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MARY BROOME: Backstage Drama by Jonathan Bank I
IN THIS ISSUE: mary broome: backstage drama
By Jonathan Bank An Except mary broome
By Allan Monkhouse About the Playwright allan monkhouse enrichmint events
A Special EnrichMint Event the conquering hero
spring benefit 2012
have been reading some of Allan Monkhouse’s other work, in particular his novel True Love, published in 1919. With regards to MARY BROOME, it’s almost like reading his private diary (had he kept one). The novel’s protagonist, Geoffrey Arden, lives in Manchester and works for the city’s main newspaper just as Monkhouse did. Like Monkhouse, Geoffrey has written a play for the local repertory company: Alice Dean —an obvious stand-in for MARY BROOME. The novel offers insight into the composition of Alice Dean, Geoffrey’s second play. With Alice Dean, Geoffrey “seemed to have made the discovery that it is easy to write plays. It was an illusion, no doubt, but not wholly an illusion…One speech provoked another, and his characters seemed to do the work themselves.” Before long, the play is scheduled for production and Geoffrey receives a letter from Elleray, the company’s leading man who has been cast in the key role. The letter was a request to be permitted to “alter a few lines” with the object of “making the part more sympathetic.” It was not so much that Elleray wanted to put things in, but that he did very positively wish to take things out. He could not give details in the letter, but Geoffrey might “rest assured that the greatest discretion would be observed,” and the character would emerge much more to the taste of the audience than in its original condition.
Geoffrey agrees to meet Elleray over tea and muffins. The actor comes prepared with a “bundle of cues and speeches.” [Geoffrey] glanced over a page or two, and it seemed to him that there was going to be a devil of a row. All sort of salient things were roughly scored out in pencil, and his first impulse to kick over the apple cart was succeeded by a rather pleasant feeling of power… He found no difficulty in being mild and ami-
Milton Rosmer’s third letter to Allan Monkhouse detailing his suggestions for MARY BROOME
able and treating Elleray as a reasonable being. He gave a little sketch of the general intention to which Elleray listened with a slight sulkiness, and then they went through the part in detail…Once or twice he had to be firm, once or twice he made trifling concessions with an air of deferring to mature judgment and generally he showed Elleray how good the lines were which had been crossed out, and how remarkably they would tell when they were delivered exquisitely—as they would be. The lines were restored, Elleray having thoughtfully provided himself with a piece of india-rubber. They parted amicably, though Elleray managed to convey presage of disaster to the play.
Imagine my delight when Heather Violanti, our staff dramaturg, discovered that the University of Manchester Library had a trove of letters written to Monkhouse, including seven from Milton Rosmer, the actor who played the key role of Leonard Timbrell in the play’s first production. Reading these letters made it obvious that Rosmer was the basis for the fictional Elleray. The library sent us digital copies; Rosmer’s handwriting was rather inscrutable but my assistant, Jesse Marchese, slaved over them and managed to make usable transcriptions:
MARY BROOME Continued Dear Mr. Monkhouse, I am writing to ask if you could spare me a few minutes to see you soon about the part in your play. I am in the greatest difficulty and distress about it at present. Its length makes it almost impossible to study properly in the time, and there are one or two of the speeches that I wish to consult you about as the suggestions I have made to the producer seem profitless as naturally one cannot tamper with a man’s work without his own participation. At present I really feel it impossible to do either you or myself justice with “Leonard”, but I think if we could talk it over a little it might be mutually advantageous – or at any rate simplify my predicament. Sincerely yours, Milton Rosmer
As a repertory actor, Rosmer would be rehearsing MARY BROOME during the day while playing other roles at night, so it’s easy to appreciate his concerns about memorization. Leonard has 40% of the play’s text, about 6,500 words. But Rosmer had deeper concerns: “You make Leonard say some things that will make the audience stamp him as an out & out blackguard which is not, I take it, what you mean.”
Elleray sulked through rehearsals of Alice Dean, with an “an air of profound dissatisfaction,” just as we may suppose Rosmer sulked while rehearsing MARY BROOME. Actors have a pathetic desire to be regarded with affection, and in consequence they lose a little in austerity…And so Elleray, craving affectionate sympathy, didn’t like at all that he should have to portray ugly, sinister qualities in his parts.
