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Lecture on "The National Theatre"


Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, the English playwright, gave a lecture yesterday under the auspices of the Dramatic Club on "The Aims and Duties of a National Theatre."

The best hopes for an American drama lie in the eager curiosity of the people; in our large cosmopolitanism of race and feeling; in the high rewards we are prepared to pay for best examples of any kind of art. Another hopeful sign for the American national drama is the interest taken in it by the leading universities. Mr. Brander Matthew's books have been the soundest and sanest contributions to Anglo-American dramatic literature. In addition to his works there is the splendid and unique work, unique in regard to university teaching, by Professor Baker at this University, Professor Phelps at Yale, and Professor Clark at Chicago. The leavening and fruitful nature of this work is scarcely apparent yet. It will be apparent in years to come, and it cannot fall enormously to influence the future of the American drama and the American theatre, whatever that future may be. These are all most hopeful signs.

How is it proposed to bring the American drama into alliance with American literature? There is no great body of such literature, because there are not at the present moment in our national life those necessary underlying conditions, that prepare the soil. Consequently, for the same reasons we have no national drama. These underlying conditions, however, may come into being within a comparatively short time.

Having searched out the aim and goal of a national theatre, it would be well to run over the duties of such a theatre. The first duty of national theatre is obviously to protect the commercial side of the enterprise until the national theatre and the national drama are so firmly established in popular favor and comprehension as to pay their own way. Another duty is to provide machinery for keeping alive such plays of literary value and artistic workmanship as may not immediately catch the ear of the great public, but which yet have signs of future life and growth in them. Again, it is plainly the duty of a national theatre to give performances of the classical masterpieces of the language. Once more, it is the duty of a national theatre to give revivals of those modern works of the last generation which had a literary quality and which also drew the public. Finally one of the chief duties of a national theatre is to offer a rigorous apprenticeship and training in the fine art of acting: to open a school where all that is best in the technique of acting shall be taught by the best teachers: to insist that no actor shall come upon its boards who has not mastered this technique.

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