America on stage; "Margaret Fleming" by James Herne
Last evening saw the production of Mr. James Hearns and you play Margaret Fleming. It would be a privilege to refrain from comment on this production but on happily the choice of silence is not permitted to critic. I went to see a play when I saw it was a long conversation interrupted from time to time by the falling of a curtain. Last evening star the production of James a Hern his new play Margaret Fleming measured by any play on the American stage it stands above them all in purpose in execution in power and is worthy to stand for the new drama in 1891. James a Hearn's new play Margaret Fleming opened in a small theater in Boston. It contained the seeds of twentieth century theatre but in 1891 it was the seeds of the future and its premature flour was a strange annoying thing in the Vintage garden of a Victorian
era. I am. Program 13 of America on stage. The character of a nature as seen through its theater. America on stage is produced by the Wisconsin state broadcasting service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters consulting for the series is Jonathan W. curve and professor of speech at the University of Wisconsin and a specialist in the American theater. Here to introduce the program Professor curving the term realism is at best a tricky one.
A quicksilver term whose meanings change from generation to generation. Many of the novels and plays a seemed utterly realistic to our grandparents have become for us pale imitations of real life even absurdly false. Be that as it may in the 1890s there appeared in the American literary scene a number of forceful champions of what they call realism. Their leader and highly articulate spokesman the novelist William Deane Holles sounded the rallying cry in these words. Let fiction cease to lie about life let it be train men and women as they are. Actuated by motives and passion in the measure we all know. Let it leave all painting dolls and working them by springs and wires. Howard spoke for the American playwrights to all but a scant few pretended to hear him. The American theatre of the 90s was profitably giving the public what it wants. As the manager said and the public seem to want above all plays a glowed with romance. James E. Hurd was almost the only
dramatist of the time to dare to fly in the face of popular demand. Encouraged by halls he wrote and produced Margaret Fleming though a failure nevertheless stands as a landmark in our drama for it does set out to fulfill the intentions of the realists namely to portray men and women as they are and not as fancy would have them be. Byrne believed in the Seders importance believe that it could by following the realistic creed become what George Bernard Shaw was to call a factory of thought the prompter of conscience and elucidated of social conduct and Omri against despair and dullness and the Temple of The Ascent of Man. The rich garden of the Victorian stage first saw the seeds of James a Hearns drama in a converted Boston concert hall Chickering hall. From that quiet Boston stage spread the thunder of a new cause. The seeds of stage realism had crossed the Atlantic and the
critics shaped their pens as spades to kill the new flyer. Mr. Hurd has been reading the tedious compositions of Mr. Ibsen and thinks him worthy of the imitation. Margaret Fleming is the quintessence of the commonplace its language is the colloquial English of the shops and the streets and the kitchen fireplace its personages are the every day non entities that some folks like to forget when they go to the theatre. It is constructed in defiance of the laws of Aristotle and Horatius Flaccus and Carnegie and Hazlitt the life it portrays is so ordered and mean and its effect upon the sensitive mind is depressing. In Boston Chickering Hall had been turned into a fortress in defense of the play. An audience of distinguished literary and artistic figures rallied to the cause. One of them was Hamlin Garland the noted novelist and friend of her own.
It is a commentary on the American theatre scene that so eminent a writer is Mr.. After 30 years in the theatre could be forced to produce his play in a hall. So far everything that a manager has rejected the play is to revolutionary for the general public. So be it. But all the theatre managers and critics cannot stop the forces of realistic theatre from the stages small intimate theaters upon which are examined the slices of life which make up the pattern of every day man. Now America has its Chickering hall. This is a small theater seating barely 500. The audience is brought into intimate relation with the stage. Looking at the stages through an invisible fourth wall the actor's going to broil tones of ordinary conversation and the audience being close at hand. The finest qualities of acting will tell. Mr. Herndon I hope that this can be the beginning of the growth of little theatre in this
country. Small theaters that will make possible the production of literary plays. Margaret Fleming as a play and as a production is there for epoch making a turning of the tide. So the critics how even they are forced to abandon the conventional standards of criticism. It forces a comparison with life that is a distinct game. Yet I must admit few of them have been kind but so passionate are they to object that they must see something to fear. Margaret Fleming is not without a gleam of suggestion but it is immeasurably prolix and trivial and therefore it is enough to us the a noxious thing is the doctrine that underlies it. If that should ever be widely accepted all art and all poetry would vanish from the stage. Such indeed is the drift of realism in every one of its forms.
