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Presenting "The Patriarch," a play written by Boyd Smith, Professor George Pierce Baker '87 formally opened the new Yale University Theatre last week.
The gift of E. S. Harkness, the new Theatre is the principal adjunct to the activities of the Workshop, transferred a few years ago from the University to Yale. The following article describing the theatre and Professor Baker's work at Yale was written by J. J. Rorlmer '27, a former member of the Workshop who attended last week's performance.
We are just back from New Haven where we have seen the dreams that we hoped for Harvard realised of a sister institution. We did not go to hold a post-mortem, but to see the new spirit which has been breathed into an already live undertaking. The papers have told us of the hopes that Professor George Pierce Baker '87, but recently of Harvard and now Director of Dramatic Art at Yale, had for the art of the stage and the fostering of the higher ideals of dramatic art in our academic environment. During Mr. Baker's leave of absence for a year many enthusiastic Harvard undergraduates, graduates and friends waited in suspense. Was there a place for a school of drama in an academic, university center, or were the arts of the theatre too commercial and were they alone meant for Broadways?
University Missed Chance.
Time passed; there seemed little hope that the 47 Workshop was going to have the facilities which the advantages of modern stagecraft afford. Then came the calm at one of the least hopeful moments in the storm. Professor Baker had accepted, now that Harvard would not or could not furnish him with an equipment, an extremely generous offer from Yale. The funds and plans were arranged: Yale, Mr. Harkness and Professor Baker had announced their mutual willingnes to cooperate in a plan which for almost fourteen years had been the hope and goal of many American people--devotees of the drama. The University had missed what many of us considered a golden opportunity in the fulfilling of her obligations as our oldest University. The drama was one of the first of the arts; the culture and erudition of all ages had contributed to her glories. Mr. Baker had worked for years to accomplish in this field what Harvard has been able to do in so many of the liberal arts, and give to the teaching of play-writing and the allied branches of the theatre the needed university sanction and background. Not only were the cramped quarters of Massachusetts Hall and the inappropriate Agassiz stage entirely disproportionate to the work which was being done, but completely inconsistent with Harvard traditions. But this is not the time to conjecture why Yale could offer more in this direction than we, nor to bewail the loss of a splendid institution. It is for us to recognize an accomplished fact, and to be supremely happy that a movement which many of us cherished so highly is to have new life and added vigour.
On Saturday night the Harvard workshop, those who had written and acted, as well as the "nervous system" of the Shop, the stage workers and designers, the invited audience of old 47 days invaded New Haven with purely academic and scholastic interest. We came for a grand reunion, to see friends and fellow-enthusiasts of some years ago, but especially to show Mr. Baker and Yale how pleased we were to see what we had worked and hoped for put into practice.
Play to Run in New York.
When the Workshop commenced last year, there were but four people to form the audience; by the end of the year more than three hundred were active followers of the temporary 47 Workshop. For the five opening performances on Friday, Saturday and Monday over five thousand people from the theatre and interested world at large were invited. The "Patriarch," a West Virginia mountain tragedy, by Boyd M. Smith, who was with Professor Baker at Harvard, was chosen for the opening; and although this is not the place for a discussion of the play, it is pleasing to note that it was bought for New York production at the end of the second act on the first night of performance.
The new Yale University Theatre is completed at about the same time that Harvard Square has welcomed the opening of its commercial "University Theatre" for moving picture display; while our organizations, the Dramatic Club, the Circle Francais and others, will have to continue their functions in Brattle Hall, Agassiz House and at other even less dignified places.
Theatre Equipment Extensive.
Yale has a perfect equipment with a great theatre and a magnificently appointed stage, dressing rooms, rehearsal halls, property room, dye room, carpentry shop and all the rest; while there are classrooms and libraries and study rooms where the many courses on stagecraft and writing are conducted. The elaborate lighting switches, the large stage under the main auditorium where experimental work may be conducted on a large scale, the main stage with a loft of 75 feet and a depth of 80 feet, and the signal system for calling the actors and directing the production are among the many conveniences which the new Yale theatre affords. While Harvard has given up her great opportunity for a complete theatrical system which she herself started, is it not to be hoped that in the same breath with which we congratulate Yale on her success, that we hope that Harvard will some day sponsor a good theatre for dramatic performances?
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