Behind the Scenes with Edwin Booth

By Katherine Molony Goodale | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE SAN FRANCISCO FIRE BOY

IN those boyhood struggle days in California, when indigestion was incomprehensible, when something good to eat was more hope than custom, the tide turned and left Edwin Booth safe upon a shore of affluence of regular meals. He was engaged in San Francisco and soon he was cast for the leading rôle in the play The San Francisco Fire Boy. Mr. Booth had not forgotten the Fire Boy's lines, and one evening, after leaving San Antonio, he gave us his big scene -- at least its curtain. If others could not burlesque Edwin Booth, he could burlesque himself, and on this night, he did.

The big moment came in the kitchen. In old-time theatre parlance, kitchen does not mean a place to cook in, but is a set that is not a palace, not a prison, not a cathedral. The Fire Boy's kitchen had one wall with a door and a window. The sides were 'flats' which did not need doors because an actor could enter through any part of the wall. In melodrama it was considered that the effect was heightened if whenever a window was thrown open a snowstorm raged outside. This locale being California, the storm may have been merely a typhoon, but you never can tell about stage climates.

The hurtling elements worry the Fire Boy's poor old white-haired mother. She confides her fears to the audience. Her only son, so rash, so young, so reckless, so brave, is out there fighting flames and smoke this

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