasize the self-confidence and intellectu al freedom of Magda. He did not approve of the in different attitude she showed her parents, of her cynical treatment of the parson. She was successful in the scene where she dismissed Von Keller from the house, for this gave her an opportunity which she v/as equal to meet: But the deeper, inner workings of Magda’s soul-the conflicts in the heart of the woman and mother— she gave little or no indication. Throughout, the manner of Magda was the manner of Tess, of Cesarine, and of Minnie Maddern Riske.1^ The majority of the critics were convinced that she delved deep into the manifold phases of the role and that her bitter scorn and satirical mockery were in character.' She also portrayed Magda’s buoyant and whimsical moods.-**■*■ Mr..West said: Mrs. Piske’s interpretation of the complex emotions of the character far surpassed any in terpretation given in America, before or since.^ ^ Towse, op. cit., p. ^ Loc. cit. 434. 77 Following the production of "Magda11 Mrs, Fiske appeared in Langdon Mitchell*s stage adaptation of "Becky Sharp." The critics were of the opinion it was an impossible play, hut Mrs. Fiske, through the character of Becky, achieved another theatrical triumph. Although Mitchell’s adaptation retained little of Thackeray, it was considered high comedy, "Because it was a true, sharp picture of Becky, sparing nothing, painted by two masters of comic irony, Thackeray and Mrs. Fiske."^3 Mr. Towse was hoping for a part perfectly fitted for Mrs. Fiske, but he was.again disillusioned. He felt she v/as lacking in the main elements of Becky* s character, and 7/as therefore incapable of portraying Thackeray’s Becky Sharp♦ She showed nothing or barely nothing of? The supple hypocrisy, the mo'ck sentiment, the artful coquetry, the ready guile, the sparkle,- the fascination, the venom, and the fury which are conspicious elements in the composition of this complex creature.^4 Mr. Strangle said that, although the drama was colorless throughout its entirety, he had never passed -*-3 W a l t e r Prichard Eaton, "The Theater Mrs. Fiske Knew," Theater Arta Monthly, 16?371, May, 1932. Towse, op. cit♦, p. 435. 15 Lewis C. Strang, Famous Actresses of the Day (Boston? L. C. Page & Company, 1902), pp. 1OT-1X6• 78 a more enjoyable evening at the theater than when he witnessed Mrs, Fiske in "Becky Sharp." He thought her captivating impersonation inspired rhapsodies. She was sympathetic in her understanding of the character, and he had never known insincerity to he shown with such s incerity : Mrs. Fiske never glossed Becky’s failings, Becky’s heartlessness, her selfishness, her flatter ing cajolery of her easy victims, her falseness to every one and everything except herself--yet she never sacrificed Becky’s charm.16 By exciting sympathy, Mrs. Fiske caught the spirit of Thackeray’s Becky--the Becky one wishes to condemn hut cannot. One might expect to find pathos in the character, hut there was little; her Becky was clear pluck and grit all the way. There was an intense dramatic heat in the scene in which she sat before the fire, philosophising, wondering if any one obtained what he wanted in this world, or ever wanted exactly what he received. Later one felt it hover near when Becky faced Rawdon Crawley after her misadventure with Lord Steyne. Although there was not a logical reason for sympathizing with Becky, compassion for her over-balanced the sense of justice and sorrow for .Crawley.-*-^ Ibid., p. Ibid., pp. 115. 112-115. 79 Mrs. Fiske will "be remembered by all who saw her in the role of Becky. Many consider her production of ,!Becky Sharp” one of the high points in the American Theater. She. so completelyidentified herself with the character of Becky that the audiences were moved to a sympathetic understanding of the character. In 1901, Mrs. Fiske played the title r3le in "Miranda of the Balcony," a weak play which did not do justice to her ability as an actress. J. R. Towse again spoke of her limitations in this part, saying: This play has an absurd and inconsistent plot, these can only be justified by the theatrical value of the emotions they occasioned. To the realism of these torturing and diverse emotions Mrs. Fiske1s stereotyped methods were wholly inadequate, but in the less exacting scenes she played with the in telligent intent, if restricted executive ability, manifest in all her work.^-8 Perhaps "Miranda of the Balcony" was a faulty drama, but its production was justified because of its out standing scenic effects. "Mary of Magdala," adapted by Wiliiam Winter, a dramatic play written in poetic verse, gave Mrs. Fiske the opportunity to use her rich voice to the ■*-8 John Ra,nken Towse, Sixty Years of the Theater (Mew York & London: Funk & WaghaTIs Gompany, 1916 p« 414. 