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An acting life The profession as reported by EJ Phillips
Critics & criticism Actor's Fund Actors' Fund Fair 1892
EJ Phillips wrote, towards the end of her life "In my 18th or 19th year, I am not sure of the date [1848 or 1849], I was invited to join in an amateur performance for the benefit of a lady, who with her husband belonged to an amateur association of Hamilton and they were [illegible] of a lady for the cast of “Pride of the Market”. They wanted me for “Louisa De Volange”. I said “No” and then they appealed to Mother, and after a good deal of coaxing they prevailed on her to let me play “for this time only”. And I did, making a very successful 1st appearance on any stage; so much that whenever the amateur company wanted to cast another play I was always sent for and given a prominent part. Costumes were furnished by the manager of the association and I was not under any expense. I loved study and became enthusiastic over my work and continued to join in these occasional performances for about three years.
In the meantime I had received several offers of employment from professional companies and at last accepted one from Messrs Besnard & Nickinson to open the season in Toronto, Ont on Easter Monday 1852 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre. And here, and at that date I began my career on the stage, which lasted forty-five years, through the United States and Canada."
Chicago, June 9, 1886 I have a Matinee (for which I receive no extra) -- so will have to close this.
Denver, Sept. 26, 1886 I did not write yesterday for I expected every hour to hear that we were to stay here another week, canceling the dates in Kansas City and St Jo, and in that case, I would have telegraphed you. I remained in uncertainty until 9 PM when Mr. Wm Palmer came into the greenroom and announced that we were not to remain here; but were to fulfill the original programme by going to Kansas City, St Jo and Omaha. So the S[aints] & S[inners] Cast will leave by train 7 AM tomorrow.
We play Our Society this afternoon and S[aints] & S[inners] tonight. There has been a great deal of telegraphing and excitement about our staying, the management here offering a big certainty for our stay. Wallack had to be consulted about Kelcey remaining. At last his consent was got, and all seemed to point to our staying, but at the last moment the Kansas City people demanded the fulfilling of the contract with them, and that settled it. So we have to go.
EJP to Albert, Kansas City, Sept. 29, 1886 Hattie sent me a clipping from last Sundays NY World that says we may not open until the 1st of Novr then with Jim the Penman. If so, I shall be out three weeks salary. This has become a lovely profession. Managers do just what they see fit with you. [AM] Palmer closed the season for those who were not in the Cast of S[aints] & S[inners] last Saturday night. Yet if he had made the final arrangements to have played the Company this week in Denver he would have expected them all to remain whether they liked it or not. Our business here is not good but last night was $20 better than Monday night. Hope tonight may increase as much. We did not give a Matinee today.
New York, Dec. 6, 1886 I know how it is with A.M.[Palmer]. When he wants me, he is always at liberty, but when I want to see him, he is always where I cannot reach him. It seems to be the rule with business men nowadays. And I guess your newspaper man is one of them.
New York, Dec. 16, 1886 No further news, except that we are to give a professional Matinee next Thursday, Xmas falling on Saturday. The management cannot get ahead of us this year, except by inventing reasons for an extra performance, so they call it professional for the benefit of the Actors Fund
Magnus, Julian, The Condition of the American Stage, North American Review, Feb. 1887, Nineteenth Century Periodicals http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/moa-cgi?notisid=ABQ7578-0144-25
New York, Feb. 9, 1887 I am afraid it is only too true that we do not go to Cal[ifornia] or indeed anywhere else. Strange rumours are growing that AM [Palmer] is going to give up the theatre, but do not mention it, as it was told to me in great confidence.
New York, Apr. 7, 1887 Rumour says that I remain in NY during May instead of going to Boston. I to play in Our Society, Maud [Harrison] and [Walden] Ramsey will also remain here. Mrs. Booth's husband is my authority, Palmer having asked him to oblige him by letting us remain, and he has consented, but it may all be changed when I hear again.
Chicago, June 19, 1887 AM Palmer was to arrive this morning, and I suppose he has. We are called to meet him on the stage tomorrow 11 AM. "What is he going to do with us" was the great question amongst the Company yesterday. Suppose we shall know tomorrow.
Boston, Sept. 15, 1887 The play is not bad, but the acting was. Still it is well to see these things once in awhile. It gives one confidence in oneself.
Boston 1888 I shall never be able to get an increase in salary from A.M.P[almer]. He has told those who have asked him that he intended reducing instead of increasing salaries, so as the parts I get are so insignificant there is no use in my asking him for more. He would give me the old chestnut, "I know you are worth more, but I cannot afford to give you more". So it all ends in our having to do the best we can, with what we have, and be thankful that we have as much as we have! ... the rest of the engagement, which ends 2nd of June. Then I shall be eleven weeks without salary, even if I go to California. At present I feel that doubtful. One thing, if I was able to say "no" I, for one would not go. The plays with the exception of Jim [the Penman] are weak, and the ladies who are to go are weaker. The ladies are Misses [Marie] Burroughs, [May] Brookyn, [Kate] Moloney, [Clara] Lipman and myself.
