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TO THE EDITOR OF "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH."
SIR – In your article on play production you credit me with opinions that are widely removed from those which I really hold. You say, "Mr. Gilbert … holds the theory that artists, with certain rare exceptions, are to be regarded merely as so much material to be moulded to the purposes of the playwright." I hope you will permit me to say that this is very far from being the case. When you employ the term "artists" I assume that you are referring to actors who have achieved distinction in their profession; and from actors of this class it is—as it has always been—delightful to me to receive suggestions and to adopt them, if they appear to me to be consistent with the characters they represent and with the scene in which they are playing. Is it to be supposed for a moment that I, or any dramatist who know [sic] his business, would not gladly welcome suggestions and counsel from such consummate artists as Miss Ellen Terry, Miss Marion Terry, Mr. John Hare, Miss Genevieve Ward, Mrs. Kendal, Mr. James Welch, Miss Lottie Venne, Sir Charles Wyndham, Miss Irene Vanbrugh, Mr. Forbes Robertson, Mr. Rutland Barrington, Miss Evelyn Millard, Mr. Eric Lewis, and Mr. and Mrs. Cyril Maude—to take almost at random the first fifteen out of fifty that occur to me? It is true that as the author of the play and, pace the whole body of dramatic critics, the creator of the parts, I reserve to myself the dernier mot as to what may or may not be said or done in my name, but, at the same time, I hope I recognise the importance of listening to the actor’s view when it happens to differ from mine, and of adopting that view if I see no cogent reason against it.
As an almost invariable rule I find that actors and actresses, however distinguished their position may be, are keenly anxious to ascertain the author’s intention, and then to carry it out to the best of their ability. This has always been notably the case at the Savoy Theatre, and when I tell you that during the twenty years that I had unlimited control of the stage arrangements in every detail I never had a seriously angry word with one of the company, you will, perhaps, believe that I did not abuse my authority.
Your suggestion that the "rank and file" of the profession are unfairly treated by the producer, and that in debarring them of initiative he is depriving them of the opportunity of developing into great artists, opens out an amusing prospect of what would happen to the unfortunate author if these young people were permitted to give full scope to their own ideas as to how a part should be played. Pray bear in mind the dozens of prosperous artists who began in the chorus or with £3-a-week parts at the Savoy, and who are now commanding salaries of from £20 to £30 a week, and then decide whether the case of these ladies and gentlemen, who received their first instruction as actors and actresses on the Savoy stage, and who in their early days had to do exactly what they were told, is consistent with your theory or with mine. – Your obedient servant,
Harrow Weald, Dec. 8.
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