Holding a mirror up to nature doesn't mean holding it up to an ash barrel. Nature includes romance nature includes imagination and the ideal. The minute it becomes the business of the stage to copy the commonplace of everyday life that moment the stage becomes superfluities for those commonplaces feel every moment and every street. If actors behave onstage or literally as men and women in actual life the art of acting dies. Everything is a play and everybody an actor and the whole human race enraptured at last with the presence of that elemental fact will sit serene under the universal smell of boiled cabbage Chickering Hall Boston 1891. The first little theater in America the vortex of a storm of criticism against the new drama. But the seed had been planted and in this small hall is the distinguished American actor and writer James Hearn
author of a play that is already being called the magnificent failure. The critics voices against a realistic drummer are loud but they are shouting against the awakening whens of change. We are living in a time of immense intellectual and social changes. The theory of evolution has brought about the Scientific Investigation of man. If a scientist uses his instruments to investigate and better the conditions of man cannot the playwright use the immensely powerful instrument of the stage to do likewise. The search in both cases is a search for the same goal. The investigation of troop. I know what constitutes truth in my own work. I know the value of every inflection of every intonation of every look. Truth is not always beautiful but in art for truth sake it is indispensable. I suppose it is generally held that the problems of the drama is to amuse.
I claim that it has a higher purpose that its mission is to interest and to instruct to set forth clearly that the concern of one is the concern of all. Margaret Fleming is such a play. For it is a play about human morality. The work is a long conversation interrupted from time to time by the falling of a curtain. This conversation discloses a certain past year of circumstances and thereupon it announces a moral. The posture of circumstance is one that has been used in fiction ever since fiction existed. The moral is a platitude. The infidelity of a husband is as bad as the infidelity of a wife. Portions of the human race care not at all about this subject. The critics of our papers have censured the theme and language of my play a commonplace theme and commonplace language.
I plead guilty. I have shown man as he is not as hero but as man. Judge for yourself. The plot is simple. Philip Fleming owner of a mill has committed adultery with his maid's sister. His own wife. Margaret has recently given birth and Al Fleming would like to forget the previous incident. I have sought only the truth. Fleming is no God. He is a mere man and speaks in the language of his environment. The scene is in his office as his doctor enters. Have you been to the house doctor about midnight Margaret thought Little Lucy had a fever. She was going to call you I would not have found me in at midnight. Oh is that someone very ill. Oh excuse me Doctor. Hello. Always that you are MARGARET How is Lucy no. Good. How did you she'd be all right. Yes of course do bring in.
She's bringing baby to the phone. Hello Lucy. Many happy returns of the day. Good bye. Yes yes yes Margaret I'll be home at 12 sharp apple pie years of course I like it. That is your apple pie. This is baby's birthday you know Doctor I've just left a baby that should never have had a birthday. Why Doctor You're morbid today. Take a cigar it'll quiet your no no thank you I'll smoke one of my own. What's the matter doctor you used to respect my cigars. I used to respect you. You mean you don't now. No I don't. Good lord why. At 2 o'clock last night Lena Schmidt gave birth to a child in God's name how did they come to send for you. Dr. Taylor he called me in consultation. He was frightened after the girl had been in labor 36 hours 36 hours.
Good God. I suppose she told you she told me nothing. It was a lucky thing for you that I was there. The girl was delirious delirious. Well I've done all I could for her doctor have you. She's had all the money she wanted. Has she. I tried to get her away months ago but she wouldn't do it. She was as stubborn as a mule. Strange she should want to remain near the father of her child isn't if she'd have done as I told her to this thing would never have happened. You'd have thought some poor devil to run the risk of a state's prison. By God you're worse than I thought you were. Doctor you must think I'm saying don't think anything about it. I know just what brutes such men as you are. Well I'm not wholly to blame. You don't know the whole story. I don't want to know. The girl is not to blame. She's a product of her environment under present social conditions she'd probably have gone wrong anyway. But you God Almighty if we can't look for decency in men like you.
Representative man where in God's name are you look for it I'd like to know. If my wife hears of this my home will be ruined your home or your home. It is just such damn scoundrels as you that may can destroy a home. Oh come now doctor aren't you a little severe severe. Why do you realize if this thing should become known it will start up a stench that will offend the moral sense of every man woman and child in this community. Well after all I'm no worse than other men. What I haven't seen the girl for months haven't you. Well then suppose you go and see her now. Do nothing of the sort. Yes you will. She shan't lie there and die like a dog I tell you I'll not go. Yes you will. What will you do if I don't I don't know but you'd best go and see that girl. Well what do you want me to say to her. I lied to her as you have before. Tell her you love her. I never lied to her I never told her I loved her. All I tell you I never did.