Such a weak lot to take to San [Francis]'Co as a representative New York Company is a shame. And we are to follow the Lyceum Co in their great success of The Wife and other plays. We cannot be anything but a failure. When [Al] Hayman the California manager sees the casts of the plays I think he will be justified to "Kick". I cannot imagine what A.M.P[almer] is about! Business has been bad this week. Boston did not take to the Partners, but she has not forgotten the members of the old Union Square Co. Mr. Stoddart and I have rec'd big receptions every performance. We have very little to do, but what we do is well received. The Presbreys do not go to California. Maud [Harrison] does not go.
Things generally are in a muddle. The plays to be done in San F'co are Saints and Sinners, Partners, Heart of Hearts, , Jim the Penman, and another play that A.M. [Palmer] thinks I will not be in. Which means Marie Burroughs as "Elaine" & Miss [May] Brookyn playing the "part" of the "Queen".
Boston, May 31, 1888 Yesterday had over $500 in for Matinee, $1100 and over at night. Pretty good receipts for the managers, but the actors are no richer.
Philadelphia, July 4, 1888 Yesterday I was surprised by a call from Mr. Wm Palmer who had come to the City on some other business and thought he would call and see me. I no doubt was the business. We had a long chat. He told me that if he could help it, the play of Heart of Hearts would not be done at all, but if the managers wanted it, they would have to be ready for it, and that I should not spend one dollar on the part, but if I had to, he would see that I was repaid. Said he wouldn't go to California without me.
Philadelphia, July 5, 1888 Had a note from AMP[almer] yesterday asking me to be in Mohawk today. I wrote him that as I had seen his brother, I thought he would find no occasion for me to go before the 1st of August. That note he would get this morning. I guess the matter is all settled, and while I have consented to play the part of Wilhelmina [in Heart of Hearts] if the play is done, yet he has humbled himself more than his letter to my refusal would show. And I stated my case in very strong terms too.
You are right. He has made utility of me, and I told his brother so. I think the California managers have insisted upon having more plays and more ladies than AMP intended sending. When I left New York Misses [Annie] Russell, [Maud] Harrison & [Mathilde] Madison were not to go. Now they go and perhaps Miss Ada Dyas. When I left Boston besides myself there was only to be Misses Brokyn, [elsewhere her name is spelled with two o's, but EJP consistently spelled it with one] [Marie] Burroughs, [Kate] Moloney & Miss [Clara] Lipman all rolled into one would make a bad actress.
New York, Mar 24, 1889 Six weeks now in New York and then for Boston. There four weeks. Have not yet had a talk with AM [Palmer] and do not know what my fate will be after that. But I suppose I shall be idle until September or later.
New York, Nov. 24, 1889 Yesterday I re'cd a summons to be present at 11 AM Tuesday to hear a reading of a new comedy. "Mr. Palmer wishes you to hear it". Which means I shall be in the cast. I know not what or when it is to be done, but it is to be read on Tuesday. It will probably be rehearsed on Wednesday.
New York, Oct. 27, 1890 To-day recd my part in Middleman - so bad! that I first thought I would not do it - come what might - but on 2nd thoughts - there is a long winter before us - it will be easy work and I had better not bite off my nose to spite my face - so I shall try to bear it with all the good nature I can.
It is a much worse part than I had in either Jim [the Penman] or Captain Swift and those were bad enough. I do not want to either take salary another season without doing something for it - and it is not Mr. P[almer]'s fault if authors write such miserable parts. I have not yet had a "call" but I shall likely get one in the morning.
New York, Jan 23, 1891 I do not know yet whether I go to Boston, or stay here to play at "Palmer's" [Theatre]. If I go to Boston, shall have to go by 3 PM train on Sunday. They are scheduling a new play at "Palmer's" and I may have to appear in that, have been rehearsing in it for two days -- a very bad part but not a disagreeable one. In view of my going to Boston, I went to see A.M. [Palmer] today about an allowance for extra board. He did not say he would not allow me anything, but thought he could arrange for someone else to play my part in Boston, and I remain here to play with [ES] Willard. Business is bad, and he is ugly in consequence.
New York, Mar 8, 1891 It ended in my leaving Hattie a little after 5 and taking 6 PM train back. Leaving poor Hattie crying, and Jack very much astonished. John I did not see at all. So here I have been since Friday night. It appears that the lady who had been rehearsing in Wealth could not come up to the requirements of the "part" and they could not find it out until almost the last rehearsal. And as I had studied and was ready for the part last Spring, and had rehearsed the first Act with the present cast, I was called upon to play until someone else gets ready for the "part" this week as I play Madison Square [Theatre] next week. I do not mind any part of the matter, but being brought back from Phila so suddenly, that was a great annoyance, and I have not recovered from it yet.
Washington D.C. Apr. 24, 1891 Have just heard that we are to be a travelling company until Jany 1892. ... I do not yet know where we shall put up in Baltimore, but you can direct AM Palmer Co Theatre. That will find me.
Pittsburg, May 4, 1891 All the members of the company not in the cast of Alabama received notice this morning that their season ended on the 16th of May in Buffalo. Alabama will be run in Chicago for three weeks -- and I think it will be the only play done on the California trip. So unless something transpires I shall be idle for several months. I am sorry but cannot help it -- such is the state of the drama at present time. I do not like losing my salary for three weeks in Chicago, but am glad to escape going to California -- as I at present do not feel well or strong enough for the journey.