In the end Elleray rose to the occasion and Alice Dean was a success, just as Rosmer managed make good in MARY BROOME. Monkhouse was never satisfied with his performance—he told fellow playwright Stanley Houghton as much (another fact we ascertained thanks to the letters at the University of Manchester). In 1912 the Repertory Company went to London with MARY BROOME and several other plays. Rosmer sent clippings to Monkhouse: “I think you are to be congratulated on the reception of the play, don’t you?” But Rosmer could not help adding a dig: I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the critic who objects to your writing at the end of Act III! … Wont you reconsider if it goes up again, and re-write that bit?
Above: Actor, Milton Rosmer who originated the role of Leonard Below: Irene Rooke, Rosmer’s wife who played opposite him in the title role.
An excerpt- Mary Broome by Allan Monkhouse SHEILA: Edgar, I wish Leonard wasn’t coming to the wedding.
EDGAR: Oh! he’s artistic- literary and so on- it’s all the same.
EDGAR: But, my dear girl—
SHEILA: But he’s a barrister, isn’t he?
SHEILA: Oh! I know. I know. Of course he must be best man.
EDGAR: Oh! yes, of sorts. He never had a brief.
It would be all wrong if he wasn’t but somehow he’s so queer and different and I don’t feel safe with him and I don’t know what he’ll do or say. Of course he can be charming. I think he’s a flirt. You always know when he’s in the room.
SHEILA: Then how does he—I mean how does he get an in-
come? Why doesn’t he go into the business, too? EDGAR: Oh! ho! Leonard in the business! No. The old Pater
and assertive and—
prefers to pay him a handsome allowance to keep out. Leonard makes about five shillings a month by literature.
SHEILA: But he’s not assertive. He’s—he’s seductive. And he
SHEILA: How horrid to be quite dependent like that! Why do
EDGAR: Of course these artist people are very self-conscious
makes fun of things.
you let him?
EDGAR: No harm in that.
EDGAR: Bless you! I don’t want him in the business. It suits me
SHEILA: Yes, there is. He makes fun of the wrong things. Why
do you call him an artist, Edgar? He’s not one.
About the Playwright Allan Monkhouse Allan Monkhouse (1858-1936) was a dramatist, novelist, and critic known for his piquant portrayal of middle class life in northern England. He startled audiences with complex characters, who pierced societal niceties as they grappled with the contradictions of a rapidly changing world.
Monkhouse’s first major theatrical success was MARY BROOME, a biting comedy about a household turned upside down by an upstairs/ downstairs liaison. The play opened at the Gaiety in 1911 to strong reviews (C.E. Montague praised it as a “remarkable piece of work” in The Guardian) and transferred to London in 1912. While some were Monkhouse was born to a middle offended by the play, it enjoyed a class Quaker family in the northhealthy run in London and became ern English town of Barnard a staple of regional repertoire. The Castle. He began his professional life in the cotton trade, one of the A drawing of Allan Monkhouse by fuss over MARY BROOME paled his sister Florence Monkhouse (circa in comparison to the uproar over region's main industries. 1924) Monkhouse’s THE CONQUERMonkhouse’s business experience ING HERO, (first performed in led to a stint writing freelance market reports for 1924) a bracing examination of objection to World local papers, which led, at age 44, to a job at the War I and the war’s psychological aftermath. In the Manchester Guardian. Once at The Guardian full- play, a young artist stuns his family by objecting time, Monkhouse took to writing book and theatre to the war—then, on a whim, he joins the army reviews—even though he doubted, at first, that he anyway. When he returns home from the front, he would succeed. Monkhouse recalled the dread of is so shell-shocked he cannot bear to be celebrated filing his first review, telling his editor “You’ll never as “the conquering hero”—something his family get another from me because it is so bad”—but and community cannot comprehend. The Observer seeing his words in print the next day changed his deemed it “nothing less than a great play,” but some mind. Monkhouse became one of the Guardian’s audience members were not yet able to accept a most prominent critics, known especially for his critical view of the war. Newspapers were flooded weekly column “Bookman’s Notes,” offering lively with letters protesting