You better get Mrs. Fleming away from here until this thing blows over. When I think of a high minded splendid little woman like Margaret married to a man like you. Good day. Lyndon 3 7 2 1. MARGARET Yes it's I. Philip Yes. Well I'm tired. No I can't come home now. I will not be home to lunch and I have a business engagement. I know I cannot break it off it's too important with a man from Boston. Yes certainly that I will just soon as I can get away. Yes dear I will. Good bye.
Chickering Hall Boston 1891. The rich overripe garden of the Victorian stage sees Margaret Fleming and is shocked for a century the stage has been the asylum of the Romantic era of the sentimental expressions of poetic figures in Chickering hall. The spotlight reveals the trivial sorrows that other configurations of contemporary man. Margaret Fleming is a naked annoying flower in the lush garden of a fading era and the critics try to spade it out last night. Many persons sat through Hearns obstetrical drama Margaret Fleming and left it depressed and for tea. There may be merit to be found in the piece if we take the playwright's point of view which is the same point of view we take when we read the morning newspapers and buy meat at the butcher shop. But the piece is consistent. It is realistic in everything. We see human beings as they are. There are no soliloquy is the meditations of the characters are
not spoken aloud and the author has steered clear of all the old conventions of the drama. The personages come and go naturally. However it is easy to be natural in making a play without storing climaxes and possible dramatic situations Chickering Hall Boston 1891 and the target of all attacks. James Hearn sits in the quiet intimate theater but has stirred an era's passion. Margaret Fleming has been attacked because it has no stirring climax. Again I plead guilty. In life the climaxes of man are not accompanied by Sublime rhetoric or grandiose scenes. In life the climaxes of man are for the most part subdued climaxes emotional episodes yes but quiet for who can or rate in a crisis. Gods perhaps but not man. And I seek to
display the truth in man for man the climax usually means a stuttering blind attempt. And his language is simple direct is the shadow of his uncertainties. The final scene of Margaret Fleming is my way to show truth in art. Margaret Fleming has discovered her husband's infidelity and takes Fleming's new son after his mistress has died. The scandal spreads. Fleming has played in shame. But now some days later he faces his wife. It is a climax for these two people. Let the critics dissent. For me I can only present the truth as I see it. MARGARET Well Phillip you have come back. Yes. Why did you go away. I couldn't face you. I wanted to get away somewhere and hide forever.
Do you think that was right to run away and hide. I did not consider whether it was right or wrong. I did not know the meaning of those words I never heard oh you are a man people will soon forget. I do not care about others it is you Margaret. Will you ever forget it. Will you ever forgive. There is nothing to forgive. And I want to forget. Then you will let me come back to you. You will help me to be a better a wiser man. Yes from all my life my good I will make amends for what I have done. I will atone for my ignorance or my wife my dear do we know Philip not now Margaret. The wife's heart has gone out of me. Well don't say that my Gran must. Philip how I worshiped you. You were my idol is it my fault that you lie broken at my feet. You say you want to forget that you forgive. Will you. Can't you understand. It is not a question of forgetting or forgiving. Can't you understand.
Philip suppose I had been unfaithful to you Mark. There you see you are a man and you had your ideals of the sanctity of the thing you love. Well I am a woman and perhaps I too have the same ideals. I don't know but but I too cry pollution. I didn't know. I never realized before the iniquity of my behavior how if I only had my life to live over again men as a rule do not consider others when urged on by their desires. How you must hate me. No I don't. I love you. I pity you. Not now but in the future some time away in the future perhaps the old man out of Philip the old Margaret is dead. The truth killed her. Then there is no hope for me. Every hope. What do you want me to do. Shall I go when you know your place is here. You cannot shirk your responsibilities now I do not want to shirk responsibilities Margaret. I want to do
whatever you think is best. Very well. It is best for both of us to remain here and take up the old life together. It will be a little hard for you but you are a man and you will soon live it down. Yes I will live it down. Go to the mill tomorrow morning and take up your work again as though this thing had never happened yes. All right I'll do that Mr Forster You know you have an unusually capable man there. Yes I appreciate four stories and he's carried on through a very critical week at the mill not I don't worry MARGARET Everything will be all right there now. I'll put my whole heart and soul into the work. Then you must do something for your child. Yes. How dear a child no. Not our child not Lucy your son my son. Yes. Where is he here. Who brought him here. I did you brought that child here. Yes where else should he go. You have done that. What other thing was there for me to do. Surely if he was good enough to bring into the world he's good enough to find shelter under your roof.