New York, Nov. 23, 1891 You ask if I am far from my old boarding house. Yes, it is quite a walk -- ten blocks -- that was 21st Street near 4th Avenue. This is 31st near B'way. My work will be at "Palmer's" Theatre this Winter and that is on the corner of B'way and 30th Street. And on the North side of 30th Street. This house being on the South side of 31st. Therefore I do not have to cross a street to go to my place of business. Mr. Palmer is no longer the manager of the "Madison Square" Theatre on 24th Street, all his attention is now devoted to "Palmer's" Theatre, 30th and B'way.
New York, Jan. 24, 1892 I rehearse at 11 tomorrow and at 3 PM have to attend a "tea & reception" at the Holland House [Hotel] 30th St & 5th Avenue given by the committee of "The Actors Fund Fair" to be held in May at the Madison Square Garden. I suppose the object to-morrow will be to see what everybody concerned is willing to do, to make the affair a success.
I was trying to get out of the affair, but last night as I was leaving the theatre the Call Boy came with a message from Mr. Palmer to me and Miss [Maud] Harrison that he (Mr. Palmer) should consider it a personal favor to him if we would attend the reception - which was a polite way of telling us, we must go. You know receptions & teas are a great bore to yours truly.
New York, Mar 6, 1892 Last night I closed my appearances in New York for the present and do not know when I shall appear here again. On the 28th we open at the Park Theatre, Broad and Fairmont Ave, Phila with the Broken Seal for one week. On the 11th of April take the same play to Williamsburgh for one week. After that may go to Chicago to open 2nd of May, there for 4 weeks. But whether I shall be wanted to go there or not, I do not yet know.
I shall say to you as Mr. Palmer said to me, "When I know, you shall know". Rumour says we do not play at Palmers [Theatre] again after the 23rd of April until January 1893. Tomorrow the Kendals take possession of "Palmers" for two weeks. Palmers Co in the meantime playing Alabama in Brooklyn for two weeks. And on the 21st come back to Palmers in Col Carter of Cartersville But I am not in that.
House dramatist Augustus Thomas' "Great American Play" Alabama was a success. But his Colonel Carter of Cartersville opened on March 22, 1892 and was withdrawn on April 30. (Francis Hopkinson Smith, adapted by Augustus Thomas). "Thus ended Palmer's first earnest effort to establish his new theatre [Palmer's] as the home of his famous stock company. Times were changing and the stock system was waning towards its doom. We devotees of Palmer's fine company soon learned that Agnes Booth and Maud Harrison were not again to appear here with the group we had grown to love as devotedly as we loved the players at Daly's Theatre.". Odell
New York, Apr. 22, 1892 On Wednesday I had an interview with my manager. I am engaged for next season, but when that Season begins AM [Palmer] himself does not know. This season I finish in Chicago, going there to open on the 16th in Broken Seal for one week, the season ending on Sat Eve May 21st -- in the meantime my salary goes on until that date. ... Mr. P[almer] told me he expected to have some good plays next season and better parts for me -- "For" said he "I have found that I cannot get anyone else to please the Public and myself better than you do"! Now what do you think of your Maternal Mother!
I shall endeavor to find something to do in the early Fall, for his season may not begin until January. All will depend upon the success of Mr. Bronson Howard's play, [Aristocracy] which will be put on at Palmers [Theatre] about Nov. Alabama will start out for the Pacific slope the last of July -- and I suppose travel until wanted for the opening here, but those not wanted in the cast of Alabama may take a back seat for the time being.
Philadelphia June 22, 1892 You probably will be surprised to learn I have made an engagement away from Mr. Palmer, with Mr. Ramsey Morris, a stock company to travel. Season to begin Oct 17th to last 30 weeks and possibly 5 weeks additional. I have been negotiating with him for several weeks and on Monday signed the contract. Mr. Palmer's season does not begin before Decr and possibly January. Mr. Morris got Mr. Palmer's consent to address me which makes me think Mr. Morris is in a way working for Mr. Palmer.
Philadelphia, June 27, 1892 Mr. Ramsey Morris was with us in our late visit to Chicago. Paid salaries and procured tickets for our return. I was introduced to him there. He is said to be an excellent business man. Has been with the Frohmans for some time. He obtained Mr. Palmer's consent to address me about the engagement. It is to be strictly a Stock Co, no stars. Mr. [John] Glendenning, Mr. [George] Giddens and Mr. [Reub] Fax are engaged. The two latter have been with Mr. Palmer and there was talk of the former being engaged by him.
The first play is to be Joseph which I am sure Mr. Palmer was going to produce sometime ago. All these things tend to make me believe AM [Palmer] is at the back of it, but for various reasons does not wish to make it known and you need not mention my ideas about it outside your own house, but I think you will find we shall follow Bronson Howard's play at Palmer's Theatre at the end of its run there with Joseph. The Co is to be first class in every respect, play in first class theaters &c,&c.
Philadelphia, Aug. 7, 1892 I am still idle and am very tired of it. About 2 1/2 months yet to wait before going to work and yet have not rec'd any instructions as to what I have to do or where I begin. Mr. [Ramsey] Morris sent for Photographs to make lithographs from the week before last so I conclude from that he is at work. I may receive some parts to study in a week or two.
