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Hints for Private Theatricals, I., II., III.
by [?]



MY DEAR ROUGE POT,–You say that you all want to have “theatricals” these holidays, and beg me to give you some useful rules and hints to study before the Christmas Play comes out in the December Number of Aunt Judy.

I will do my best. But–to begin with–do you “all” want them? At least, do you all want them enough to keep in the same mind for ten days or a fortnight, to take a good deal of trouble, whether it is pleasant or not, and to give up some time and some of your own way, in order that the theatricals may be successful?

If you say Yes, we will proceed at once to the first–and perhaps the most important–point, on which you will have to display two of an actor’s greatest virtues–self-denial and good temper:–


If your numbers are limited, you may have to choose the one who knows most about theatricals, and he or she may have to act a leading part as well. But by rights the stage-manager ought not to act; especially as in juvenile theatricals he will probably be prompter, property-man, and scene-shifter into the bargain.

If your “company” consists of very young performers, an elder sister is probably the best stage-manager you could have. But when once your stage-manager is chosen, all the actors must make up their minds to obey him implicitly. They must take the parts he gives them, and about any point in dispute the stage-manager’s decision must be final. It is quite likely that now and then he may be wrong. The leading gentleman may be more in the right, the leading lady may have another plan quite as good, or better; but as there would be “no end to it” if everybody’s ideas had to be listened to and discussed, it is absolutely necessary that there should be one head, and one plan loyally supported by the rest.

Truism as it is, my dear Rouge Pot, I am bound to beg you never to forget that everybody can’t have everything in this world, and that everybody can’t be everything on the stage. What you (and I, and every other actor!) would really like, would be to choose the play, to act the best part, to wear the nicest dress, to pick the people you want to act with, to have the rehearsal on those days, and that part of the day, when you do not happen to want to go out, or do something else, to have the power of making all the others do as you tell them, without the bother of hearing any grumbles, and to be well clapped and complimented at the conclusion of the performance. But as this very leading part could only be played by one person at the expense of all the rest, private theatricals–like so many other affairs of this life–must for everybody concerned be a compromise of pains and pleasures, of making strict rules and large allowances, of giving and taking, bearing and forbearing, learning to find one’s own happiness in seeing other people happy, aiming at perfection with all one’s might, and making the best of imperfection in the end.

At this point, I foresee that you will very naturally exclaim that you asked me for stage-directions, and that I am sending you a sermon. I am very sorry; but the truth really is, that as the best of plays and the cleverest of actors will not ensure success, if the actors quarrel about the parts, and are unwilling to suppress themselves for the common good, one is obliged to set out with a good stock of philosophy as well as of “properties.”

Now, in case it should strike you as “unfair” that any one of your party should have so much of his own way as I have given to the stage-manager, you must let me say that no one has more need of philosophy than that all-powerful person.