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ESTABLISH SCHOOL OF DRAMATIC ART IS PLEA OF ESSAYIST IN CRIMSON CONTEST

Drama No Less Worthy of Place on Curriculum Than Business, Law, or Medicine

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

The preamble of a well known document once affirmed that man was entitled to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' That was a new idea. After a while it became pretty widely accepted. But an examination of a few cross sections of our twentieth century tends to the conclusion that our famous preamble should be changed to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of business.'

The country teems with college business schools, extension business schools, correspondence schools, all waiting to snatch up the young man and turn him into a rythmic accounting machine, and then feed him as so much raw material into the steel factories, the aluminum factories, the 'widget factories', and the stool chairs of commercial life. Fond Fathers instruct sons to eat and be merry in their gay college years for there is serious business ahead.

It is the old complaint of Wordsworth.

"The world is too much with us; late and soon.

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:--"

One finds the four walls of an office are considered as life realized to the fullest extent. It is a sad commentary when Harvard, a university which has been the great leader of education succumbs to the tune of millions for a business school but not one cent for a school of the drama.

Dramatic Schools Necessary

The objection is not to the business school but to the proportion. This is a strenuous age, an age of science, and business schools are necessary. But all the more must we have our schools of the drama. Humanity cannot listen to the steam whistle continuously.

Someday we shall pause to wonder what all the big rush is about anyway. People will realize that happiness is after all the end of human existence. And then perhaps someone will ask, "Which contributes more to human happiness, a widget, or a great drama?"

A prominent man lecturing recently before a group of Harvard men said, "The drama is the greatest thing in the world." He was enthusiastic but was he greatly mistaken?

Theatre Mirror of Life

Drama is the revelation of the potentialities of every man. The theatre is a great mirror of life. All creative activities extend human consciousness, and enlarge human power. But there is this difference. A chemist or an engineer may remain ignorant in other departments of knowledge. The function of drama is to bring the infinite variety of the living world into convenient compass for observation. To increase knowledge of humanity is to enlarge humanity.

A good play is like a visit to the seashore. It takes John Jones out of himself while he cries and laughs at 'Cyrano de Bergerac', and it leaves him a finer man. His soul is purged and life does not seem quite so mean as it did before. His warped mental vista has been straightened out.

The world is richer by one fresh group of emotions or ideas by the one man more aware of what goes on within and about him.

Technique Can Be Taught

Once I sat in the gallery while a great tragedy was being performed. A shabbily dressed man next to me was carried away with the play to such an extent that when the villian raised his dagger, he cried "Look out." That was the triumph of illusion--and the theatre. Perhaps a mortgage hovered over that man's house, but for two hours he laughed and cried. He had touched the grand fact of human life, that at bottom, all men are one.

Suppose Harvard should concede the importance of the drama in the scheme of things. At once we should hear the old one that men are born dramatists and cannot be taught.

True. It is quite impossible to put art up in pills and administer it to eager young pupils. But a school of the drama is concerned with technique. Technique is a means toward expression. Technique is simply how best to do it. If countless ages of men have done a thing before, and if hundreds of those men have done it supremely well, is it not reasonable to suppose that there is a great deal to be learnt from a study of how those men have done it.

Should Have School of Acting

The logic of the cause pleads for the establishment of a comprehensive graduate school of dramatic art.

Which brings me to a suggestion which will be denounced by many as radical simply because it is an innovation. Certainly the suggestion is no more radical than was the founding some years ago of a college course of playwriting.

Why not correlate with the school of playwriting a school of acting?

If Harvard University be willing to fit men for positions as lawyers, doctors, architects, and what not, can it on a basis of equity refuse to prepare men for the stage?

Does not an actor contribute as much to the needs of mankind as the expert manager of a tack factory?

We assume that the drama is recognized as an invaluable adjunct to society and such an assumption is a tacit admission of the importance of the actor. For without the actor there can be no play. And without capable interpretation by the actor the play loses its effect, and, thereby, whatever justification it had for its existence. And capable interpretation, just like playwriting, is partly a matter of genius, and partly a matter of training. The numerous schools of acting now existent in New York are a distinct admission of this fact by a supercilious Broadway which has scoffed at college courses in playwriting.

Would Have Influence on Drama

It would seem that only blue stocking prejudice could turn a deaf ear to the wonderful possibilities of such a step. That same blue stocking prejudice has been responsible for whatever has been bad in the history of the theatre. The bigoted attitude which has looked upon a stage career as the shortest route to the everlasting bonfire has foatered immorality and low standards.

It is time we were getting closer to the stage and making it our own. When we come to see the theatre in the light of an institution of the people, by the people, and for the people, then we may expect the era of the great American drama.

The founding of a Harvard graduate school of actors, as a recognition of the profession, would be the inception of a movement of profound cultural influence on America.

Surely this is not asking too much of a University which has always been known as the cultural leader of the country. It is a cause backed by a host of Harvard graduates, who have many times before offered to endow such a school. A word from the University is sufficient to set in motion a drive which would very quickly give us a fine experimental theatre where student actors should interpret the plays by student authors, an experimental theatre which would be a glorious testimony to the breadth of vision of Harvard University.

"If Harvard University be willing to fit men for positions as lawyers, doctors, architects, and what not, can it on a basis of equity refuse to prepare men for the stage?"

"Does not an actor contribute as much to the needs of mankind as the expert manager of a tack factory?"

"The founding of a Harvard Graduate School of Actors, as a recognition of the profession, would be the inception of a movement of profound cultural influence on America."

These quotations are taken from the essay, printed herewith, submitted in the Crimson prize essay contest for the United States Lines Tour this summer. Other selected essays will be printed from time to time.

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