Category Archives: Essays/Articles

“Encoritis: A Protest” from The Theater, Dec. 1905

An early article from DeC published in The Theater magazine.

Encoritis: A Protest

THE encore fiend, with his huge maulers and silly giggle, his bubbling, thumping, ear-splitting appreciation of everything that assails his lack-lustre eyes from the stage, has become such a nuisance in our places of amusement on first nights, second nights and all other nights that we think the time is ripe for a fuller appreciation of this most extraordinary specimen of the homo imbecilis.

Illustration on same page as article.

There he squats in all his brazen glory. He has come to enjoy the “show,” not, mark you, in the manner in which as a normal human being he would enjoy anything else, by finely discriminating between what he likes and what he does not like; but he has come to enjoy—”take in”—this particular part of his day’s more or less diverting experiences by a solemn compact with himself, not to be bamboozled, cozzened, or thimble-rigged out the equivalent for the two dollars he laid down at the box-office. And if the play is execrable, if the actor., are doing their unspeakable worst, if there is in all the dreary stuff never a smile or a real emotion—no matter. Go to! He’ll have his penny’orth of excitement willy-nilly. He’ll have his hands do the work that his judgment ought to be doing, if judgment the good God had given him. And while the rest of the audience wants to cool it heels in the lobby and its throat at the replenishing station next door, this maudlin vulgarian, exquisitely titillated by the work of his marvelous palms, has the curtain up again and again until the players themselves sneak knowing winks at one another, and even the manager looks at the arabesques in the carpet to keep a straight face. The Briareus of the stalls—who will deliver us from the body of this iniquity !

All our theatres are now equipped with opera glasses and acousticons. Why not hang from the back of each seat a box containing a huge watchman’s rattle? Ah ! that would be worth while. For a dime the fist-yammerer could then make Rome howl—even if they had not succeeded in doing so on the stage make each particular hair on each particular bald head to stand on end like javelins upon the fretful elephant, and drive each decent and self-respecting playgoer into the street, leaving the auditorium wholly in the hands of the high priests of hubbub.

Have you never been awakened out of a sound sleep at the end of act three when all the air a solemn stillness holds by “Speech !” “Speech !” “Speech !”? That is the tertiary stage of encoritis. Nobody wants to deliver a “speech,” nobody wants to hear a “speech,” nobody who is anybody asked for a “speech” —but behold ! the Palm has annexed a larynx, and tongues have sprouted on the night. The author, the manager, the star, anybody, will satisfy this unfortunate who has come among us. Just to see a real live man appear between the footlights and the fallen curtain, and hear those inspiring words: “Ladies and gentlemen, in the name of the company and myself—,” and all the rest of the platitudinous palaver that goes by the name “speech”—just to hear that and nothing more, brings the bliss that passeth understanding to the soul of the encoritic and satisfies him until the last act, when, emerging from his trance at seeing particeps criminis before the curtain, he will yet linger for a good-night love-tap.

Applause—the real simon pure article—is something that brings as much joy to the auditor who never applauds—we all know him, the fellow whose face is pipe-jointed to his Dignity, and who is afraid to let out a link in his macadamized attitude—as to the players on the stage. In the third act of “Zira,” when Margaret Anglin spins the web of despair all about her to break it in a whirlwind of defiance and then collapses into a heart-splintering confession, or when James K. Hackett in a splendid outburst pronounces his now famous anathema maranatha on the lady cigarette smokers and the finely upholstered man-killers of Mayfair, and in mighty vocables and unsterilized staccato smashes the smart set to infinitesimal Hinders that pretty nearly knocks down the Coca-Cola sign in Long Acre Square, the audience is carried off its feet and fairly bellows its appreciation. This is all very different from demanding of Edna June a repetition for the tenth time of “Under the Beerbohm Tree.”

Advertisement found on second page of article.
Advertisement found on second page of article.

Then, too, this scurvy encore fellow has no regard for the actor or singer. It was long ago officially announced by Mr. Mansfield that actors have rights which the public is bound to respect. Neither age, role, nor previous condition of perspiration is safe from the onslaught of the encoritic. His fiendish purpose is never satiated until he has seen all the company linky-hand, then he must see each bored countenance stand in the centre of the stage and bow its approval to this ass in evening raiment. Voices are worn down, but that is nothing to him; shoe-leather worn out, but that is nothing to him—an actor, a singer encored to death, but that is nothing to him.

It was the last night of all Time. Through the infinite darkness there reigned the calm that was to precede the Final judgment. From the east there flared intermittently yellow and purple-green lights, and the last of the earth-men, seeing these things, cowered deeper and deeper into their burrows. But the end had come. Sulphur and ashes filled the universe and giant sidereal systems flashed into flaming pyres, whose flames licked the roof of the Zenith. World rattled against world, comets clove the solid earth of the younger worlds and belched their fires to the furthest spaces. And over against the east, where the first dread flashes had been seen, the Angel Gabriel rose, and on his face there lay the marmoreal silence of eternity, and upon his trumpet that reached unto the last outpost of Space he blew the three prophetic blasts. And from out that grinding war of atoms and stupendous impact of force on force, through the hellish murk and lurid lights of vanishing worlds, there emerged the figure of a man who once had dwelled on earth. As the last trumpet-call died away the man smote one palm upon another in wild applause, and, with eyes fixed upon the face of Gabriel, he called wildly thrice : “Speech!” “Speech!” “Speech!” It was the encore fiend.