80 fullest extent. Mrs. Fiske gave a brilliant interpre tation of Mr. Winter’s conception of Mary. The two countercurrents running throughout the play; the tragic fate of the Master, and the tragedy which overcomes Judas, were poignantly revealed.-1-9 Forrest Izard criticized her performance as being siiperficial and clumsy. He wrote of her, "She lacks the sensuous in her temperament and method, and on the whole she lacked in this part sustained power."20 In 1903, Mrs. Fiske portrayed Hedda in Ibsen’s "Hedda Gabler." The production and her characterization created one of the strangest episodes in the American theater, namely, Mr. William Winter, dean of the American critics, stood in the theater lobby condemning all women who saw this despicable play. The drama itself was an interesting study, but, to many it did not measure up to Ibsen’s former works. In reviewing a revival of "Hedda Gabler" in 1914, H. T. Parker wrote in the Boston Transcripts Mrs. Fiske’s power of ominously significant silence of play, of feature that reveals the working brain behind, rises very high in the final scene with Brack. The price of silence is the submission that Hedda, with all her curiosity and zest for evil, is too Kenyon West, "The Personality and Art of Mrs. Fiske," The Arena, 39:42, January, 1908. 20 Izard, op. cit., p. 274. 81 cowardly to pay. Her only refuge is the manner and cowardly escape of suicide. She does not speak, yet one sees the idea germinate, mount and possess her until it flowers into reckless action. In 1904, f,Leah Kleschna,, by C. M. S. McClellan was produced "by Mrs. Eiske with George Arliss, John Mason, ¥. B. Mack, Charles Cartwright, and Emily Stevens in the cast. The company presented a perfectly balanced com bination of talents. Each actor was given equal oppor tunity to use his individual talent. The result was a production which featured an all star cast without a starring r£le. The theme of trLeah Kleschna" is trivial, and the critics deemed it unworthy of the talents of the company and its star. Langdon Mitchell was fortunate to have Mrs. Eiske play Cynthia Karslake in his MThe Hew York Idea.” Here was a script in which her acting was brilliant, and her capacity to adjust her mood to the fast mov ing tempo was clearly portrayed. In 1907, Mrs. Eiske took wThe Few York Idea” on an extensive tour. The company played in border towns of the Southwest, and in remote villages in Canada. Many towns in which they played had never seen a professional production. 21 rbid. , p. 287. Everywhere the tour 82 was successful: Calgary demanded a return -engagement. At Edmonton the play was given in a rink on an improvished stage, and lasted from eleven o ’clock— the time of the arrival of the "belated train--till two of the early northern dawn. At Glohe, Arizona, the axidience contained hundreds who had come from long distances “by train, stage, or horseback. This tour strengthened Mrs. Eiske’s belief.in the need of a National Theater which would tour throughout the country, bringing dramatic art within the reach of all. Mrs. Eiske’s third Ibsen production was ’’Rosmersholm” in which she played the character Rebecca West. As always the public and the critics differed in opinions. Some believed she was too cold in her love for Rosmersholm, and that she misinterpreted Rebecoa’s ideals. Others thought it to be one of her, ’’Most finished and fascinating portraits•”23 But all agreed that, "In the moments of intense passion she rose superbly to the o c c a s i o n . Next Mrs. Eiske was to offer Edv/ard Sheldon’s ”Salvation Nell,” a product of Harvard’s ”47 Workshop.” In the first act of Mr. Sheldon’s play with its forty Ibid., p. 285. 23 John E. Weber, ”A New York Season of Drama,” The Canadian. 27:11, May, 1906. 24 Eorrest Izard, Heroines of the Modern Stage (New York: Sturgis & Walton Company, Id'15) , pp. 274-281. 83 characters, Mrs.. Fiske dominated the scene through her personality and her acting technique: Mrs. Fiske, as the scrub woman in the "barroom, sat holding her drunken lover’s head in her lap for fully ten minutes without a word, almost with out a motion. Gradually one could watch nothing else; one became absorbed in the silent pathos of that dumb, sitting figure. Miss Mary Garden, her self a distinguished actress, said of this, “Ah, to be able, to do nothing like that.”