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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, October 21, 1900, Image 5

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1900-10-21/ed-1/seq-5/

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i ant Mrs. Drew/ agreed with ma and ws
put on "Slasher; and Crasher," a farce.
When the curtain goes up all* the mem
bers; of -the company are lined . up as
though "; ; the piece ' were concluding, and
this line-up was Just tha thing that I
wanted. There was no demonstration, al
though rethink one man did start to hiss,
at which my heart went pit-a-pat; but
I can never forget how furious tha half
dozen members of the company looked as
they stood there in front of the curtain la
a farce supposed to be funny, every man*
Jack of them with a piece of crape around
his arm, , ±i .
Joined- Mrs. John Drew's Arch-street
Theater " Company, Philadelphia, In 1S54,
and 'I remained i wi{h = her . that . season and'
= the two . following ;l seasons. .. The Arch-
Theater, was then tha leading thea
i ter f of the country after Wallack's In
New •.York. . Wallack's, . the Arch-s treet
Theater,: and the '' Boston = Museum. . were
the ; few . theaters that , had a remarkable
reputation at that time; thatk; ilk© any.
he; regretted dolnp ¦ so ten ; minutes later
because of the powerful acting "of tho
greatest dramatic genius the world has
ever;known.".-I stayed with him as long
as good • manners would ; permit and on
my.departure' was given a cordial "Come
and see me again— in fact, any time you
feel ; like' It." ._ '•¦•f-;'S -.->,,;• rr- :.
vThe night after; Lincoln was shot nearly
every theater in' the country '.was closed, ;
says ¦ Robson. • It is ' Impossible now Tor ',
'thai younger generation toj appreciate: tha
tremendous ¦ feeling .that was < aroused \ by
Booth's dastardly act, but more than oos-
Bible, if '. such! atthing ¦ thera j be, ; for ' tha
younger/ generation ; to' 1 * appreciate , what
I ridiculous precautions \ tha , theatrical , pro
fession \ was obliged to go .; to { in ? order, to
retrleva t ltself.~> I ' had t been playlrij- j. in' 5
Philadelphia for two seasons and 'came tor
be; somewhat fof a \ favorite tanu -• Iniconse
quence appeared in ' nearly, every " perform
ance.' » When'- the >. theater reopened T after
tha funeral : of ! the President : I - went to
that did ¦ more than even the museiims
to bring the religious people to the thea
ter; but not even that very good moral
• drama would have brought them at first.
if ths theater had been called anything
but a museum, or if if had been pro
duced in any other place than under a
tent.
Pin the summer of 1864 I took a small
company to Lancaster, Pa. The short sea
son was not profitable. In fact. 'had It
not been for a kind-hearted landlord, who
not only charged us half price for board
but made up a purse for our benefit, we
would have been forced- , to , walk back to
Philadelphia. One night • we were doing
"The "Golden Farmer," In which I was
playing Jemmy Twitcher, a ragged tramp,
whose professions of honesty, did not pre
vent him • from stealing f eggs, chicken*
and anything- he could lay his hands on s
ThV little theater was; almost, empty
probably twenty people' on the .lower
floor and as many more in ! the gallery.'
Among ' th© scanty audience— seated ' on
the same old gentleman stood before. me.
"Well, sonny," he said, "they,.- didn't
treat you- very well to-night.-i did; they?
Too bad! ..Never* min4; all' player, people.
I hear, have to go through the same'ex
perience. Better luck -will , come I to you
later on. Do you. like the country? I;have
a snug, little place about ; two j miles from
town. Come 'out to-morrow and* sea me. ;
It wlir brighten you ¦ up' a' bit." *l';h •:'- 0 ?+£'{
Of course M gladly, accepted .the Invita
tion. The old gentleman gave me "the lo
cation of hlshouse and, slapping met on
the back most; pleasantly, .took", his ; leave.