“Why We Are Thankful”

Originally printed in JUDGE, November 1918

ONCE upon a time man had no Thanksgiving Day. He swore at his gods when there was no rain, prayed to them in winter before the era of the snowplough, and sacrificed to them the beasts of the field and a few enemies before he started out to annex a bit of kultur from the bodies and lands of neighboring tribes.
Time passed (and if you ever notice your clock you will observe that that is an old habit which old Kronos cannot rid himself of). And as time passed, man learned how to smoke the pipe of peace. He actually began to observe that the tribe that lived over the garden wall wasn’t one hundred per cent. yellow. And with peace came more wampum — the price of poisoned arrowheads decreased and the family sugar bowl filled up.
He had time to meditate — to look around on the good old garden patch, Mother Earth, to observe that the stars didn’t bother anybody much except once in a great while, when the heavens, in a grouch, let fly a comet at the earth.
So one day Man went out into the fields — he was still rather raw and hazy about Liberty, Rent Values and Birth Control — stripped off his fighting duds, and mumbled out thanks to Something or Other that the baby’s tooth had come across, that the squaw looked pretty nice that day and that the fishing was good.
That was the first Thanksgiving Day of Man. He got rid of something on his chest — a sense of gratefulness for little things — and resolved, no doubt, to be a more human murderer and a not-quite-so-lazy husband in the future.
From that day to Thanksgiving, 1918, a great deal of human blood has flowed under the mills of the Gods. There have been many things to be thankful for and a great many things to pout at, and a whole lot of things to cuss about. You and I—that is, the human race, for from the beginning they, all of them, have been blood of our blood and bone of our bone (don’t you feel it in this most human time?) — have done pretty well, considering that we have been up against famine, flood, comets, wars, Nature’s sunny cynicism, the decrees of kings, Intolerance, the natural perversity of Things in General, poverty, the flesh, the devil and the Hun.
Yes, we’ve done pretty well. We — you and I — have flowered into a Sophocles, a Shakespeare, a Michael Angelo, a Beethoven, a Leonardo da Vinci, a Darwin, a Newton, a Galileo, a Voltaire, a Mark Twain — the role of our great names would take up an issue of JUDGE.
Yes, we have done pretty well — considerin’. Racially, let us give thanks to whatever gods will listen for Music, Painting, Science, Literature, Dancing, and even the spirit of Humor. We — you and I — have laughed in the face of hell — and of that laugh there was born a star — Art, and its satellite, Pleasure.
Today, in this Thanksgiving season, we who are real men and women thank those same blind and wilful gods that we are alive.
We have stood to our breasts in blood; but we have lived and helped, and feared not.
We have stood, in these four years, at the crossroads of civilization, and fought a thug in the dark — the Hun. We have not forgotten our birthright, Liberty. We have stood and died beside France and Belgium; and each has made the supreme sacrifice — in his way.
This Thanksgiving Day, 1918, is a day for all brave men and brave women, and our brave boys and beautiful girls. It is a day not of night, or sorrow, or the quenchless agony of the battlefields, but a day of gleaming splendor. Never in the history of humanity have such great and unselfish deeds been ‘done; never has there been a time of such beatific martyrdoms; never has there been a time of such unselfishness.
Thanks, thanks, thanks, then, a thousand times, to whatever gods there be for the revelation of mankind unto itself—for the privilege of seeing ourselves in the blazing mirrors of Verdun and Château-Thierry and Ypres and the Marne as we are—neither beasts quite, nor angels quite, but Men and Women with a mysterious destiny battling for a Vision.
And thanks, O thou mysterious Fate that rules us, that we are Americans, and that we have made the sublime gesture of history to enslaved humanity; that thou hast made us strong and implacable in its hour of need; and thanks for sealing with blood our friendship with France, our beautiful, all-suffering sister!
And receive thou our immortal dead into Thy mysterious Presence!

The Borrowed Mirror

“What will other people think?” is the most cowardly phrase in use in society. Only weak men stand in fear of the censure of the neighborhood.

Whatever is great in life brings down censure upon the head of the doer.

A man who lives, moves, and has his being in other people’s opinions has not risen to the level of animal intelligence. The dog and horse are at least sincere and natural in all their acts.

Why not dress your life before your own mirror ?

Look for your reflection in your own mind. There is a secret judge of all your acts within you. Conscience is your private opinion of yourself.

Why borrow a thing when you possess it yourself ? What does it matter what others think of your actions? What do you think of them ?

Some men crouch, crawl, and skulk all their lives. They are cowed by a whisper; their purpose is shaken by a look. They run like sheep before somebody’s opinion, though they would return blow for blow if they were attacked on the highway.

They are larded, greased, and curled wax figures. Whenever they move you know that Public Opinion has pulled a wire somewhere. When they speak you know what they will say. They are not men enough to offend.

The ogre, Public Opinion, slays more originality and individuality than all the barbarous superstitious codes put together. It is the modern Moloch before which we all meekly bend.

That shameful hypocrisy which permeates society everywhere is born of the fear of other people’s opinions. Sincerity and plain speaking are at a premium everywhere. We lie from morning until night, and pretend to things we abhor.

Turn once upon that lazy braggart, Public Opinion, and see it scamper away.

It is our latest idol, the modern social Juggernaut.