the play, but it became one of literary commentary. Monkhouse’s most popular. Monkhouse began writing plays at the encourage- In all, Monkhouse wrote 20 plays and 10 novels ment of director and philanthropist Annie Horni- while continuing to work at The Guardian, where man, who’d moved to Manchester to rejuvenate he added a golf column to his book and theatre duthe Gaiety. (Mint audiences may recall Horniman ties. In 1929, Monkhouse received an honorary supported Dublin’s Abbey Theatre during its early doctorate from the University of Manchester, with years). Horniman transformed the Gaiety into Eng- the citation that his work proved “how empty may land’s first regional repertory and the home of the be the antithesis that is commonly drawn between Manchester School, a vigorous new style of writing. journalism and literature.” “Manchester School” plays portrayed modern life in northern England with unprecedented frankness, A private man, Monkhouse revealed little of his perexploring the tumult of social change with both wit sonal life, though his novels—particularly True Love and humor. In 1908, the year Horniman began her (1920), about a journalist-turned-playwright who management of the Gaiety, Monkhouse penned the writes a play very much like MARY BROOME— very first “Manchester School” play, Reaping The offer veiled hints. His family life was tinged with Whirlwind, a terse one-act about a marriage on the tragedy. His first wife, Lucy Dowie, died in 1894 verge of collapse, portrayed in disquieting detail. after only a year of marriage. Monkhouse did not James Agate, a fellow Guardian critic, praised it as remarry until 1902—the same year he began work"sane and real and full of irrepressible helplessness ing full-time at The Guardian—when he wed Elizabeth Dorothy Pearson, with whom he would have in the face of terrible happenings.” four children. Mint Alum to be featured in upcoming MARY BROOME: From TOP to BOTTOM: Janie Brookshire in Wife to James Whelan, Rodrick Hill in The Return of the Prodigal, Kristen Griffith in The Charity That Began at Home, and Doug Rees in What the Public Wants
Monkhouse died on January 11, 1936 after a lingering illness. In his obituary, The Guardian praised Monkhouse’s “sincerity in all things and the untiring independence of his mind.”
EnrichMINT Events MARY BROOME Sunday, August 19, after the matinee Dr. Carol W. Berman: “On the Couch with Leonard:” An Analysis of Leonard Timbrell
Saturday September 15, after the matinee Joshua Glenn and Mark Kingwell, co-authors of The Idler’s Glossary
Leonard Timbrell is a fascinating character—witty and bitingly self-aware, yet strangely diffident and lacking purpose. In this discussion, psychiatrist Dr. Carol W. Berman, a specialist in personality disorders, puts the character of Leonard “on the couch”—metaphorically speaking—analyzing his personality and choices. Dr. Carol W. Berman has practiced psychiatry in New York City for 25 years and is the author of 100 Questions and Answers About Panic Disorder and Personality Disorders. She is a clinical assistant professor in psychiatry at NYU, where she earned her medical degree. An artist and playwright as well as a psychiatrist, her plays have been produced by the Workshop at the Neighborhood Playhouse and Ego Actus Productions.
Joshua Glenn and Mark Kingwell, co-authors of The Idlers’ Glossary, examine the character of Leonard Timbrell in light of the modern “idler.” Just as Leonard shocks Edwardian society by refusing to work and questioning the status quo, so the modern idler questions current work and social structures. Indeed, “to be idle” in the philosophic tradition is not to reject work, but to contemplate—and perhaps redefine—the very nature of work itself.
Saturday, August 25, after the matinee Dr. John P. Harrington, author of
The Life of the Neighborhood Playhouse on Grand Street Dr. John P. Harrington, author of The Life of the Neighborhood Playhouse on Grand Street, charts the Playhouse’s history, with particular emphasis on its 1919 production of MARY BROOME, the play’s New York premiere. Founded in 1915 by philanthropists Alice and Irene Lewisohn, and known for championing thought-provoking plays shunned by commercial producers, the Playhouse helped pave the way for the Off-Broadway movement. Harrington is Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Fordham University. He has written extensively on theatre history, with particular emphasis on Irish theatre.
