|Chapter Title||ORDERS FOR THE THEATRE.|
|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||Ada and her Cousin Charles, A Tale for Victorian Boys and Girls|
ADA .AND HER. COUSIN .CHARLES, A TALE FOR VICTORIAN BOYS AND GIRLS. . BY E. A. SAMSON. CHAPTER XII. ORDERS FOR THE THEATER. "The play will be applauded to morrow evening because in the course of thelday orders will be distributed largely; but with discrimination, among the author's friends. To-night the manager allowed him to have his own way, which was, as usual, with people not accustomed to cater for the public, the wrong way. It was his first at tempt at authorship as a playwright, and he was very proud of his maiden effort. Accordingly he was self-willed about it, and would not allow of any adventitious aids to enable him to score a success. He wished, as he said, that his piece should be judged of entirely according to its merits, and so to the general public, and not to any little coterie, he was resolved to appeal, and to submit to their unbiassed decision. Hence the success that he might have assured, had he gone the proper way to work, has terminated in a disastrous failure; It was foreseen by every one connected with the theatre that such could not but be the result, yet we .scarcely anticipated that the fiasco would have been of such an ignomini ous character. The public, as a whole, you know, never can form an indepen dent, uninfluenced judgment upon anything that is really removed fi-om out of the barest. comnmon-place.' As a rule, they hlve no true mesthetic nor
eclectic feeling. That, that appeals to the vulgarest of sentiments, the emo tions, or the sense of the ludicrous, or that captivates the eye, is greeted with prolonged plaudits. And this applies not to theatrical matters only, but to everything that is but slightly removed from the range of their everyday ex perience. be it in arts or politics. Any thing, no matter how good it may be, rising but slightly above the level of their dull and thickened comprehension, is rejected by them, not because it is good, nor yet because it may be worth less as estimated by the high standard of cultivated intellects, but simply be cause they do not understand it. Where their own self-interests are not con cerned they are obtuse, their percep tions are not keen. And even in cases in which their well-being is at stake, they are more frequently than not de ceived and misled by words, phrases, and clap-trap sentences, especially when mouthed by a noisy orator, full of froth and foam and tearing passion. Any thing that does not dovetail in with their preconceived and prejudiced notions of what they think it ought to be is flouted by them and treated in juriously. It is as certain, as that two and two make four, that an author who has written a really good play and has managed to get it on the boards, should he not have many friends and a very large circle of acquaintances who are anxious that he should succeed and support and encourage him by their presence and by their very. loudest marks of approval, on the first two or three evenings of its production, cannot but fail, and be sadly disappointed in his hopes. Shouldhe unfortunately have but few friends, and be comparatively an obscure man,-he must do what he can to purchase the applause of the habituds of the theatre by a free dis tribution of orders among them. But this he has to do at his own risk, be cause the management invariably stipu lates, that on the production of a new piece by an author unknown to fame, that it hbe re-imbursed its outlay. No management will go to the expense, now-a-days, of mounting effectively a new piece written by a new man, on its own pecuniary responsibilty. It would be a ruinous proceeding, and if re peated very frequently, would speedily exhaust the treasury, and either rain or insolvency would b: the outcome of the ventures. Hence many poor, but clever men, never succeed in getting their plays produced under their own name. They sell them, for the most part, for a pittance to some author who has already an established reputation, or to some actor or actress who is a popular favourite. Sometimes, but rarely, when there is a dearth of novelty, and when business has been bad for some time, an unknown author may manage to get an opportunity of pro ducing his piece. But in this case it is at the expense of the acto-- and musicians, who agree with him a:,.l the manager to give two or three representa tions as a speculation, consenting to forfeit their salaries pro rata should the piece not prove a success, but ex pecting, on the other hand, to have them increased proportionately, in the event of its yielding returns in excess of the ordinary nightly expenditure. Now, when it is taken into account that they have the trouble of learning their parts, that they have to find their own dresses, and that their services are not, at the best of times, very lavishly recompensed, this is not ungenerous of them. The more so, as it not infre quently occurs, under these circum stances, that they have had to make up a serious deficit. For the rent, the gas, the carpenters, and the scene shifters must always receive their weekly stipends, whoever else goes un paid, else there would be a general suspension of business, a collapse, and the theatre would have to be closed." "Uncle, dear," said Edith, "since to-morrow evening