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Newspaper Page Text
A CLERGYMAN TURNS ACTOR
F'REVE'RICK. A. WILMOT
humdrum of parish life bored me stiff."
That is the real why, the real wherefore of the transformation
• of Frederick A. Wilmot from parson to actor, from "Reverend" to Astrol
oger Royal to the Empress of China. That is the real reason for his
' strange change of activity from the Church of the Divine Paternity at
Seventy-sixth street and Central Park West to the Century Theatre, New
"Why should I devote my life to becoming a fair preacher when all
my inclinations point to my becoming a good actor?"
That is the question he put to himself after a year in the pulpit, and
his answer is found in his appearance eight times each week in three
roles—gardener, mandarin, interpreter of dreams —in Pierre Loti's great
For two months before he handed his resignation to hfs pastor, the
Rev. Dr. Frank Oliver Hall, last summer, he had the step in mind. He
had been in touch with Belasco and Liebler, and when the time came
'be was simply fortunate in finding a part at once.
Let whosoever will criticise, he is convinced he has made no mis
take, sure his field is the drama, not the ministry. He professes no |
- — •
belief that from behind the footlights he Iβ going to preach to larger
congregations; he puts full responsibility upon his own inclinations.
"Making ministerial calls is far more a hardship to me than putting
on grease paint and fantastic costumes," he says.
Born in Boston, twenty-live years old, a graduate of Harvard and
of Tufts Divinity School, he entered the ministry In rAponee to a "call"
that had no deeper foundation than the suggestion of the Rev. S. H.
Roblin, In -whose church, the Second Universalist of Boston, he had been
active in young people's work. Hβ gave it up when sober thought con
vinced him his real "call" was to the theatre.
"I simply found that acting held more appeal to me, that my leaning
was toward the stage rather than the pulpit."
Of his alms, his hopes, he is mum. But perhaps his ambitions may
be read between the lines of his establishment at Harvard of an annual
prize of $100 for the best thirty-minute playlet -written by a student.
"We hare* no serious little plays," he explains. "And I myself may
find something among the prize offerings that will give me the eort of
thing I want."
In his dressing room at the Century, while he made up as a slant
eyed Oriental, he talked of his unusual change of professions.
"Some peoiple like to (preach, to give other people advice. I dont.
I ibelieve I can do more effective work by delivering my eermons through
the emotions. In our Puritanical church- the emotions have been too
long repressed. If the church would develop the emotional aide of Its
young people by acting its accomplishments would be increasinglj
greater, i'or morality comes from the development of the emotions. It
the emotions are never developed there can never be proper conception
of right and wrong.
"Preaching is work for a man of mature years. It lg ridiculous for
a young man to foe preaching about life when he knows nothing of life.
Not that I would disparage the church or the ministry. I attend Dr.
Hall's church regularly; I am interested in the work; there is no reason
why I could not go back actively to it. Dr. Hall understands and agrees
with me that I should have left as I did. He's a brick—one of the finest
and squarest men alive. The people at the church have been very kind.
And I don't feel a tit the culprit, in spite of what seems a growing con
viction, even in the liberal Universalist Church, that all who aren't in
the church are damned.
I have been Interested in the stage and the drama for years. My
mother was on the stage. My college work was all aimed toward the
stage. I was in the D. U. theatricals when I was in Harvard. I put on
'Ingomar,' 'The Rivals' and twenty-five or thirty other plays for the
church in Boston. Last year in New York I managed a production of
'Burglars All , for a cafe chantant at the Plaza. I directed two plays
for Dr. Hall'fi church.
"My whole leaning ie more toward the stage than the ministry. And
if a man is turning out wooden spools when hi? bent it toward making
shoes the world has lost a good shoemaker, and the sooner the man finds
it out the better for him and for the world.
"I was never ordained in the ministry because I always felt there
might /be some slip-up. But I spent a year in the church, and certainly
a man should know what's what in a year.
"The other day I had luncheon with Dr. Steffianson, the Arctic ex
plorer. He studied for the ministry at Harvard. To him; I said:
'You and I both entered the ministry. You are a great explorer. lam
an actor. If divinity echools can produce good Arctic explorers and
good actors they have not lived in vain."
mot as he ap
pears in the