Saturday, September 8, after the matinee Patricia Denison, Barnard University: The Edwardian Angry Young Man. In 1958, just as the “Angry Young Man” began to rage on British stages, railing against establishment hypocrisy, Granada Television broadcast MARY BROOME—and critics were astounded by angry young Edwardian Leonard Timbrell. “A blood brother to George Dillon and Jimmy Porter,” declared the London Times critic, comparing him to the protagonists of John Osborne’s searing Look Back in Anger and Epitaph for George Dillon. Robert Stephens, who had played George Dillon, portrayed Leonard on the broadcast—reinforcing the link. In light of this comparison, Patricia Denison, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Drama and Theatre at Barnard College and editor of John Osborne A Casebook, will discuss Leonard as antecedent to the “Angry Young Man.” Join us for this thoughtprovoking comparison of two surprisingly similar eras and dramatic traditions.
Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, editor, and semiotics analyst. In addition to co-authoring The Idler’s Glossary, he is the co-author or co-editor of Taking Things Seriously, The WageSlave’s Glossary, Significant Objects, and Unbored. He is also a co-founder of the websites HiLoBrow, Significant Objects, and Semionaut. In the 1990s, he edited the philosophy and pop-culture-themed Hermenaut, described by Michael Stutz of Wired as “a scholarly journal minus the university, a sounding board for thinking folk who operate outside the ivory tower.” Glenn has a master’s degree in teaching from Boston University. Mark Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto. As a philosopher, he has focused on questions of social obligation and the role of citizenship in maintaining a just and democratic society. He is the author of several books, including Glenn Gould, Opening Gambits, Concrete Reveries, Nearest Thing to Heaven, Nothing for Granted, The World We Want, and Better Living. He is also co-editor of Rites of Way: The Politics and Poetics of Public Space. He has won the Spitz Prize for political theory, the Drummer-General’s Award for non-fiction, and national magazine awards for his essays and columns. Dr. Kingwell holds a Ph.D and MPhil from Yale University.
Wednesday, September 19th, after the matinee Vlasta Vranjes, Fordham University: MARY BROOME & Marriage in Edwardian England The housemaid is pregnant, the second son of the household is the father: is marriage “the right thing”—given their class and personality differences? Dr. Vlasta Vranjes, a professor in the English department at Fordham, discusses Leonard and Mary’s union in terms of Edwardian marriage laws and societal expectations, which were shaped by strict class and gender roles. Dr. Vranjes is the author of English Vows: Marriage and National Identity in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture, and her current research examines literary responses to Victorian marriage legislation.
A Night Out with the Mint! A Special EnrichMINT Event
The Conquering Hero By Allan Monkhouse
Monday, October 15th DINNER: 6:00 PM $60 PER PERSON for FPC Members (Includes Dinner & Reading) READING: 8:00 PM Join fellow Mint friends and historian George Robb, author of “British Culture and the First World War” for dinner at Etcetera Etcetera on West 44th St. Enjoy a delicious meal while Dr. Robb prepares you for the reading at the Mint. The reading will be followed by cookies and coffee with the cast.
Etcetera Etcetera is located at 352 W. 44th St. (between 8th & 9th Ave.) (between 8th and 9th Ave.)
READING ONLY: FREE for FPC
THE CONQUERING HERO by Allan Monkhouse is a bracing examination of objection to World War I and the war’s psychological aftermath. In the play, a young artist stuns his family by objecting to the war—then, on a whim, he joins the army anyway. Although the play did not receive a production until 1924, Monkhouse’s private letters date a finished manuscript of the play back to 1915. The British censor, G.S. Street sheds a bit of light on to this mysterious situation in his report of the play for the Lord Chamberlain: I have read that the author did not want this play acted during the war. Rightly, I think, and at that time it might not have been licensed, because the ‘pacifist’ argument in the first part might have had a bad effect. But I see no reason now for withholding a licence. The arguments in the play are familiar and the realities of war are now known. It is a moving play to which a bare analysis cannot do justice.
Monkhouse’s hesitations proved correct, and the lessons won by having lived through the war allowed British audiences to accept THE CONQUERING HERO’s controversial arguments. The play opened to positive notices on the West End and was hailed as “nothing else than a great play. ”
George Robb has been a member of the History Department at William Paterson University since 1993. He received his BA from the University of Texas and his PhD from Northwestern University. He teaches courses in British and Irish history and the history of crime. Professor Robb has published numerous articles on British social and cultural history, and he is the author of British Culture and the First World War (2002).
The piece went on to become regarded as Monkhouse’s career-defining achievement and one of the quintessential anti-war plays of the 1920s. In 1936, The Guardian published an obituary for Allan Monkhouse, claiming that “THE CONQUERING HERO probed the conflicting loyalties and ideals of a typical English family under stress of war with a sympathy and balance that Galsworthy could not have bettered.”
