CHILD ACTORS WARM TO THEIR MARK TWAIN
An Eye at Every Peek Hole and an Ear at Every Crack as He Speaks.
HE TELLS GOOD NEWS, TOO
Bigger Theatre and New Directors for the Children's Educational Play Acting -- Society Gives Aid.
"Say, didn't youse ever see an automobile before?"
This in most scornful tones last night from the larger boys in the crowd outside the Children's Theatre of the Educational Alliance, at Jefferson Street and East Broadway. It was announced that "Mark Twain" was to speak at the evening's performance, and society, with its motor cars descended upon the Children's Theatre, so naturally all the curious small boys in the neighborhood swarmed around.
To be sure, society didn't arrive till the first play, "Editha's Burglar,"was well under way, and the regular patrons of the theatre who save their few pennies desperately to go there, were thrilling with admiration for the tiny Editha.
"Say! Ain't she the cute one? Oh! She'll have that boiglar fooled," they murmured to each other as Society walked down the aisles.
The curtain fell on the first play, and they "got busy" behind, according to stag managerial directions. The child actors retired to the dressing rooms, while the youthful stage hands did their work. The assistant property man stowed away safely the auto horn with which he had announced the arrival of Editha's papa, and took a hand at the lashing. As the scenery was rushed hither and thither, just like the "real behind the scenes," except for the conspicuous absence of profanity, there were many officious calls of "Sh-sh! Silence, there!" for the children's orchestra was playing Mozart's "Magic Flute" music between acts, and the artists behind respected their fellow-workers in front. All of a sudden a small girl at one side of the curtain called out:
"That's him, there he comes."
"Him" was Mark Twain, taking his place before the curtain to make his speech.
At the call, the stage hands stopped shifting, the property men came running out with a vase in each hand, and out swarmed the actors from the dressing rooms. Those from the first play had their make-up only half off, and those who were to be in the coming play had not yet developed sufficient "temperament" to object to being disturbed before going on to play their roles. One and all, the entire staff of the Children's Theatre, ranged itself behind the curtains, with an eye at every possible peep hole, and an ear at every crack. At the furthest left hand edge sat "Mrs. Whitmore" taking down the speech.
"I'm going to have every word he says, every word," she declared.
Meanwhile, quite unaware of this enthusiastic devotion behind the curtain, Mark Twain was making his speech to the audience in front. In opening, Mr. Clemens called attention to the playing by the children's orchestra.
"We have all home talent here, he said.
"We," sniffed a girl flippantly.
"Silence, Becky!" answered the dressing room mistress severely. However he is regarded elsewhere the children at the Educational Alliance take Mark Twain seriously.
Mr. Clemens made only a short address, pointing out the need for a children's theatre to supply the demand for amusement, and to give amusement of the right kind. He asserted that the work was entirely educational, and that the boys and girls training for the plays knew their Shakespeare far better than many Broadway audiences. [Sotto voce applause from the actors, with their ears against the curtain.] Of the hundreds of children in the classes of "Speech and Action" only three, Mr. Clemens said, had developed any desire to take up acting as a profession.
Then Mr. Clemens announced the news of the evening. After July 1 the Educational Theatre for Children will enter upon an independent existence, under a different Board of Directors. The Honorary President of the board is Mr. Clemens himself, and he said he took great pride in the choice as he understood that the children themselves had some voice in that election. [Emphatic nods of approval from all the assembled theatre staff.] The other Directors are Robert Collier of Collier's Weekly, the Rev. Percy Stickney Grant, and President Stanley Hall of Clarke University. Under this new direction a larger building will be erected to give more seating room at the theatre and to provide schoolrooms for the accompanying class work.
The speech was over, with great applause in front, but that was nothing compared with the joyous war dance behind, in which all joined to the chant: "oh, we're to have the new theatre." Then the stag manager called: "Hey there! All ready!" The actors fled, the scene shifters stood at attention, the light man gathered up his blue bulbs, and all was order once more. But they crowded around the girl in the corner, who had been taking notes.
"Did you get it all down--every word he said?" they demanded as the curtain went up on " 'Op-o'-me-Thumb," the second play of the evening.
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