The Dramatic Club is facing a trial of strength in the production of "Napoleon Intrudes" next week. Upon the success or failure of this new play may well depend the continued existence of the Club itself. If the Dramatic Club can prove itself financially and artistically it will have gained a new lease on life and will have re-established itself upon a solid basis. At the present time everything favors success.
The Club now has the advantage of an adequate theatre; it is producing for the first time in this country the play of a well-known German playwright, and the production has secured the interest and support of the professional theatre. Under these favorable conditions the Dramatic Club must stand for criticism wholly on the basis of its own merit, having no alibis to put forward should the play be a failure.
The failure of the Cambridge School of the Drama has left the Dramatic Club alone in the field and its continuation is necessary if Harvard is to have any means of dramatic expression. Every university should have an experimental theatre where academic ideals and knowledge can have practical expression. The Fine Arts Department already has recognized the principle that practice gives meaning to theory. This principle should be extended to the other arts. The great centers of the drama tradition have not been the classrooms, but the theatres.
Harvard needs a theatre, not dependent on the box office, where dramatic art can be studied first hand and as a whole. This theatre should not be limited to the production of new plays or to those oddities which have been outside the scope of Broadway. In this new theatre the great plays of every age, the Greek tragedies, the French classics, the Elizabethan drama, should find modern expression.
The ideal of such a theatre would not be vocational, although the training of actors and actresses might result. Its aim would be twofold: to teach the art of the theatre and to give men personal experiences of the greatest dramatic literature. It is too often forgotten that the theatre is in itself an art similar to that of painting or music and it is also forgotten that real education is a process of inner experience. The theatre is the natural field of dramatic experience.
There is no reason why concentration in the theatre could not be offered within the general field of English for such a study of the traditional drama as one of the greatest of the humanities would be real and powerful education. The Dramatic Club is far from this ideal at the present time. But there is no reason why it should not serve as the nucleus for such a group. If it can prove itself in "Napoleon Intrudes" it might well come to fill the position vacated by the Cambridge School of the Drama and eventually it might become such a real channel of education as has been described.