^5 In the second act Mrs. Fiske faces the real ization that she loves Jim better than the Army; her struggle is shown by, “Her quiet intensity, and her long pauses so poignantly impressive that the audiPA ences can scarce control themselves•“ The third act takes Mrs. Fiske to irresistible heights, when she addresses Jim ini her Salvation Army address. As a whole, the production of “Salvation Hell“ is: One of the most remarkable that the Mew York stage has ever known, because of the fidelity of the details. From Mrs. Fiske down to the children, the players are details, more or less important in this picture drama. Only in the second act did the story dominate the scene.27 “Salvation Hell” was thought by many to be too realistic to meet with public approval, but it proved a triumphant 25 Loc. cit. 26 “The Players,” Everybody’s , 20:418-420, March, 1909. 27 Loc. cit. success and was revived in later years* Her fourth Ibsen role was Lona in "Pillars of Society." Mrs* Fiske. Perfection of production was a passion with In this study of Ibsen, the sketchy role of his heroine came to life in Mrs* Fiske1s hands. As she portrayed Lona Hessel the an honest, humorous person. audience saw Lona as Her work in the second act was a masterpiece of satirical comedy. In the last act, when Lona’s lover confessed to the mob, Mrs* Fiske became an inspired figure* Walter Prichard Eaton described the scenes Mrs. Fiske, as Lona, sat quiet, one of the crowd; but gradually, as she saw the man she loved throwing off his yoke of hypocrisy, the light of a great joy radiated from her face, ending in a stifled .pry, half-sob, half-laugh of triumph, of indescribable poignancy. If an actress can charge the audience with an electrified silence by her facial expressions only, is this not a tribute of the highest order? Surely no other American actress could have accomplished this task. Other plays produced during this period were: "Hester Crewe," "The Queen of Liars," "A Light from St. Agnes," "La Femme de Claude," "Livorgons," 28 Forrest Izard, Heroines of the Modern Stage (Hew York: Sturgis & Walton Company, T3T5 ) , p. £TO* "Hot Guilty," "The White Pink," "A Bit of Old Chelsea," "Frou-Frou," "The Unwelcome Mrs. ftatch," and "Dolce. Perhaps it was gracious of the critics not to dwell upon these plays "because the majority of them did not portray Mrs. Fiske at her "best. Alexander. Woollcott, Mrs.- Fiske...' (lew York: The Century Company, 1917), pp* £25-226. 2 9 CHAPTER VIII FEARING THE FINAL CURTAIN f,I Have retired from the stage hut nohody knows it.11-*- Mrs. Fiske whispered these words to Alexander Woollcott in 1916. The roles of Tess, Fell Hedda, Hannelle, and Becky had taxed her strength. She was retiring from roles such as those and their playwrights, hut she remained in the theater because it was her home— her life. Critics would no longer laud her acting in these r$les with unforgetahle praise. Mrs. Fiske instinctively and surely identified herself with the hest that was awaking in the theater of Europe and America. Her Tess, with it tragic and fateful power; her Becky, wTi h its resourceful and gleaming comedy;' ’her pathetic and enohling Fell, are among the unforgetahle things.2 The roles and plays in which she was to appear during her remaining years, were light, nonsensical, and, worst of all, always trivial. The curtain calls that she was to have for this type of new production were mellowed, gentle calls, hut on occasion the 1 Alexander Woollcott, Mrs. Fiske... (Few York The Century Company, 1917) , p.""' 62. 2 rbid., p. 227. 87 audiences remembered, aware of the true genius she possessed, and responded with its tumultuous applause as they had done in earlier days# Her unusual choice of plays in these last years hrought heavy criticism to Mrs. Fiske. The critics could not understand why she wasted her time on such ordinary plays. Only a few people knew of her self- imposed retirement and they could not "believe it. Until this time the theater and the "best its drama tists could offer had been the first consideration of Minnie Maddern Fltske, now her primary interest became the protection of animals. Years before Mrs. Fiske had expressed her opinion on the artificiality of the theatrical world. In giving advice to young actors, she had stressed the.importance of maintaining an out side the theater interest, in order to obtain a current of new air, a renewal of inspiration. The years proved she was to follow her ot o advice. During her last years she fought as valiantly for the humane treatment of animals as she had for her principles of production. It was never too much trouble for her to pick up a despicable, pitiful mongrel, and drive to the nearest veterinarian where it was cared 88 for