Who was he? James Buchanan," ex-Pres
ident of the! United States.' , v
To say, that If was proud of this event
but faintly expresses the fact. The next
day I drew largely.' oh ; the \ company ; In
the matter, of r clothes.:> : James 'A:*Herne
loaned Sme a '.black .-r velvet '¦¦ coat
a little,, too long 'X for V- me' \ In ; the
sleeves 4 and % amply *; liberal ¦ in . the
back; : Louis .. James a . - green' double
breasted vest, and -. j Lawrence.-. 1 Barrett 'a
flaming . red necktie, i Thus "accoutered"
I took the road fbr.Mrv Buchanan'g'house
swelling like a shirt in» a high
wind. I found the ex-President.' lounging
on his front porch;'" wleldlng^the same big
palmleaf fan, for It was a sultry, day.! He
greeted me cordially and introduced'' me
to the : handsomest. woman I have «¦ ever
seen— his niece.i Miss ' Harriet ., Lane. • This
lady' had ; . been ¦¦ the reigning ' mistress - of
, . .. ¦
him, waa one of the hVid'saxneat.-inost
magnetic men I ever came In contact
with. I never knew him very well, as ha
was a man of great reputation, while. I.
• at the time, was a mera tyro. He died :
the season before I joined Mrs. Drew's
company. It was a great pity, for he waa
only 82 years of age. a great actor, and
had a remarkable future before him.
Mrs. Drew was an actress who knew
her business more thoroughly than any
woman I ever met, except Laura Keene.
She commanded universal respect,
though her rather sarcastic vein of hu
mor did not make her many friends. An
example of her idea of humor, and
one that lingered In my mind, especially ,
as It was our last appearance on tha
eta&e together, occurrred when John
Wilkes Booth came to the Arch-street
Theater to appear as a star. He had risen
very suJdenlv, his previous appearance
in Philadelphia having been in a very un
important role, and lira. Drew did not
take very kindly to the idea of hi* com-'
ing to her theater and appearing In a
leading role. Like all of us Booth had
the greatest respect and fear for Mrs.
Drew, and she would rattle htm by pre
tending to look to him for advice and
suggestions as to what to do during re-;
hearsals.
"Where do you want me to stand. Mr,
Booth?" she would say, very sweetly.*
"Why-er, where-er-ever you have been,
accustomed to, Mrs. DTew," he would
say. somewhat abashed.
"Mr. Foirest used to want me to stand
here, but not all great actors agree, Mr.
Booth," very sweetly,
"Wellj you might—— *
"A— a. and If yon "
"Yes, yes. yes, yes "
At this point Mr. Booth became- entirely'
rattled by her sweet yeses, began to stut
ter, got excited and broke down com
pletely.
Laura Keene. with whom I appeared la
ISS2-&5, was one of the mo3t intelligent
women I ever met, and yet*her most pro
nounced characteristic waa one which is
generally associated with ignorance* She.
was euperstitious to an absurd degree.
8he never allowed her actors to take hold
of a chair with the right hand. To study
a part on Sunday was a crime. To carry
an umbrella with a hook handle meant
Immediate discharge to the offender. Tha
sight of a bottle of red Ink was enough to ,
frighten her for a week. She said the us*>
of it was almost certain to precede soma
awful trouble.' On one occasion we were
playing a farce called "The Lady and tha
Devil." An Important scene was whera.
. she was seated at a writing table prepar- '
. atory to writing a letter. I. as her ser- 1
van t, was standing at the back of her
chair. '.Take your right hand away from
the chair," she said. In a stage whisper.
This rattled m« a trifle. Ths stago dia
logue proceeded.
"You are sure you can find Don Rafael
at his lodgings?" •¦ .
"Yes, madam; his servant tells mi his
wound will confine him to his bed for a
week." •
"Is this the only paper we have? Wfcera
Is the ink?"
