Monday, December 27, 2004

Grassroots Action

From the plus ca change... file: the 1901 hit play Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, written by Clyde Fitch, features a longish if pointless scene about the members of a society called the "Anti-French Literature League," who have gathered signatures to shut down a production they don't like. Granted, the play takes place in the 1870s, and the production is of La Traviata (the heroine's an opera singer), but otherwise, it could be one of those field pieces from The Daily Show where some fringe organization is protesting some movie or TV show... here's an excerpt from the exchange between group leader Mrs. Stonington, and the heroine, Aurelia (a young Ethel Barrymore):

MRS. STONINGTON: It is stated in the papers that you intend to make your debutt in a piece called Traviatter, which, I am given to understand by a number of the members of our League who have read the book, is the French drammer, La Dame aux Camelias.

AURELIA: The papers and the League members are quite right.

MRS. STONINGTON: I am told the heroine is a -- young person -- no better than she should be, in fact not so good... We want to ask you to make your debutt in some other opera. And we have here a petition to that effect, signed by over six hundred women and school children of Harlem, Brooklyn, and Jersey City -- oh yes, and Williamsburg.

Handing to AURELIA the paper.

AURELIA: THank you so much! What a splendid advertisement!

MRS. STONINGTON: We heard your voice was most beautiful, and a great many of us want to hear you who couldn't go to that opera.

AURELIA: But do you know, when you come right down to the stories of the opera, I don't think there's much choice between them.

MRS. STONINGTON: Oh dear me, yes!

AURELIA: Well, what one would you propose?

MRS. STONINGTON (triumphantly): Faust!

MISS MERRIAM looks transported as she recalls the angels of the final scene.

AURELIA: Oh, but that isn't a goody-goody story by any means!

MRS. STONINGTON: My dear! It's a sweet opera! I remember the beautiful tableau, like the death of little Eva, at the end... the story is so pure.

AURELIA: But do you know what happens between the second and third acts?

MRS. STONINGTON: ...Faust and Marguerite get married.

AURELIA: No, they don't; that's the trouble.

MRS. STONINGTON (staggered): What!!!

AURELIA: They didn't!

MRS. STONINGTON: Bless my soul!...

MISS MERRIAM again pulls MRS. STONINGTON's elbow and motions.

MRS. STONINGTON: You dear thing, how like you!
She wants to know why you don't make your debutt in oratorier. Come along now, do!... The women of America ask you to sing in oratorier!

AURELIA: I'll tell you what I'll do; I'm willing if you can persuade my manager; you see, really, these things are entirely in the hands of Mr. Mapleson.

MRS. STONINGTON: We'll see him at once.

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