a great many free admissions will be issued, could you not let Ada and me have one; Mr. Pipkins would be only too glad to ac company us, and it would be such a treat for us, as we so rarely have a chance of going to any place of amuse ment." "Well, no, dear, I cannot accede to your request. For I should be com promising myselfhbyasking the manage ment for one. You know we have all agreed among ourselves never to give away orders promiscuously, andIshould not like to be the first to break through this arrangement. It is much to be deplored that orders are ever given away to the general public. The author himself will have to be respon sible for those he distributes to-morrow night, If I were to ask for an order from him, and the piece, not bringing money into the treasury, were to be withdrawn finally at the end of the week, having myself accepted a favour from him, I could not with good grace claim my full salary, but should have to somewhat share in his losses by re ceiving a diminished solatium. But, apart from this, I have the very strongest objection altogether to the existing system of orders. I hold it to be pernicious in its results and in jurious to the actors' interests. The poor man, the frequenter of the pit and the gallery, invariably has to pay for admission. It is only the mean and penurious among the well-to-do trading classes, and there are no small number of them-men dazzling you with their diamond pins and rings, and women overaweing you with their laces, their velvets, their bracelets, and neck!ets, and their grand airs, who clamour like veritable paupers, or plead like whining mendicants for free passes to the dress circle and the stalls. There are some men and women in Melbourne, of acknowledged wealth, who appear to claim the same right to roam at large, in and out of the theatres, as they do in the Fitzroy Gardens, and on the same terms, paying nothing at the entrance. And these people-it would be heresy to impugn theirgentility and their admitted right to be ladies and gentlemen-are pitiless and shameless in their abject solicitations for orders for themselves and their sweet ac quaintances. Why, less than a month since a tradesman, a butcher, or a grocer, I forget which, but I know that he was a very wealthy individual, begged of the leader of our orchestra, a' poor myv, with an invalid wi.. ',,. n larg faimily, an order for thre Guveror'ur box for: himself and a party of eight.
Of. course he got it, and he and his tribe' came, bedecked in their loudest war-paint, resplendent with scarfs and pins, and diamond rings, and many. tinted silks, and overpowering in their condescending nods of recognition to those humble ones of their acquaint ances, who being in the pit, had paid for their places. In the course of the evening, this wealthy creature wiped off the obligation he had incurred, by-: giving the man, through whom he and his belongings had had three hours gratuitous amusement, a sixpenny glass of beer. This he paid for with the air of a "capitalist" out of a well-filled purse, the contents of which he osten tatiously displayed in his outspread palm while selecting the little silver coin. And what do you think this petty, small-souled man did the very next morning l Why he actually caused a summons to be served on the donor of the order for a paltry debt of not more than twenty-five shillings that had been owing barely a month. And, mark you, there was another feature in the case that made his conduct the more despicab'e. For many weeks previously the business of our theatre had been so bad that the management was in rather straightened circum stances, and had been compelled to pit us all on half-salaries. and of this fact the griping tradesman was well aware." "But uncle, dear, such an odious, avaricious, creature as the man you speak of must really be an exception. There can be but few such as he. There surely must be men of other avocations as generously inclined as are those in yours." " I cannot say, dear, whether or not, there are any who are expected to be as generous as we are, and to distribute their favours as freely as it is looked upon we should do ours. At any rate, I have never yet heard of any baker, grocer, or butcher of whom it was de manded that he should issue orders right and left for loaves and rolls, for bags of flour, for pounds of tea and packets of coffee, for legs of mutton and sirloins of beef to be honoured on presentation at their respective shops, I beg pardon, establishments or em poriums. Neither have I ever heard it whispered abroad, that for the sake of being seen to wear them, a moneyed man should be supplied with coats and trousers on eleemosynary principles. I wish such were the case, I would soon enter into communication with Mr. Fawcett, of Gertrude-street, my sartorial entrepreneur, and on terms of reciprocity, would play, " Home sweet home," to him for a waistcoat, and an aria from the "Trovatore" for an Ulster." Yes! indeed ! I know too well what an "order" for the theatre means." This remark, one, for a wonder, un interrupted by Edith, was musingly uttered by Mr. Pipkins, who, fancying that he was on safe ground, went on to say, " I had an order a little time ago. But it cost me a dinner afterwards, and has ever since involved me in the necessity, from time to time, of refresh ing the giver of it. He appears to me to be exceedingly