From the Pit
Punch and Judy
The longest split-week in Harvard's theatrical history is beginning to suffer from a glut of empty seats. Like Benny and Allen, the Harvard Dramatic Club and the Veteran's Theatre Workshop seem to think there's nothing like a feud to fill the stands. The stunt is wearing thin, though, and readers of the daily communiques are beginning to wonder why both groups don't fold their flats and silently steal away to squabble in a small, warm, soundproofed room.
Name-calling is only the logical end of what has been brewing since the cloudy October morning a year ago when the VTW popped full-grown from the skulls of its progenitors. It all started when a galaxy of eager veterans poured back into the Dramatic Club roster last fall, ready for action but not for what they called a "tightly-knit social organization." The older men, among them pre-war HD members, set up their own "veterans' workshop" producing unit, chose a play, and were promptly read out of the club for "insubordination" by the insulted hierarchy. Pulling into their own back-yard, the veterans decided to carry the ball alone.
They ran into a mud wall with the play they had chosen--Gerhardi's "I Was a King in Babylon." The Dramatic Club didn't exactly tear down the goal-posts with its fig-leaved presentation of "Adam the Creator," either, but the competition hadn't really begun in those early days--the two groups even offered each other helpful hints from time to time. It wasn't until the heady aroma of "Saint Joan" began to fill the local columns and airwaves that the HD worries began.
"Saint Joan" publicized and played its way into the biggest hit in Harvard history. Its gross $5000 take smothered the simple if effective rival offering, "Waiting for Lefty," into a dusty corner, and the failure of a last-ditch HDC presentation of "Juno and the Paycock" didn't add any blue stars for prestige to that side of the ledger. Fat with its "Joan" power and profits, the Theatre Workshop bounded into 1947-48 like a herd of swollen gazelles.
The season this year began with a merger offer by the VTW--an offer contingent on the acceptance of "Henry IV, Part One," already cast and planned by the vets, as the first production of the combined group. After a flurry of conflicting statements; in the course of which the two clubs never actually got together for a discussion, the Dramatic Club spurned the proposal. The primary official reason for the turn-down was that HD wants to continue working on "experimental drama;" but lbsen is hardly that, and the real cause seems to be pride in the organization's name and history.
It looks as though the struggle goes on for at least another half-year. In the opposing lineups the Theatre Workshop seems to rate the edge for a power struggle. The Veterans outnumber the HDC in total active membership and particularly in the number of stellar performers they seem able to attract. They also seem to have a consistent monopoly on ambition, with their tackling of the scenic and casting problems of "Joan" and "Henry" as opposed to the Dramatic Club's sketchy "Lefty" and proposed bare-stage production of "Enemy of the People." On the other side of the line the HDC wields its name and a store of home-owned lighting equipment.
The pressure for merger is not on now--and won't be until enrollment and talent and money start to shrink to their normal levels. The real struggle for existence--or perhaps a quiet amalgamation--will come then.