until a home could “be found* If Mrs. Fiske saw an animal mistreated hy any individual, she would immed iately intervene with a vigorous tirade. Her consideration for dumb animals was carried to such an extent that she would not wear furs, and pub stated3 they were barbarous decorations which should not-be worn by women. She was the instigator of a campaign by which she hoped to make American women conscious of the tortures endured by animals in order that their skins might enrich women’s clothes. Her plea was: why is it necessary for unprotected animals to suffer torture in order to satisfy the vanity of woman? She carried her campaign into the theater, sponsoring a benefit performance for the humane treat ment of animals. assistance. The entire acting profession lent its Those not in the performance acted as ushers and ticket sellers, while othdr distinguished figures in the theatrical world gave their support from the ’’front of the house.” These were the days in which Mrs. Fiske appeared as Mrs. Bump stead Xeigh in the play of the 3 Minnie Maddern Fiske, ’’What a Deformed Thief This Fashion Is,” The Ladies Home Journal, 38:20-21, September, 1921. 89 same title, "by Harry James Smith. William Winter wrote enthusiastically of her performance: ....She invests "Mrs. Bumpstead Leigh" with authority,amakes it buoyant and gay, and by reason of her personal attributes and her competent art, almost causes its absurdity and impossibility to be forgotten for the moment....In the principal scene, when Mrs. Bumpstead Leightand Peter Swallow are confronted, her assumption of cool audicity and competent nonchalance is perfect. Only an accomplished executant and extremely interesting woman could make.such a preposterous and silly scene effective. In 1912, Mrs. Eiske produced the ,fHigh Road" by Edward Sheldon. In this five act play she portrayed the part of Mary Page, the heroine; a girl of sixteen, a girl of nineteen, a successful woman of thirty-six, and the wife of the candidate for President of the United States. The different ages of the character, combined with the spiritual changes throughout the years, were clearly shown by Mrs. Eiske. The dreams of youth faded into the mature foresight of a middle aged woman as Mary Page successfully conquered the years, and prepared herself to be the wife of a Presidential candidate. "The Bice of the Gods" by Lillian Barrett, a melodramatic tragedy, was: 4 William Winter, "Shadows of the Stage," Harper*s Weekly. 55:19, April 22, 1911. Bearable for only Mrs. Fiske*s presence in it....You are almost persuaded that nothing hut depth of spirit and understanding is needed for acting, so strong is the spell of this remarkable woman and the force of her. idea.^ Faulty breathing, monotonous movements, and inaudible tones shattered the spell for the same critic* Never theless, Mrs* Fiske used her magnetic force, obtain ing remarkable effects of pathos and humor. In her best moments Mrs* Fiske transcends the casual realm of acting by some fine thing she does, imperceptible but unerring, something that appears to proceed, not from the actors craft, but from a kind of mental device, and inner technique*••.In the ramifications of the subtle she shines. From this gift it is that Mrs. Fiske gets her best moments of spring and go, and glancing vitality. Through this gift of hers is the most intelligent comedy on the stage; through it her comedy has imps in it, and her burlesque has style, vim, and sly mentality.^ Among the plays in this final period of Mrs. Fiske*s theatrical career was her production of "Ladies of the Jury" by Fred Ballard. This was a weak, farcicg.1 drama, but Mrs. Fiske moved through "Ladies of the Jury" flaunting her technique, first with "Robust abandon and again with caniving acuteness."*^ 5 Stark Young, "Mrs. Fiske*s Play," The New Republic, 34:243, April 25, 1923. 6 Loc. cit. ? John Hutchens, "Mid-Season Show Shop," Theater Arts Monthly. 14:12, January, 1930. 