Philadelphia, Aug. 25, 1892 Today I received the following telegram, "Will you play Lady Dunscombe [in Jim the Penman] one performance Sept 15th at Peekskill N.Y. for AM Palmer. Answer stating terms. Père Victor". I have replied, "Yes. $25 and all expenses". So if accepted I can take [daughter-in-law] Neppie with me then.
I suppose I should have to go over on Monday the 12th for rehearsals. So I can take Neppie and place her in an Erie train then. Mr. [Ramsey] Morris sent me a letter last week saying we open in Montreal, Canada on the 17th of Octr and that he would send me "parts" and directions about costumes in a week or ten days so it begins to look like business.
Troy, NY, Nov, 13, 1892 If I had not accepted this engagement I should have been out in the cold all winter. Maud [Harrison] is not yet drawing salary. Mrs. [Agnes] Booth is not doing anything and is awfully mad at A.M. [Palmer]. Mr. [Frederic] Robinson fortunately was engaged by Miss [Rose] Coghlan and, although at first his engagement was only for six weeks, yet he is going to travel with her for the Season, he having made a big hit in his part in Diplomacy. I feel very comfortable with this party and if I can only stand the travelling during cold weather all will be well.
Detroit, Dec. 13, 1892 Have had a letter from Maud [Harrison] this Morning. A.M. [Palmer] takes a company to Boston on the 26th of Decr. They are to open with Saints & Sinners (New play) don't it, eh? Miss [Julia] Arthur is to play Maud [Harrison]'s part. He has left Maud out in the cold. Also Mrs. [Agnes] Booth. Miss [May] Brookyn takes her place in the plays that are to follow. The engagement is for 4 or 6 weeks, then they are to open in New York with Lady Windermere's Fan. Glad I did not wait for A.M. [Palmer].
New York, Mar. 14, 1893 I have been to the dressmakers today and feel tired. It is harder work than acting.
1893 Nov 12 Chicago Tribune clipping Near to its Tomb AM Palmer Company dying as a Stock Organization. New York has practically turned the AM Palmer Co out of doors. Miss Agnes Booth and Mrs. EJ Phillips are recent defections from the organization and neither could be spared. .. The company has no plays.
New York, Apr. 12, 1893 We give 2 matinees -- today, the other on Saturday, I am spared from riding up and down and buying lunches as I should have to do on Matinee days for business up here [Harlem Opera House] is better than at the Square, and the play receives more enthusiastic applause. The theatre is a fine large one -- fronts on 125th Street and runs back to 124th. I think the auditorium will hold more than double the number than could get in at Union Square. [Actually 1800 compared to 1300 at the Union Square Theatre.]
Next Monday and Tuesday, Albany, Wednesday Troy -- Thursday, Friday & Saturday Providence RI. Monday 24th Boston 1 week. May 1st Philadelphia 1 week -- 8th Pittsburg 1 week. 15th Brooklyn 1 week. 22nd Toronto 1 week. Season closing on the 27th of May.
Monday night Mr. [Ramsey] Morris again asked me to remain with him next season. I thought he had given up thinking of me. I told him the work was too hard and I could not stand it -- said he would show me the route and I would find the travel much easier, but he has not shown me the route yet! I cannot see success for the play next season and do not care to be mixed up with its failure. Do not know what I shall do, but I think I shall not reengage for Joseph.
A telegram from [AM] Palmer just recd "would like to see me" Well I have been down to AM's office. He offers me an engagement with Chas Frohman for next season to play in Lady Windermere's Fan. Season begins Sept 15th. I am to go down and see him tomorrow.
Brooklyn, May 18, 1893 I do not know where we "wind up our season". Last night Miss [Elsie] deWolfe did not play, owning to a very sore throat, and I suppose will not play again this week, and I heard last night that it is possible she will not go to Toronto. A Miss Halloway who has been playing "Susan" played "Constance" last night and under the circumstances filled the bill and is to continue playing it.
I asked Mr. [Ramsey] Morris last night to find somebody for my part for next week, or get the management to let us off from going to Toronto, as I should imagine he would be willing to do if Miss deWolfe was not able to go. So as things stand I do not know whether we will have to go to Toronto or not. I should like to tell you about "future movements" but do not know them until too late to tell anybody. We never know until Saturday, where and by what road we go. And even then are not sure until the train starts. I am very thankful, even if I have to go to Toronto, that next week ends my engagement with Mr. Morris.
Philadelphia, Aug. 3, 1893 As yet I cannot give you any business news. Mr. Palmer sails for this Country on Saturday so I shall not hear from him before the 15th of the month, if then.
Philadelphia Sept. 5, 1893 I started at the 7:30 AM [train] yesterday and was in Palmer's theatre office at 10:15. Had two talks with Mr. P[almer] but nothing decided for the future. He said he would want me, but could not tell when. I met several friends, and hope it would let them remind others that I am still in the land of the living.
