The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, January 22, 1905, PART THREE, Page 22, Image 22

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    T&E SUNDAY OEEGONIAV POKTBAOT, -JJQTUAKY ZtQB.
STAGE FOLKS AND THEIR SUPERSTITIONS
Edith Angus Writes of Their Strong Belief in Good and
Evil Omens.
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BY EDITH ANGUS.
RE stage people a superstitious
lotr
A friend asked me this ques
tion and I answered that I believed
they are more so thun any other class
af Intelligent people in the world. "And
why if as you say they, are men and
women of more than ordinary mental
ity?" she again questioned.
Superstition has a stronger hold on
etage people than others because the
profession is the most uncertain, the
most fickle, of any which men and
women engage In. A throw of the dice,
a never-ending question "Shall I take
this chance or that?" and Providence
often being absent on a more impor
tant mission, as it were, one must de
cide by the pin on the pavement, which
presents point or head, whether it Is
better to knuckle to or buck against
a managerial proposition which in
volves food, raiment, railroad fares
and other necessities, to say nothing
of luxuries to which wo all take so
kindly when feasible.
Formerly the dramatic profession
was far from being the intelligent
whole that It is now. The average act
or of Ed or 75 years ago was seldom
the well read and generally educated
man that he is today. Where there was
one of this class he probably had a
Uoren illiterate contemporaries and
among the latter superstition was like
a religion, having been received as a
heritage from impressionable ances
tors. If a man who firmly believed, and
whoso father before him believed, that
a yellow cornet in the traveling or
chestra -was an omen of bad luck, re
peatedly told the members of the com
pany that this was the cause of the
houses being empty and salaries not
being paid they would all unintention
ally begin looking askance at the poor
old instrument, and if the owner, feel
ing that he was regarded as a hoodoo,
exchanged it for a silver horn and
Business, by mere chance proved bet
ter, the superstition gained a footing,
though unacknowledged by all.
I have heard of many odd supersti
tions which I cannot now .remember,
"but some that I do recall are rather in
teresting. "William Gillette, it Is said.
Urmly believes that he cannot give a
j?ood performance unless his cat, "Sir
Henry Irving." is in the dressing-room
while ho is making up. Virginia Brls--sac,
of the Whittlesey Company, de
clares that she Is not at all supersti
tious and doesn't believe In signs, but
for all that she will not venture to "fix
up" her dressing-room when playing a
long engagement, as the belief is that
If one attempts to decorate or make
homelike the dressing-room assigned
for the season the engagement will be
lost in less than two weeks.
The "tag," or last word, of a play is
never spoken at rehearsal, for if It
should escape anyone's Hps before the
.1n.li.. rfr I. . ,
i vA " o fciiuiuumcc it nouia sure
ty condemn the production to failure.
This Js a superstition which holds good
In theatrical circles the world over. The
hoo-doo of the round-top trunk Is oftpn
explained away by the fact that express
companies cannot fiandle them so well
as square ones, but the truth of the
matter is that managers are afraid of
them and believe that they will bring
Dad luck to he company. I had an ex
perience of the kind right hero in
Portland. It was my first season on
iho road and I was travelings with an
old round-top Saratoga trunk for the-
S3 JCS?SZ&&Y2
ater use, not knowing that one of thosi
unfortunate boxes was considered suffi
cient cause for terrible misfortune.
Through bad management and a poor
play the company was showing to
empty houses, and finally the manager :
and all the rest decided that it was all
due to my poor, old round-top trunk,
and I was besieged with entreaties to
dispose of it, which I finally did and
purchased one constructed especially to
bestow good fortune upon a supersti
tious manager. But the poor, old round
top had done its deadly work, for th
company soon went to pieces, and 1
had to take my new square "lucky" trunk
home.
Every theater, to be successful, must
have Its cat, a black one being preferable.
Strange to say. some consider it good
luck to travel on the same train with a
corpse. If two people pass each other on
the stairs la a theater it is believed that
the one going down is sure to be dis
charged shortly. If any one is so daring
as to whistle in a dressing-room the one
nearest the door Is In danger of losing
his engagement. My sister, Marion Bar
hyte, often creates a furore at the Co
lumbia by whistling in her dressing-room,
for she doesn't " quite realize the awful
results which might follow.
The direst of all misfortune, however, is
the playing of Macbeth music in the the
ater. Manager, stage director, company
and theater-owner all go up in the air If
a strain from this music Is heard, for
of all bad luck It Is the worst Rose
Eytlnge declares that the play of Mac
beth has always been an unlucky one, and
that is the reason the reproduction of its
witch music is so ill-fated. Miss Eytlnge
unhesitatingly acknowledges that she Is
superstitious, as she lived in the Orient
manv years where superstition has its
origin and Its home. She told me of a
case which came under her personal ob
servation In London where the black cat
figured as a mascot. A man named Gooch
purchased the old Princess Theater when
It was doing a very bad business. Every
thing looked dark for the future, but he
took the risk and got it cheap. The first
time he entered his new "house he encoun
tered an emaciated, half-starved black cat.