91 Robert Garland, in M s review of "Ladies of the Jury” in the Hew York Telegram of October 22, 1919, stated: That Great Lady of the Theater, that High Class Low Comedienne, that Grand old Trouper whose name is Mrs. Fiske has returned once more to town. There is something about her which I have never been able to get into words. But it is a very real something which can take a shaky little play such as Mr. Bred Ballard’s MLadies of the Jury" and transform it into a glittering and glamorous evening’s entertainment. She crashes into the play with gusto. She uses her resources. The result is in these days delightful. "Ladies of the Jury" is Mrs. Fiske, first, last, and always. That is why I like it, why I like it, in fact, tr emendou sly.8 Mrs. Fiske, always the supreme comedienne, played the farce with: Tricks which at first glance might seem boisterous, but at second and third glance they are seen to be under perfect control. They are carefully adjusted to the speed of the play and yet they remain on the lighter side of carricature.9 There was little doubt that Mrs. Fiske enjoyed her role. John Mason, Brown wrote in the Hew York Evening Post of 1929, speaking of her: Highly individual manner, not only of elbowing 8 Montrose Moses and John Mason Brown, The American Theater 1752-1934 (Hew York: W* W. Horton <& Company, 1934), "p7 165. ® John Hutchens, "Mid-Season Show Shop,*1 Theater Arts Monthly, 14:12, January, 1930. her own way through the lives and Jostling them to their point, but also of sending them scurrying across the footlights— awakened and ready to nudge us* She startles them into provocation, meaning, and above all into comedy. She startles them be cause she never allows them to startle her, as is the sad habit of so many of the lesser actresses, particularly the younger comediennes. Percy Hammond, dramatic critic of the Hew York Herald Tribune, said her speech was never misunderstood although, at times, it became inarticulate. Mr. John Hutchens said: Her speech may be clipped and abrupt as sentences hurry madly after each other. But it is unfailingly clear and it misses no point. Though she sits in the Jury box, unblinking in apparent seriousness, silences are made alive with the humor enforced by pose and gesture. The nervous tapping with a lorgnette, a sniff of im patience, the edge of exaggeration in her honeyed persuasion. They are mannerisms— weapons that have served before to follow a situation, a line to the furthermost point of its possibilities. And in her use of them, and the contrasting failure or in ability of others to use them, one recognized them as old school technique of constant awareness that not only recognized artifice but leaped at the opportunities it afforded. It is bright, hard work calculated to keep farce going particularly when the play has no sustaining force save hers....It is an assurance that sweeps down on points half made, catches them up and charges them with a new vi tality. So a midly amusing idea, a lady playing havoc with a courtroom proccedlure--becomes suddenly a piece of full blown absurdity. You forget the play. You forget everything at hand. It is acting which, by its very preoccupation with itself, is of the players theater ^ MMrs. Fiske Serves on the Jury,ff Literary Digest, 103:21, November 9, 1921. Hutchens, op. cit., p. 12. 93 On February 15, 1932, Minnie Maddern Fiske took her final curtain call and closed her career on the American stage. "The curiously quiet yet most vibrantly alive"^ Mrs. Fiske stopped her incessant foot tapping. Her life in the theater may be divided into four sections: her appearance as a child star; her girlhood stardom as a second Lotta; her reappearance on the stage as Mrs. Fiske; and her ’retirement from the sta,ge, this last period when she entertained with light comedies. Mrs. Fiske, the American actress, contributed 9 greatly to the upbuilding of the American theater. She brought a new and great dramatist, Henrik Ibsen, to the American public; she popularized the American playwright; she fought for freedom of the theaters un controlled by the Syndicate; she worked earnestly for the building of a national Theater. At every point in the career of Mrs. Fiske she was, above all else, an American actress, one of the first actresses of the American stage to become ^ Laurette Taylor, "The Greatest of These (Hew York: George H. Moran Company, 1918) , TO. " 94 a Doctor of Letters* She contributed inmeasurably to the glory of the American theater, to which she truly gave her life and which, in turn, gave her many honors seldom accorded a woman in the theatrical world* Without formalities, rites, or ceremonies, the body of Mrs* Minnie Maddern Fiske, one of the most beloved figures on the American stage, was cremated on February 18, 1932* Despite the fact that it had been widely announced that therd would be no services, as Mrs* Fiske had wished, and that only three persons, who had been close to her during her .life, would attend the cremation, nearly two hundred men and women lined the sidewalk on Y/est Thirtieth Street in front of the undertaking establishment from which the body was taken. As the hearse drove west on Thirtieth Street.... men on the sidewalk removed their hats and stood with bowred heads. Women, many of whom had appeared with Mrs. Fiske or witnessed performances given by her, were in tears. Only one car followed the hearse, which pro ceeded up Eighth Avenue, a half block from theaters in which Mrs. Fiske had appeared. In the car were Harrison Grey Fiske, husband of the actress; Miss Mae Cox, her companion and associate for years, and Miss Merle Maddern, her cousin. After the cremation the three returned to their homes.