New York, Sept. 18, 1893 Rehearsal for 2 weeks in Lady Windermere's Fan and play in Harlem on the 2nd of Octr under Mr. Chas Frohman's management, with whom I have signed a contract for season of 93-94.I have had considerable trouble and annoyance over the matter, and consequently am very nervous and not at all well. I have to get two dresses made, and that with rehearsals everyday will keep me very busy. After Harlem I hear we go to Chicago.
New York, Sept. 29, 1893 I do not know whether I can get seats for you or not if you come, for Mr. Chas Frohman is the man who in an interview newspaper article said he would not give passes to the profession. And I do not like to be refused in the first week of my engagement.
Hattie to Neppie, Philadelphia, Oct. 10, 1893 Her interviews with Mr. Palmer before the engagement was made were not pleasant for her & then when she made the engagement she only had two weeks to get ready for it. Two very expensive dresses to be gotten up & the first act was hard study for her. But she has pulled through nicely, looks lovely in the part & young. .. I am in hopes that as Mama gets a little more rest & (a few more salaries) she'll begin to feel better.
Milwaukee, Nov. 8, 1893 I do not know
how my affairs are going to turn out. The Palmer Co open in San F'co
on Xmas day and my name is on the list and has been rumoured in the papers as
going with them, but so far nothing has been said to me by either Palmer
or Frohman about the matter. If they do want me, I shall kick
considerably against going, for the Company is to play new plays almost every
week for three months which means daily rehearsals, eight performances and
getting dresses ready for each new play. I do not think my strength would hold
out and there certainly would not be any money in it for me at present salary.
If they are willing to double my salary then I may accept, if asked!
We go to St Louis the week beginning Decr 4th. The week following I do not know yet what becomes of us yet! Week before Xmas I hear we close. Xmas week we are either in Washington or Baltimore and New Years day open in Philadelphia for two or more weeks at Broad St theatre. This is supposed to be the route of this Co but it appears Messrs Frohman and Palmer engage people and pass them to each other as they see proper without asking "by your leave" of the actor. The Actor's life is not now a happy one.
Detroit, Nov. 15, 1893 I have not as yet been asked to go to California and I do not think I shall be. It would, as you say, be very pleasant to spend the cold months there, but to study a lot of new parts, rehearse and get costumes ready, would not be so pleasant, and there would not be any money in it for me. Besides there is no glory in belonging to Palmer's Co anymore. I will enclose an article from last Sunday's Chicago Tribune which shows the state of things as viewed by the recent performances given by the Co in Chicago.
Cleveland, Nov. 17, 1893 The clipping you sent from the Sun is one of many in which Mr. [AM] Palmer still uses my name, but I do not think it will do him any good. I think Chas Frohman will fulfill his contract with me for this season, and then will perhaps want me for the next season. In going to California with Palmers Co I would still be under Chas Frohman's & [Al] Hayman's management. It is a mixed up affair all around. In fact a game of Battledore and Shuttle-cock. And the Actor is the latter and the manager Battledores him where ever he pleases.
St. Louis, Dec. 10, 1893 Mr. [AM] Palmer sent to Mr. [Charles] Frohman to release me for California. Mr. Frohman sent Mr. [JG] Saville to me to ask if I wanted to go, and that he, Mr. Frohman, did not want me to go. So I said I did not want to under any circumstances. And Mr. Frohman made me an offer of resting this week. Would pay my salary and send me to Phila so that I would be well rested to join the Co in Baltimore, but as I could rest next week I told them I preferred working this week unless I got very tired and would then take their offer and go home from Terre Haute on Friday.
Providence, Rhode Island Feb. 1894 I do not see much prospect before me of bettering my condition. Managers are looking for the young and beautiful and I shall have to take a back seat. What next season will bring forth, I do not know and do not yet know how long this one will continue, but am very thankful that my health has held out.
I go nowhere except to the theatre and back, and went nowhere in Montreal . Our business here is not very good, and I do not think it will increase very much for the rest of the week. We do not go to Springfield, but instead go to New London on Friday night and New Haven on Saturday night. Then make our way to Washington to open there on the 12th for one week, 19th Pittsburg 1 week, 26th Phila for one week. Then a week to fill in between there and Brooklyn on the 12th of March. After that I do not know what will become of us.
Rochester, Feb. 23, 1894 This has been a hard week, but there is nothing so bad but it might be worse. We feared we should have to open with a matinee yesterday, it being Washington's birthday and the City being full of GAR people on their annual convention, and we were overjoyed on our arrival to find we were not to give a matinee. Opened last night to a good house -- play tonight and twice tomorrow.
New York, Mar. 5, 1894 on Saturday night our present season closes, and a new company is formed under the management of Mr. Gustave Frohman. My season with him will continue until 1st of May.
After that, if I remain with him, he will expect me to take a reduction of salary, which I have already refused to do. So I expect my season will close on the 1st of May. Where I do not yet know, as we have not yet heard our route: only that we close Holy Week and begin our new season at the National Theatre, Phila on Easter Monday.
Philadelphia, Mar 24, 1894 Had a nice letter from Mr. Frank Connor this morning, tells me he saw Mr. [Arthur] Shirley and Mr. Wells off for England last Sunday and has had an interview with Mr. Humphrey at the Empire Theater and he told Mr. Conner that at present there was nothing being done in regard to new plays or "casts". So for the present there is no sense in my going to NY and presenting myself to the New York Managers.