The book is a brief but comprehensive survey of British society and culture during the First World War. In it, Robb concentrates not on military campaigns and battle strategies, but on the lives of ordinary Britons - how they responded to and were affected by the war, how they attempted to understand the conflict and to explain it to others, and how they have dealt with the war's legacies in the years since.
London’s Orange Tree Theatre enjoyed a successful production of THE CONQUERING HERO earlier this spring. Now is your chance to hear “a work that can be ranked with O'Casey's The Silver Tassie as among the finest antiwar plays.”
Spring Benefit 2012 at the Cos Club A Man & Some Women by Rachel Crothers We wanted to share the festivities from our Spring Benefit celebrating Rachel Crothers on April 23rd, 2012. LEFT: Leslie Hendrix (Susan & God) reads from Benefit Co-Chair, Anne Sheffield’s musings on her “third grandmother,” Rachel Crothers. ABOVE From Left to Right: Mint alums, Kate Levy, Sara Surrey, Sam Soules, and Stephen Schnetzer perform A Man & Some Women by Rachel Crothers. BELOW Left: Jonathan Bank thanks a guest as the evening wraps up. Middle: Benefit Committee member, Litsa Tsitsera with friend John Benscoter. Left: Benefit guests Cathy Velenchick and Christopher Joy.
All photos by Michael Wilson.
ABOVE: Rob Breckenrige (What the Public Wants, Love Goes to Press) LEFT: Kimberley Little with Board Chair, Jann Leeming and husband Arthur Little. ABOVE Left: Joan Kedziora and Mint Theater Board member John P. Harrington. Middle: Benefit Committee members, Agnes and Emilio Gautier LEFT: Benefit guests, Marjorie Ellenbogen, Jon Clark and Gretchen Adkins RIGHT: Mint Board member & stage director, Eleanor Reissa with Ryan Franco and Benefit Committee members, Carol Tambor and Ruth Friendly.
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by Allan Monkhouse August 18th- October 14th Special MatineeWed. Sept 19 at 2pm Wed. Oct 10th at 2pm th
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Special EnrichMint Event
The Conquering Hero By Allan Monkhouse
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Monday October 15th
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DINNER: 6:00 PM $60 PER PERSON for FPC Members (Includes Dinner & Reading) READING: 8:00 PM Etcetera Etcetera is located at 352 W. 44th St. (between 8th & 9th Ave.)
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Congratualtions Jon & Ryan!
From your friends at the Mint Long-time Trustee Jon Clark & Ryan Franco married at Mint on Thursday June 28th, 2012. Guests attended Love Goes to Press following the ceremony.
FIRST PRIORITY CLUB Dear Friends, I hope you are enjoying your summer. It’s hard to believe that August is just a few days away. I’m writing this note on the eve of the start of rehearsals for MARY BROOME —an exciting time.
done first. I’m always interested in anything that Sam recommends. I don’t worry about following Sam when it comes to “discovering” this play—it’s a terrific play and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.
I saw MARY BROOME in the spring of 2011 at the Orange Tree Theatre in London. I was there to see the British Premiere of Wife to James Whelan (a production inspired by our Teresa Deevy Project.) While in London, my wife and I went to the Orange Tree to see their marvelous production of MARY BROOME. At the end of the first scene Katie turned to me and said, “You’re going to do this play, aren’t you? You have to do it!” Of course I don’t think these are the kinds of decisions one should make before a play is over—but by the end of the night my mind was made up.
This year at the Orange Tree, Sam produced another Monkhouse play, The Conquering Hero. I’m planning to do a reading of this play on October 15th; you’ll find details inside the newsletter. In addition to the reading, there will be a dinner beforehand, which will feature good company, good food, and some useful and interesting introductory remarks from historian George Robb—an esteemed scholar and author—and a longtime Mint friend. I hope you’ll join us. Enjoy the rest of your summer. I look forward to seeing you at MARY BROOME.
Sam Walters, the artistic director of the Orange Tree, and I have very similar taste. We’re both interested in neglected plays and we’ve become friendly and share notes occasionally. We have a number of plays in common; some that we’ve done first here and others that Sam has
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