"Here, madam," and I bent forward to
place the ink urn within her reach, when
in confusion at her reproof the vessel was
upset and the contents trickled Into the
lap of her white satin dress. The Ink was
blood-red. The ghastly look that came
over the lady's face I shall never forget,
and I was so frightened that I never knew
how the scene ended. The next mornlnsr
at rehearsal she told me I would never
have any luck as long as I lived, and that
my trouble In the world beyond would ba
endless. She called the company together.
gave them a detailed account of the
"awful scene of the night before, occa
sioned by the stupidity o'f the young man
who would never make an actor." She*
told of a terrible dream she had had. In
which some great personage — to her un
known—had been foully murdered before
her eyes; how she had attempted his res
cue, but without avail; how he had fallen
dead at her feet, hl3 head resting on her'
lap while his life's blood slowly oozed
away.
" Two years after this occurrence to a
day Miss Keene waa playing at Ford's
Theater. ."Washington. In the third act of
the play a sharp shot was heard In tha
stage box, from which a man leaped
brandishing a smoking weapon and shout-
Ing "Sic semper tyrannis!" The audierce
and ¦ the actors were paralyzed. Miss
Keene 'was the only person who seamed
to realize the situation. .. She ran to the
box, and in a moment the head of a dying
man .was. In her lap, the red Ufa's blood
oozing from a ghastly wound. The assas
sin • was my old boyhood's friend. John
Wilkes Booth; his victim Abraham Lin
coln, President of. the United States.
three miles outside of the town we were
to play we would put on our fine clothes,
get Into carriages and be driven 'in. It
was "Uncle Tom's Cabin," by the way,
the front bench— was an old gentleman in
a light linen duster, no vest and a pro
fusion of shirt frill, who laughed Immod
erately at the crude efforts of the come
dian while he cooled himself by the
wielding of an enormous palmleaf fan.
The performance over I retired to my
dressing-room feeling rather gloomy over
the shastliness , of the h-jase. when the
floor was opened without ceremony and
In these days, says Stuart Robeon. a
traveling- company had an unlimited rep
ertoire; a few there were with but one
pity, like "Uncle Tom's Cabin." But the
ambitious ycungr actor preferred the
repertolr*. Durisg the latter part of the
eeasen I Joined one of these "Uncle Tom's
Cab!n" companies, and a curious affair i|
The following are a few of his'
recollections of famous players he,
has met who are now numbered
among "those who have gone be-.
fore." These stories have not only
a passing interest, but a historical
significance as well.
known many prominent peo
ple. His experiences have been as
varied end interesting as those of
any one connected zvith the theatri
cal profession. Moreover, he has
a most entertaining way of telling
a ttory, and he always has a good'
one left up his sleeve that is better
even than the one before. ¦ •[
C^TUART ROBSON is an
actor who has lived long and
was. It was conducted after the manner
of a circus. We had a large tent and a
big: band wagon, and all the members of
the company vror# dress suits. Two or
the White House during his term of of
fice. He showed me around his grounds,
laughed at my feeble attempts to enter
tain him with the lean jokes then current
In the theater, told me of the great actors
he had seen, how he had helped to hiss
Edmund Keene from the stage of a Phil
adelphia theater on - account of an in
sulting speech he had made about Amer
ica the previous week In Boston, and how
Mrs. Drew, the managress, and said that
I desired whatever I appeared in that
night I should be "discovered"— that is.
when tha curtain went up I should be on
the stage with somebody else. It waj
rather generally known that I was a
Southerner, that I had lost several broth
ers In the war. and I feared II I should
come on alone there would be a demon
stration which would be far from pleas-
thing that we have to-daj*. Thesa thea
ters were. In their -way. Institutions. They
all had stock companies, but well-known
stars would come and play, supported by
the theater's own company. At the Arch
street we had more stock playing than
stars. Mrs. Drew herself did not play
very much, but she -was always In evi
dence as stage director. Her husband,
the srrea: John Drew, as we" used to call
the jSUNday ;ca:lx.
STUART ROBSON'S MEMORIES OF EARLY DAY
STAGE FOLK
5
When He Appeared
in "Uncle Tom's
Cabin."
A- Peculiar Meeting
.With James Bu
chanan.
Night After : Day :of
Abraham Lincoln's
Funeral.
firs. John Drew Hade
John Wilkes Booth
; Stutter.
Laura Keene's Fright
ful Dream That
Came True.

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