Wednesday, August 8, 2007


In The Stage-Struck Yankee, actor-manager Douglas Double coaches neophyte Curtis Chunk on the thespian art. "You must take the stage," he says. (Viewers of Blackadder will remember the plant-and-roar method of acting satirized there.)

Victorian actors thought of the stage (and audience) as something to be taken charge of. Audiences did not pay their hard-earned money and sit in crowded uncomfortable theatres to see life as they could find it at home. Entrances and exits were neither prissy nor timid. The well-planted stance, outthrown arms, and assertive delivery were a given, enough for Gladstone, on his exit from British government as prime minister, to be caricatured in the well-known posture shown above. Such mainstream jokes from the past help us determine what used to be common practice.

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