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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Perils of the Actor's Life

Guest Blogger: Fred Belton. From Belton's 1880 memoir Random Recollections of an Old Actor.


WE LAUGH WHEN WE see Hogarth's picture of the strolling players, but many things not fifty years ago have been enacted as ludicrous. In Wigan . . . occurred a laughable circumstance. The juvenile leading lady, a good actress and very pretty woman by the way, and a young mother, was cast to play Juliet, in “Romeo and Juliet.” Her baby had been placed in her dressing-room for security, and to be near the mother. But just before the balcony scene the young tyrant became unruly and impossible to control.

What was to be done? A mother’s tact hit upon the true soothing syrup. She nestled the infant to her breast, and from that moment the young villain became silent as a mouse. Being called, she hastily mounted the rostrum that supported the supposed balcony, throwing a lace scarf over her shoulders, which concealed the little suckling; and leaning over the balcony, with her other arm pensively placed upon her cheek, she looked the picture of innocence and beauty. The scene opened and went glowingly.

But, alas! Juliet has to appear and disappear three times, and in her effort to do so gracefully, and yet conceal the child, she stumbled against the iron brace that held up the frail structure. Down fell the balcony, and, lo! the love-torn maiden was discovered with a baby at her breast—seated on a tub, that served for a stool, and at her foot, accidentally placed there by the thirsty carpenter, was a quart pot. The said carpenter was discovered on all fours, steadying with his back the rickety structure above. Shrieks of laughter from all parts of the house greeted the tableau, and of the play no more was heard that night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a hoot. Such moments become legend.