Immediately he sent out for steaks and
milk and had the cat treated better than
his star. It grew fat and sleek and busi
ness began to pick u. Before lonr a
second black cat appeared at the theater
OYJfEJ. A3 OAT"
from where no one questioned, it re
ceived a warm reception and was also
fed on the fat of the land. A third short
ly appeared and in a few weeks the little
colony was augmented by a fourth. All
the while business was flourishing In
fact, was almost phenomenal, and the
black cats had the run of the theater,
either In front of the curtain or behind.
One day one of them disappeared, much
to the manager's annoyance. After awhile
a second mysteriously disappeared, and it
was noticed that the boxoffice receipts
were falling off. To make a long story
short, the cats disappeared one by one.
and with them the business, and by the
time the last one was gone. Mr. Gooch
was declared a bankrupt. So from this
I take It that black cats are good luck,
as long as they stay with you.
No prudent, far-seeing manager will
have his lithograph printed on yellow pa
per, and there are many in the profession
who will not take a part If an open um
brella or parasol has to be used on the
stage. I know one manager who will
almosjt have a fit If any one twirls a chair
on its back legs, and any number of
actresses would not think of buttoning
one glove before both were on her hands.
To walk under a ladder is considered bad
luck the world over. I believe, but in the
theater it is especially so as there Is al
ways a constant danger of it from the
ever-present step-ladders. There Is a man
in the Alcazar Stock Company in San
Francisco who will not make up unless he
has a piece of money above bis mirror.
He generally puts SO cents there and as
regularly as he leaves It it is "swiped"
by some of his fellow-players, who like
to joke him.
I have never considered the number 13
unlucky and this is one very general sup
erstition which Is not as prevalent In
theatrical circles as one would suppose.
James Nell claims that it Is his lucky
number and to my knowledge he started
out one season on Friday the thirteenth
of the month, with 13 members in his
company and 13 letters in the name of the
play. He did a good season's business, and
declares 13 to be his mascot. I myself
have 13 opals which I have been advised
to throw away, as both the number and
the gems are forerunners- of evlL Sqrae
have openly declared their belief that Ce
opals were the cause of my Illness, but
do not look at It In that light and shall
keep them as I did before. Tfctre are
many other superstitions which I have
not mentioned which might be of interest
to those who like the mysterious.
To pass a flock of sheep on the right
when traveling on the train Is good luck,
and a load of hay on the left Is just as
good. It Is bad policy to remove a ring
which has been "wished on" until the
time set by the wisher expires. A shoe
bung over one's mirror by some one else
will bring dismissal from the company or
misfortune of some kind. This Is con
sidered a good way to rid a company of
an undesirable member. The use of a
real Bible or praycrbook on the stage is
generally prohibited by stage-managers as
an omen of misfortune. Robert Peyton
Carter, one of the actors In the
original productions of "The Little Minis
ter," was stopped by Mr. Frohman him
self when he attempted to take a Bible on
the stage at rehearsal. Mr. Frohman ob
jected to it seriously on the ground that
It was sure to bring bad luck, but as Mr.
Carter convinced him that he could do
some really funny "business" with the
book he finally gave a reluctant consent
for Its use, and the phenomenal success
of the play which followed, the "sure-slgn-of-bad-luck"
Bible was forgotten.
I have often been asked the origin of
the expression used when salaries are
about to be paid, "the ghost will walk to
day." This originated in olUen times when
traveling players in England always fell
back on "Hamlet" as a moneymaker
when other plays failed to draw. After a
week or so of poor business the manage
ment would put on "Hamlet" and with
the receipts would pay salaries, so It soon
became natural to associate the walking
of the ghost with the paying of back sal
aries, and the saying has held good ever
since.
MCRALS OF STAGE WOMEN
Bernard Shaw Replies to William F.
Stead's Arraignment of Actresses.
IX A RECENT number of the Review of
Reviews, Mr. Wijllam Stead gave his
"Fim Impressions of the Theater," in
which he seemed to Imply that the charge
that the stage appealed to the worst pos
itions and combined in Itself "all the
temptations of the world, the flesh, and
the devil." had never been disproved. He
also said that when a youth of 16. though
he had never been in a theater, he con
ceived a romantic passion for an actress
he had never seen merely from looking at
her photograph in shop windows. Mr.
Bernard Shaw sends the following amus
ing reply to Mr. Stead:
"My Dear Stead: As a play-goer of
nearly Vi years' standing, a playwright
and a practiced critic of the theater, I
have read your maiden effort with many
chuckles.
