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FOR LITTLE THEATERS,
HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, THE HORACE MANN
UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK CITY
INTRODUCTION THE historian Froude called attention to the fact that in Tudor England "there was acting everywhere,” on the village green, in the baronial hall, in the courtyards of the inns and in the Inns of Court. As no great general was ever born in a race of cowards, so no great playwright was ever developed except in a people who were devoted to the drama. It was the widespread interest of all classes in England which made the path straight for Shakespeare's predecessors and which made possible the triumphant expansion of his own many-sided genius.
It augurs well for the future of the drama in the United States that there is now "acting everywhere,” not only that of professional performers in the regular theaters but also (and especially) the ardent and ambitious strivings of amateur players in schools and colleges, in open-air theaters and in the Little Theaters which have been springing up in every state of the Union. The performances of these aspiring groups are often vigorous and stimulating although they are sometimes hesitating and uncertain; but however inadequate they may be on occasion they are all significant of a widespread interest in the drama.
It is for the benefit of these various organizations that Mr. Milton Smith has prepared the chapters that
follow, chapters which are intended to guide the faltering footsteps of the novice, to emphasize sound doctrine about the drama, to supply practical directions for the production of plays and to provide answers for most of the questions which arise in the long labor of “putting on a show."
For the service which he proposes to render the writer of this book has the three necessary qualifications. First, he has thought out for himself the essential principles of play production and he keeps this theory firmly in mind. In the second place, this theory is the direct result of his own experience; he has done himself repeatedly what he is here advising others to do. And thirdly, he has not only himself practiced the novel and intricate art, he has shown others how to practice it; he has taught it to large classes year after year. My own experience as an instructor has made it plain to me that no one can write a textbook likely to be really helpful who has not himself taught the subject whereby he has made himself acquainted with its difficulties and has learned how to make his approach to the student.
Mr. Milton Smith's competence for this work is made manifest in the first paragraphs of his first chapter in which he has set forth the fundamental duty of the play producer—to make alive and vivid on the stage the drama, tragic or comic, which in the study —that is, on the printed page—is only "an intellectual conception.” The printed page of a play gives us the words to be spoken and a few directions for the acting and the mounting. But the play does not start to life