I never dreamed that you do that Margaret. Well he is here and what are you going to do with him. What can I do. Give him a name. Educate him try to make atonement for the wrong you did his mother. You must teach him never to be ashamed of herself or to love her memory. Motherhood is a divine thing remember that Philip no matter when or how. You can do fine things for this unfortunate child frying things but I'm not fit to guide a young life. A fine thing I've made of my own there is no use now lamenting for what was done yesterday that's finished but tomorrow. What are you going to do with that. Does not seem any tomorrow worthwhile to me. The past is dead. We must face the living future. Now Philip there are big things ahead if you if you only look for them. They certainly will not come to you. I will help you. We will fight this together. Forgive me please. I will not talk like that anymore. Of course there will be a lot of talk mean talk but but people will get tired of that in the end.
Where have you been all this time in Boston. What have you been doing. Nothing. I've been in the hospital. Have you been at you know what was it. Please tell me. I was walking across the bridge over the Charles River one night. I'm sick of myself. The whole world I believed I should never see your face again. The water looked so quiet at first and hated me. I just dropped into it and went down. Seemed like going to sleep. Then I woke up and I was in a narrow bed in a big room the hospital. There was a cruel thing to do. Where they can tell you their. Years. There was an old nurse there. She was sharp she told me not to be a fool but to go back to my wife. She said if she's any good she will forgive you
Margaret Someday I'm going to earn your respect and then I know I should be able to win you back to me all over again. I don't know that would be a wonderful thing. How wonderful thing how dreams Philip dreams. And we must get to work. I'll not wait until tomorrow I'll go to the mill now for that. That's fine. Do it does not take a bath and getting some fresh clothes first do you look pretty shabby knocking about for a week without a home. Be all right. I'd like to see Lucy. Where is she. They're both out there in the garden. The play ends quietly. Margaret stands at the table slamming steps quickly into the garden as the lights slowly fade. Boston 1891 the seeds of a new drama
relisten to show the imperfect patterns of man to man. My first attempt on the American stage a strange annoying flower in the garden of a Victorian era. Are on. Of the. Here again is Professor Jonathan Kirkman. Margaret Fleming with its serious approach to a social problem its characters who are credible in their speech of behavior satisfied with the avowed realists in the 1890s. The comparative failure of the play clearly shows at the American stage was not yet ready to present it on clouded mirror of American life but tastes and inclinations of the great public were as yet reluctant to admit facts to the theatre
and this very reluctance tells us something about the American culture at the centuries close the 20th century on the other hand has seen the almost complete triumph of realistic drama. In fact today the theatre has become the stronghold of truthtelling unrestrained as it is by niggling censorship on encumbered by the restrictions that bind the mass media. The theatre gives us the clearest image of ourselves. And now we come to the close of a series of programs America onstage. During them we have attempted to bring you our listeners within range of the American theater as it was in earlier days. For over 200 years the theater in this country has held a place in American art and society. It has had its ups and downs it's good years and bad sometimes trivial sometimes profound is attracted all sorts of people among its performers and among its spectators. We have sampled a number of its dramatic modes and we have noticed how these have changed
so too has America changed. Colonial America supported a Colonial Theater. A tributary of London stage employees in the British repertoire. Then fumblingly at the start but with growing confidence. Native Dramatis brought to the stage indigenous drama. And even original forms native born actors and actresses came to the fore. Eventually the American Theatre has come to attain its present reputation no longer provincial but internationally recognized and honored. One thing is clear the past of the American theatre was born of America's past just as future will be born of America's future. So too with the present it is not unlikely that in years to come there will be those who will turn back to the records of our theatre of the 1950s. For a glimpse of America on stage. With.
Programme 13 of America. Produced and recorded by the Wisconsin state broadcasting service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. The programs are distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters consulting for the series. Jonathan W. Kurban professor of speech at the University of Wisconsin heard in the cast were Tom Grunewald or Dean ness. Carol Cowan Carl Schmidt Tom to teen Jim Collins and Cliff Roberts script by Julia slammed our production by Carl Schmidt. This is the end 80 B Radio Network.
- America on stage
- Producing Organization
- University of Wisconsin
- WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program presents a radio play of Margaret Fleming by James A. Herne (1890).
- Series Description
- Selected American plays written prior to 1900. Each is an expression of contemporary popular sentiments. Radio adaptations of theatre performances, using selected excerpts.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Actor: Schmidt, Karl
Actor: Roberts, Cliff
Actor: Gruenwald, Tom
Host: Kerwin, Jonathan W.
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Production Manager: Schmidt, Karl
Writer: Herne, James A., 1839-1901
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-6-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “America on stage; "Margaret Fleming" by James Herne,” 1963-12-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-2n4zm99s.
- MLA: “America on stage; "Margaret Fleming" by James Herne.” 1963-12-07. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-2n4zm99s>.
- APA: America on stage; "Margaret Fleming" by James Herne. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-2n4zm99s