"As to your autobiographical begin
nings, ve knew already 'that you were
very badly brought upland are a person
at dutrageously exceiatve leaperaaaeat.
All that need be said in this connection is
to point out that if you had been taken to
the pantomime when you were six. and
thereafter regularly every year, you would
have compounded for all later tempta
tions In your childhood by a perfectly in
nocent adoration of the fairy queen, and
would have, been as proof at a against
the leading lady's make-up as you are
now against the blandishments of a lady
journalist. The real danger of "cloistered
virtue' is that when it is let out of the
cloister (as It needs must be sooner or
later) it is duped by the tawdriest wiles
of vice, and beglamoured by attractions
that no self-respecting profligate would
deign to look twice at.
"If you really went to the theater for the
first time expecting to see something like
DAnnunzo'8 "Foacarinl." and trembling
leet she should rouse your ardent nature
to disreputable transports, then I offer
you my sincere eondolemrats. You must
have been frightfully disappointed. If
yeir ever do hear "the vibrating accents
t pasalua" from the lifCot a beautiful
young actress, will you be so good as to
send me her name at once? Dramatists
do almost all their playgolng In a tedious
search for her. and often die without suc
ceeding In. finding her. What a gorgeous
thing It' must have been for you to live
for forty-five years happily believing that
there was such a treasure In every
theater!
Is the Theater Righteous?
yAOUR question Is the Theater a
power making for righteousness?'
is as useless as the same question would
be about Religion, Gravitation, or Gov
ernment, or Music There are theaters
In England In which the entertainment
on the stage is simply a device to lure
people to the drinking bars, which are
the real sources of profit to the man
agement. There are theaters everywhere
which deal In nothing but dramatic
aphrodisiacs. And there are theaters
which deal with more serious repre
sentations of life and tho greater achieve
ments of literary art than any to be
found In the grossly over-rated bundle
of Hebrew literature which you were
taught to idolize to the exclusion of your
natural literary birthright. Between
those extremes lie every possible grade
of theater; and to lump them all as an
unreal abstraction called, 'the theater will
only land you In confusion. A theater is
a potent engine for working up the pas
sions and the imagination of mankind;
and like all such engines, it is capable of
the noblest recreations or the basest de
bauchery, according to the spirit of Its
direction. So is a church. A church can
do great things by precisely the same
arts as those used in a theater (there is
ho difference fundamentally, and very lit
tle even superficially) ; but every church is
In a state- of frightful pecuniary depend
ence on Pharisees, who use it to white
wash the most sordid commercial scoun
drelism by external observances; It or
ganizes the sale of salvation at a reason
able figure to these same Pharisees by
what It calls charity; It Invariably pro
vides occasion for envy and concupiscence
by an open exhibition of millinery and
personal adornment for both sexes; and It
sometimes, under cover of the text that
God is love, creates and maintains a
pseudo-pious ecstatic communion com
pared to which the atmosphere of the
theater la prosaically chilly. That is why
many people who take their children to
the theater do not send them to church.
The moral is as 'pagans like Domltlan and
Trajan saw, that both churches and the
aters need to be carefully looked after so
as to prevent them from abusing their
powers for pecuniary profit.
Actress and Society Women.
(RINAIiLiY. don't talk about Immoral
I actresses. What do you mean, you
foolish William Stead, by an. Immoral
actress? I will take you into any church
you like and show you gross women who
are visibly gorged with every kind of
excess, with coarse voices and bloated
features, to whom money means unre
strained gluttony and marriage unre
strained sensuality; but against whose
characters whose 'purity, as you call it
neither you nor their pastors dare level
a rebuke. And I will take you to the
theater, and show you women -whose
work requires a constant physical train
ing, an unblunted nervous sensibility, and
a fastidious refinement and. self-control
which one week of ordinary plutocratic
fat feeding and self-indulgence would
wreck, and who anxiously fulfil these re
quirements; and yet. when you learn that
they do not allow their personal relations
to be regulated by your gratuitously un
natural and vicious English marriage
laws, you will not hesitate to call them
'immoral. The truth is that if the aver
age British matron could be made half
as delicate about her sexual relations, or
half as abstemious in her habits, as the
average stage heroine, there would be
enormous improvement in our national
manners and morals. When you ait in
the stalls think of this, and, as the cur
tain rls2s and your eyes turn from the
stifling grove of fat, naked shoulders
round you to the decent and refined lady
on the stage, humble your bumptious
spirit with a new sense of the extreme
perversity and wickedness of that un
charitable Philistine brlnging-up of yours.
"Hoping that your mission will end in
your own speedy and happy conversion,
I am, as ever, your patient mentor.
"G. BERNARD SHAW."
"The abnormal development of this bump
betokens a moat remarkable veneration for
old age. ton are doubtless an archaeolo
gist." "No. I'm the editor of the comic sup
plement or the Sunday Talk." Town and
Country,