fond of refreshment, particularly when it takes the form of brandy. That wretched order has already cost me more than two pounds. Also, it has involved me in the diffi culty of having made an undesirable, a bibulous acquaintance, one whom I hardly know how to shake ofl" Then speaking to Ada and Edith, he said, "I wish I had the money to take you both to the theatre to-morrow. I should only be too delighted to escort you, but I cannot really afford it." From this the reader may see that Mr. Pipkins was a very weak-minded young man. He actually had the temerity to admit, before two girls, that he was so poor that he could not, honestly, dare to expend a pound to give them and himself an evening's entertainment. In this, all will agree with me, he showed he was a very foolish young man, for since by edict of the Reverend Doctors Rumpage and Bullastune, the Devil no longer roams at large "seeking whom he may devour," every restaining influence has been removed from men's minds. So, now. it is not the honest plodding toiler who gains the prize of wealth; but the shifty trickster, the man who has learned how to keep from the inside of the Pentridge retreat, while rubbing his,shoulders though very closely against the outside walls of that famed establishment, it is, who earns the good things of this life, the adulas tion of the trading folks, and the win some smiles and fondest love of girls. It was a splendid notion that of knock ing the "old gentleman" on the head and giving him his coup de grace. There being no longer any pains and penalties in the background, no tortar ing prongs, no baths of molten sulphur for the benefit of the wicked, any treacherous, insidious, scheming villain may work with an easy conscience at the accumulation of riches, by despoil ing his more scrupulous brothers of them. As for myself, I am too wanting in courage and cunning to profit by this new doctrine, else I would be as wicked as I could be, always saving appear ances, and might die greatly respected. But who knows,within the next decade there may be, according to newer lights, two, or even more, devils to be afraid of, in the place of our older acquaint ance-the horned and hoofed one, of whom, when I was young, we were taught to stand in mortal dread. " Will you please, Mr. Pipkins, just be good enough to look at what you are doing with my embroidery," ex claimed Edith, "that would be much better than telling us all about the troubles you have had in connection with your order for the theatre, and your rambling digression about the dishonest meanness of some few un scrupulous men. Why, really, you re bellious specimen of noodledom, I do, positively, believe, that my uncle's presence is regarded by you as a pro tection from me, else you would never dare to give utterance to your anti social thoughts. I will have you, be sides, to learn that if you thus freely express your immature opinions, you will do yourself great harm. No matter how correct they may be in the main, and how well founded in justice, they will be resented, and that the more vengefully the more truthful they are. Nnw, p!ea'e, just see that v .. .. Jo no ijury to my embroidery. SWzy, dear gracious, you hare already clipped a.
piece iightout of the middle that will spoil it ccmpletely 1 How careless you areal" '" I am so sorry--I really regret it- I did not notice-I am truly in distress about.it-if you will allow me, I will buy you another piece exactly similar -I entreat you, Miss Edith, to forgive me `for my heedlessness-I was not aware - '* Oh I no I thank you, Mr. Pipkins. You have, this evening, done for your self, so far as I am concerned. You have given expression to such out rageous nonsense about adventure. teachers and the impropriety of wealthy people accepting charity, that I will have nothing more to do with you." .Though speaking to him in this as sqmedly harsh manner, still in her inmost heart, though a frolicsome girl, she admired the upright honesty and generosity of his character. She was a girl of sound principles, and had never been messed about by ignorant, empty-minded women, self-elected teachers, and principals of nrivate schools. Her uncle's poverty had for tnunately compelled him to instruct her himself. Hence, she had imbibed no false notions as to propriety or im. propriety, was no prude, and was thoroughly genuine, in every word and thought, though a little wanting in tone, and rather free in her language. Her love of teasing was her predomi nant characteristic, and manifested it self chiefly in regard to her treatment of Mr. Pipkins-her hapless, helpless admirer. With an appearance of petu lance, that she really did not feel, she snatched her embroidery from him, thrust it into her work-basket, as if angrily, and told the dismayed and limp young man that he was an unim provable member of society-worse still, a deteriorating one, and that he was a poor demented creature to thus speak his mind out, openly. Further that she wouldn't go the theatre with him on any account, but that she would give him a chance to retrieve his position with her if, on the following evening, he would express penitence and recant his heterodox opinions. Mr. Pipkins, overjoyed, was about to - when, again, the door-bell pealed, and this time vcciferously clanging so loudly that one would have thought it to be an alarm of a fire-bell. (To be continued,)