Newark, Apr. 3, 1894 Walter [Dolman] has done very well in the "part" of "Hopper" and I guess is all right for the Summer, and possibly the Fall. I expect my season to close in Chicago about the 12th of May, for I think there are plenty [of others] anxious to go on for the "Duchess" for half my salary. Nothing further has been said to me, and I do not think they will be likely to keep me at present salary. The new "Mrs. Erlynne" and "Lady Windermere" are giving better satisfaction than their predecessors did, so that will incline them to think they may get a more satisfactory "Duchess" for less money.
Philadelphia Sept. 9, 1894 I had a rather uneventful birthday. Went over to New York to see about an engagement that had been offered to me, only to find out my terms were too high and another lady had been engaged. But I was told afterwards that it was as well for me that I did not get it. The parties are not very safe in business matters. I am still one of the great unemployed, but hoping something will "turn up".
Philadelphia Sept. 18, 1894 I feel "right down in the dumps". I am still a member of the great army of the un-employed, do not think anything will be given me before Novr, if then. I am trying through Marcus Mayer to get with the new English star, Miss Olga Nethersole -- who plays legitimate roles -- and is to a certain extent under the management of [Augustin] Daly. The lady is expected to arrive next week, when matters will be settled and engagements made. And I hope to be one of the fortunate ones. No engagements have yet been made, except that she brings her "leading" man with her.
Thursday Walter Dolman will be 21 years old. He will be in Denver, Col. He writes [that] during his season has lost about 5 weeks salary, by the management not being able to make dates, which must have been rather hard on Walter's purse, but he is buying experience.
St. Louis, Oct. 16, 1894 You will be surprised to receive this from so far a distance, unless Hattie has written to you since I left. I had received a telegram from Gustave Frohman on Friday asking me if I could play the "Duchess" in [Lady] Windermere's Fan for this week in St Louis. I answered yes, and on Saturday Morning about 9 rec'd another telegram from him telling me to start by Penn RR.
Walter Dolman is looking splendidly. There has been some trouble in the Co with the Duchess and her husband who played Lord Darlington and they were dismissed, So I was sent for, for this week. I had nothing to do and thought I might as well come. I shall not be much richer for it, but it was a nice little trip. I am not as strong as I would like to be, but if in an engagement I think I should feel better.
Hattie to Neppie, Philadelphia, Oct. 31, 1894 She [EJ Phillips] had a wretched time of it. Long rehearsals, running to dressmakers &c & the part was altered just enough to make it confusing & more troublesome than a new one. And she was ill in the bargain. The day before I arrived she had nothing to eat between 9 AM & 6 PM. ... Sunday night there was a rehearsal, which was not over until 1:30 Monday morning.
Pittsburgh, Nov 28, 1894 Yesterday I was called to rehearsal and did not rehearse, and today no rehearsal for the first time in over five weeks. Here I am living next door to theatre, which is also a great rest to me, and I am beginning to feel quite like myself. We played Camille the past two nights, and the curtain did not fall on last act until 10 minutes of 12 each night. I being so near theatre got into my room at "14 of 12" but in New York and Philadelphia it used to be half past 12 before I got home, and it was very tiring to me.
I used to get to 3219 Clifford Street [Philadelphia] at from half past 12 to one AM every night. Get up at 10, take a breakfast and down to rehearsal, which would often not allow one time to go home to dinner, but I would get dinner at restaurant and go back to theatre to dress for performance. On Morning of the night we produced Romeo & Juliet, it was 5 in the Morning when I got home, we having a rehearsal after the performance of the Transgressor which began at 1 AM and lasted for me until 1/2 past 4. Then Hattie & I got into a cab and arrived home at 5 AM.
Rochester, Dec. 19, 1894 Tonight Miss Olga [Nethersole] appears as Frou-Frou & I take a rest. She plays Frou-Frou on Friday night in Buffalo. The little lady is working altogether too hard. The rehearsal of Frou-Frou yester-day was from 12 until 6 PM & then had the Transgressor to play, and was to have more rehearsal after the performance, but I hear she fainted after the curtain fell on the last act, and had to be taken home.
A John L. Sullivan could not stand the work she has been going through with and not succumb. And she is straining her voice so much she will soon have none left. Whether [Augustin] Daly is forcing her to do those plays, or it is her own ambition, I do not know but there is a talk of two others being done, Carmen and something else before the season ends. I do not know whether I shall be in the two other plays or not, but possibly be in one at least. And to travel, Act and rehearse new parts is not easy work and get dresses is more.
New York, Jan. 9, 1895 It has been a source of grievance to me I assure you, that I could not help you more than I did, but Mr. [AM] Palmer and his short seasons crippled me and it was fortunate for me I broke loose from him when I did, for I have done better than I should have done with him. Now his [Palmer's] so-called "Stock Co" are away in Boston in the middle of the season playing New Woman so they are no better off than I am, as far as a home is concerned or saving money, for this travelling takes away the chance of saving anything.
Philadelphia April 17, 1895 I am afraid there will not be any chance for me to obtain any employment for the Summer. Had a note from Mr. [Robert] Taber, today, in answer to mine says "I regret that your terms were such, that it made it impossible for me to arrange with you". Have replied that "I am sorry the terms were not satisfactory, but thank you for the offer". So that is off.
