The Plays of Henry C. De Mille

The Plays of Henry C. De Mille

The Plays of Henry C. De Mille

The Plays of Henry C. De Mille

Excerpt

"Prologues," said David Garrick,

"Prologues, like compliments are loss of time; 'Tis penning bows and making legs in rhyme."

And the introduction to a series of hitherto unpublished plays is not unlike the old prologue to a first performance in the theater, though the present writer hastily disavows poetic intention. The play's the thing, after all, and the world is much more interested, and rightly so, in what has been achieved rather than in how it was achieved or why. The plays are their own excuse for being, and must interpret their own existence. Nevertheless since fashions change and become strange and sometimes incomprehensible to later generations, it may not be amiss to remove certain veils which hamper the vision and obtrude between the thing done and our understanding of it.

When Henry Churchill De Mille came to New York from his North Carolina birthplace, it was with the intention of becoming a clergyman. Somewhere during the process of his further education at Columbia, he decided on a different kind of teaching and, after receiving his A.B. in 1875, took a position at Lockwood Academy, Brooklyn, while he pursued work for his master's degree. This completed, he joined the staff of the Columbia College Grammar School, where he took active part in the writing and production of plays for amateurs. Meanwhile the Madison Square Theatre had been rebuilt by Steele MacKaye, the Frohmans had been engaged as touring and business managers, and in 1882 David Belasco became stage manager. De Mille's abilities having attracted some attention, he was offered and accepted the position of playreader at the Madison Square, and his subsequent career in the theater remained closely tied with these early associates.

At the Madison Square Theatre, De Mille's work burst into feverish activity. He is reported, for example, to have examined two hundred manuscripts in three months, besides assisting in the revision of many of the pieces produced. Nevertheless he found time to write his first play for the professional theater. John Delmer Daughters; or, Duty, a comedy in three acts, was begun in October 1882, and completed after many interruptions in February of the . . .

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