Sunday, May 22, 2011

Actress Pauline Frederick

"Don't you see anything worth notice in my acting?" she asks, with wonder and reproach in her rich voice and shining eyes.

Of all the many important roles in Louis N. Parker's enormously popular Biblical pageant-play. "Joseph and His Brethren," now rounding out its initial season in New York City, the most trying undoubtedly is that of Joseph. How he can tear himself away from Potiphar's wife, when that Cleopatra like Egyptian temptress is incarnated in the dazzling person of Pauline Frederick, is a marvel to all beholders, even to those who applaud his adamantine resolution as a signal triumph of manly "virtue." Yet mere praise of her physical beauty, in these or any other terms, finds the young actress unresponsive, if not positively displeased.

"Don't you see anything worth notice in my acting?" she asks, with wonder and reproach in her rich voice and shining eyes. "I work hard enough, I am sure. And I know, too, that I do succeed in "getting over" a distinct impression of the serpentine character of Zuleika; for the audiences just hate me when I get Joseph going. Why, sometimes they hiss me roundly. I can't describe my sensation of fury and mortification the first time I heard that hiss. That was my first impulse, until reason told me my audience was paying the highest kind of compliment to my acting, and nothing else. It shows also the intensely human character of this drama.

"You professional critics are searching, and sometimes severe." Miss Frederick went on, with a radiant smile; "but you are easy in comparison with some of the pious elders and amateur censors who sit out front. The other day we had a delegation of deacons from Boston, my home town. They came around and delivered their verdict, with due solemnity. Everything was all right, even the temptation scene, they said - with one exception. That exception was the manner in which I fell back when Joseph threw me off. Well, I thought that was going some, for churchman who are supposed to discountenance the theater altogether and not to discriminate between good play-acting and bad. All the same, it was a hint well worth taking into consideration; for the hardest thing in the world, in rehearsing and playing such a scene, is to get a line on your work from the audiences point of view.

"I think I have proved that I am earnest about my vocation," she concluded, "and that I have determination enough to follow it as far upward as I possibly can. And yet, my going on the stage in the first place was the result of a schoolgirl's 'dare.' After ten years of it, more or less, I still have the feeling of being engaged in a sort of desperate gamble. I struggle to win; but if I should eventually fail, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that the struggle itself is a kind of triumph."

Originally published in The Cosmopolitan Magazine, May 1913,


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