Olga [Nethersole] comes back in October, but under the management of Daniel & Chas Frohman, and it may be she will bring a company of her own from England, as she is to have a "permanent company with her".
Ridgewood NJ, July 4, 1895 Had no rehearsal today but go at 12 tomorrow when Mr. [Richard] Mansfield takes the rehearsal in hand, and I hope will straighten us out. He yesterday mentioned a new play would be put in rehearsal, so I hope to hear about it tomorrow, and then be able to tell you whether to bring my trunk, or that I shall be able to make you a visit next week. Will write tomorrow if I can find out from the powers that be, when these rehearsals will be stopped. And I have yet to find a boarding house.
Philadelphia, July 26, 1895 I suppose you have had a telegram for me this afternoon. It has come to me - is from Mrs. [EL] Fernandez - wanting to know my terms for next season with Chas Frohman. I have wired her "Same terms as in Lady Windermere. I do not expect to be able to start before Saturday morning dear to see you.
Now this business will detain me even a little longer. Will not surprise me if it is to join the [Olga] Nethersole Company. She is to open at the Empire Theatre in October. I have to go to the dressmaker at 11 AM tomorrow and will call on Mrs. Fernandez before that. Hattie has wired me that Mrs. Fernandez has sent a telegram to me
New York, Aug 30, 1895 We are to begin our play on the 13th but out of town! But I do not yet know where, and I think open in this city on the 16th. We are "going to try it on a dog" I suppose! I have not many dresses to prepare, and those not elaborate. Only two dresses -- one bonnet -- and a wrap. Am in 1st & last acts -- only three in the play. Mr. [William Jason] Ferguson is the only member of the Company I ever met. I know him very well.
I have been rushed & will be until the play is produced -- still when words are familiarized I shall not have to work at home. If the play is a success I shall have an easy season, for the part is easy. I like my new stage manager Mr. Humphrey very much in that he is very thorough and energetic and puts on no airs. He has done more in three days with his play than the Hollands and [Richard] Mansfield combined did in five weeks. We have no waiting at rehearsals. We begin on time and get through without any trouble. Best stage Management I have seen since Union Square days.
New York, Sept. 11, 1895 Today it was rumoured, and I heard it was announced in some of yesterday's papers - that we open on the 19th in Buffalo, NY for three nights and Saturday matinee, and return to open on the 23rd at Hoyt's [Madison Square] Theatre for a run. Mr. Chas Frohman is attending rehearsals, is very pleasant and seems to be well pleased with the work of the company.
EJP to Neppie, New York, Nov. 26, 1895 I may not be here longer than the 6th or rather the 5th of January. We hear reports, but they are often changed or contradicted. I have heard that Chas Frohman is trying to place us in another theatre, in the City, on the 6th of January. I hope he will succeed, and that we shall not have to travel so early, but all is a mystery yet to us poor players.
New York, Nov 29, 1895 By today's Herald I see that Chas Frohman is going to put John Drew in Palmer's Theatre on Jany 6th, and that I guess has given rise to the report that he was trying to get a theatre to put us in on January 6th, but I guess we will have to go to Brooklyn and Harlem and dear knows where! before getting to Boston when we are to stay for a "run" (4 weeks I guess). I hope that will not be before April for Boston is cold even then.
Portland Sept 15, 1896 I felt pretty tired out on reaching this hotel yesterday 8:30 AM having been two nights on the train, but I pulled through last night all right, and had a refreshing night's rest. We had a splendid house last night. First night in ten weeks that the theatre has been open. The Public was hungry for a show I guess. I hope this and tomorrow night's will be as well attended.
But then the hardest part of the travel will be over, but by that time it will have been pretty severe. And I imagine rather exhaustive to the treasury. But we have our salaries up to date and have no right to criticise our management. I hear that Chas Frohman is to be in St Louis while we are there. His Stock Co will be there also and it is to rehearse them in some new play that he goes there. I don't suppose he will bother much with us.
Salt Lake City, Sept. 22, 1896 On Sunday Morning in Vancouver, BC Mr. [Daniel] Frohman invited me with three others of the company to take a drive in Forest Park, and a more beautiful drive I never enjoyed. .. Last night Mr. [Gustave] Frohman came behind the scenes very much elated over a letter he had rec'd from his brother Charles saying that in May next he was going to send Gay Parisians and Too Much Johnson to Australia. The Company would start out from New York in May and be back in November. Did not exactly ask me to go, but was doing all he could to get my ideas about it. I do not see much money in it for myself. There would be ten weeks at least going and returning, without any salary and under heavy expenses all the time. I think in the end I would be paying for the privilege of playing. And it would pay better for me to watch Albert's garden "sass" [salsify?] grow and help to eat it when it was ready next summer.
Kansas City, Oct. 1, 1896 We opened to a big house on Tuesday night. Gave two performances [of the Gay Parisians] yesterday, which rather tired us out after our long ride from Salt Lake. Didn't get up today until 1:30 and it is now 5:15. Leave here Saturday night for St Louis. Give 10 performances there beginning with Sunday night the 4th and ending Sunday 11th with two Matinees thrown in. Real pleasant. It will be State Fair week and Carnival time. What is troubling us is where we shall be able to find shelter. The City is expected to be over- crowded. We play at a new theatre named "The Century". [Charles] Frohman's Empire Theatre Stock Co are playing there this week. We shall be the 2nd attraction.
