The Heart of Maryland and Other Plays

The Heart of Maryland and Other Plays

The Heart of Maryland and Other Plays

The Heart of Maryland and Other Plays

Excerpt

David Belasco (1853-1931) is, and for a considerable time will remain, an intriguing figure to the student of American drama. His life was colorful and in some respects enigmatical; his contributions to the technique of theatrical production were numerous and influential; his work as a playwright offers to the historian a bewildering mélange of originality, collaboration and adaptation.

Born in San Francisco of Jewish parents who had migrated to the West Coast of America from England, but whose origin was Portuguese, he was educated in a monastery at Victoria, B.C., and at the Lincoln Grammar School in San Francisco. The monastic influence remained with him throughout his life, and extended even to the manner of his dress.

From a very early age Belasco manifested a feverish love of the theater. On occasion he played small parts in professional productions, and he composed plays of his own which he directed and in which he acted. His first play, Jim Black; or, the Regulator's Revenge, he wrote at the age of twelve.

By 1873 he had won himself a position as assistant stage manager at the Metropolitan Theatre, San Francisco, and later in the same year he filled a similar engagement in Virginia City, Nev., where he met the versatile Dion Boucicault and became his secretary. From Boucicault he learned many secrets of acting, staging and playwriting.

Refusing an offer to continue as Boucicault's secretary, Belasco resumed his career in San Francisco, and in 1874 became assistant stage manager and actor at Maguire's New Theatre. Here he was associated with James A. Herne, and that association was continued with the opening of the Baldwin Theatre in 1876, where Herne was titular stage manager, but Belasco stage manager in fact.

Eager for success in the East, Belasco made a trip to New York in 1881, carrying with him the manuscript of La Belle Russe, which he hoped to sell to Lester Wallack. Obstacles arose which prevented the deal going through as Belasco had planned, and, although the play eventually came into Wallack's hands, Belasco felt discouraged and returned to San Francisco for another season at the Baldwin Theatre. New York, however, continued to attract him, and in 1882 he travelled East with the Gustave Frohman Dramatic Company, playing en route, and in the autumn obtained through the . . .

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