^ Mrs. Fiske was to the American theater what Rejane was to France, Ellen Terry to England, and Duse to Italy. She was the very last-of her school, and with her passing the -last great woman disappears from the American stage. For this was absolutely true; that for forty years she held the position of the First American Actress. 'We have had many Hews item in the Hew York Times, February 19, 1932. great people on our stage, "but none of them for so long.^ 14 George Tyler, "Mrs. Fiske: A Tribute from a Manager and a Friend," TTew York- Times, February 21, 193 BIBLIOGRAPHY A*. BOOKS Armstrong, Margaret, Fanny Kemble a Passionate Victorian. Yew York'?--The MacmTlli'an Company, 1938. 385 pp. Arthur, Sir George, Sarah Bernhardt. Garden City & Yew York: DoubleHay, Page & Company, 1923. 178 pp. Atherton, Gertrude, Adventures of a Novelist. Yorks Liveright Company, Inc., 1932. Pp. 474. Yew 450, Brown, Mary, Letters to Mary. Yew York: Random House, 19^50*. ££6 pp. Craig, Edith, and Christopher St . John, Ellen Terry* s Memoirs. Yew York: G. P. Putman’s, T9 3S. “367 pp. Eaton, Walter Prichard, At the Yew Theater and Others. Boston: Small, MaynaFct & Company, 1910. Pp. 162193. Eord, James L . , Forty-Odd Years in the Literary Shop. Yew York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1921. Pp. 187196. Hapgood, Yorman, The,Stage in America 1897-1900. Yew York & London: MacmTTlian & Company, Ltd., 1901. Pp. 321-340. Izard, Forrest, Heroines of the Modern Stage. Yew York: Sturgis & Y/alton Company, 1915. Pp. 265-296. Moses, Montrose J., and John Mason Brown, The American Theater 1752-1934. Yew York: W. W. 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"The Twelve Greatest Women in America," Literary Digest. 74:40, July 8, 1920. Weber, John E. , "A Hew York Season of Drama," The Canadian, 27:11, May, 19t)6. -------, "Plays of the Season," The Canadian. 30:423, March, 1908. West, .Kenyon, "The Personality and Art of Mrs. Fiske," The Arena. 39:33-44, January, 1908. Winter, William, "Shadows of the Stage," Harper*s Weekly, 55:19, April 22, 1911. Woollcott, Alexander, "Mrs. Fiske Builds a Theater in Spain," The Century, 93:909-918, April, 1917. ------, "Mrs. Fiske Goes to the Play," The Century. 94:71-82, May, 1917. .. — . — , "Mrs. Fiske on Ibsen the Popular," The Century. 93:529-538, February, 1917. - - ■ "Mrs. Fiske Punctures the Repertory Idea," The Century, 93:321-332, January, 1916. — ---- — , "Mrs. Fiske to the Actor-In-The-Making," The Century, 93:714-723, March, 1917. _ -- — , "The Story of Mrs. Fiske," Collier*s. 76:5-6, November 7, 1925. — — , "The Story of Mrs. Fiske,” Collier*s, 76:9, Hovember 14, 1925* — , "What the Public Got,” Everybody *s . 44:42-43, June, 1921. — Young, Stark, ”Mrs. Fiske*s Flay,*1 The Hew Republic. 34:243, April 25, 1923. — ■----- , "Mrs. Fiske,” The Hew Republic. 70:71, March 2, 1932. C. FARTS OF SERIES Hornblow, Arthur, History of the Theater in America from its Beginnings to~The Present time, Vol. 2: Philadelphia & London: J. B. Lippincott & Company, 1919. Pp. 234, 280-283, 320, Odell, George C. D. , Annals of the Hew York Stage 1879-1882. Hew York: Columbia University Press. 193$. £p. 475r476, Quinn, Arthur Hobson, A History of the American Drama. Vol. II. Hew York~"& London :“Harper & Brothers, 1927. Pp. 63-67, 86-87, 111, 136, 248. D« PLAYS Ibsen, Henrik, "A Doll's House,” The Collected Works of Henrik Ibsen, Vol. VII. Willi am Archer, editor; Uew York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1917. Pp. 1-185 — --- — , ”Hedda Gabler,” The Collected Works of,Henrik Ibsen, Vol. X* William Archer, editor; Hew York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1917. Pp. 1-156. ■ — , ”Rosmersholm,” The Collected Works of Henrik Ibsen, Vol. IX. WilTiam Archer, editor;T e w York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1917. Pp. 1-164. Mitchell, Langdon, ”The Hew York Idea,” Masterpieces of Modern Drama. John Alexander Pierce, editor; Garden City' & Hew York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1915. Pp. 162-188. E. NEWSPAPERS New York Times, February 17, 1932* — — — — , February 18, 1932. , February 19, 1932. , February 21, 1932. ______„ f M r u a r y 24, 1932. * April 21, 1932.