Detroit, May 15, 1896 The business has not been good since we left N.Y.. Men, women and children are all riding bicycles in every town. No business being done anywhere in any line save bicycles! ... Business for these two weeks has been so bad that we all feel our season in Chicago cannot last for 12 weeks, and we look for closing much earlier. Some say 6 weeks and I say four. But by the time June comes people may be tired of riding the bikes and like to take the theatre in.
New York, Jan 9, 1897 Last night, our route was announced for the next two weeks -- we began to think they were going to close down our season. We go to Wilmington, Del next Monday the 11th of Jany, 12th Lancaster Pa, 13th Harrisburg Pa, 14th Trenton NJ, 15th Easton Pa, 16th Scranton Pa on the 18th Newark ... Baman says we are not to take the New Orleans trip [but she was in New Orleans by March] - and Australia is now doubtful. So we are quite at sea for the present as to our future. I have no Matinee today! And I am happy. Such a treat! Only seven performances this week instead of nine or 11! I have not been out since my arrival except to go to the shop.
Philadelphia April 5, 1897 I have not any news. Do not go downtown and consequently do not see anyone in my line of business. Sporting Duchess plays at the People's Theatre, Kensington this week. I may try to go and see that. Mr. [JH] Stoddart is with it and Rose Coghlan but I may not go. When the time comes for any of these pleasures I generally back out and stay home.
No one has offered me a hundred per week yet for this or next season. I wish they would come along for I am tired of being idle.
Elizabeth NJ, Aug. 10, 1897 Saw Mrs. Fernandez and about a thousand actors & actresses -- more or less -- going in and out of her office. I had a little chat with her. She had an idea that I was booked for next season, and was surprised when I told her I was not. She took my address and said she would look out for me.
Hattie to Neppie, Philadelphia, Aug. 26, 1897 Mama had to go into New York the day before she left Elizabeth [New Jersey]. She had a telegram from Mrs. Fernandez offering her an engagement at the Schiller Theatre, Chicago in a Stock Co. But the whole thing seemed so uncertain & unsatisfactory, she thought it best not to accept.
Philadelphia, Feb. 22, 1898 I wish I could help you [Albert and Neppie were moving within Middletown] to do so, financially and personally but alas, I am no good either way, much as my heart yearns towards you. I have been idle for a year and so have many others in my profession, even those younger than I. Whether I shall be able to appear again is doubtful, though I am not in bad health, but the accumulation of years has me tied down and I cannot do as I have done. I did hope to be able to pull through for another five years at least, but it is vanity for me to think it. "All is beauty.
Charlotte Nickinson married Daniel Morrison, before whom "honest theatre criticism was virtually unknown in Toronto...the fulsome praise of a press agent, was almost universal in the United States, and performers coming here [Toronto] assumed - usually correctly - that Canadian editors were as venal as their American counterparts. Daniel Morrison, the Scottish-born editor of the Leader, declared war on this system at the beginning of 1854 ... When a doubtless resentful Nickinson ceased to advertise in the Leader, the rival Patriot charged that the Leader's censure of performances was in reprisal for this loss of revenue. ...Morrison showed himself in fact to be a most fair minded critic, and Nickinson eventually resumed his Leader advertisements. If any bias can be detected in Morrison's reviews, it is in favor of Charlotte Nickinson, whose charm and talents he eloquently praised right up to April, 1858, when he married her and removed her from the stage she had adorned. [Mary Shortt]
Chicago, July 23, 1887 Our new comedy [what could this be? Welcome Little Stranger?] is very funny. It will either be a great success or a dismal failure. We all have good farce parts. It is one of those funny things though, you cannot tell how an audience will receive it. I will send you some of the criticisms. Guess the critics will "go" for the author but we hope the public will be with us and then the play will go for three weeks.
New York, March 11, 1888 Yes, Nyson Crinkle and all the critics gave La Tosca a drubbing and the play is crowding the theatre. Tell people a play is bad and they are bound to see for themselves. [Fanny] Davenport will make more money with it, than with any other play she has ever appeared in, but possibly for only one season.
Milwaukee, Feb. 17, 1893 We have a week to rest & for rehearsals between Chicago and New York. I am well pleased with it, as we need brushing up and resting before appearing before the great critics of the metropolis.
Brander Mathews and Peter Robertson were playwrights and critics
Auster, Albert, Actresses and Suffragists: Women in the American Theatre 1890-1920, Praeger Scientific, 1984
Dolman Jr., John, The Art of Acting, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949.
Rede's Guide to the Stage 1858 http://books.google.com/books?id=W3oXAAAAYAAJ&dq=rede's+guide+to+the+stage+1858&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Rothman, John Origin and Development of Dramatic Criticism in the New York Times 1851-1990 New York: Arno Press, 1970.
Volpe, Women in Theatre, Sister Carrie http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA02/volpe/theater/theater/women.html
Last updated Dec. 7, 2012
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