lamb; and the Good Shepherd knows that he needs to be carried.，
Since writing the above I have seen a newspaper notice of a dramatic performance in the Ethical Church, Queen's Road, Bayswater, London. The Ethical Church believes "in everything that makes life sweet and human" and the management state that they believe -- "the best trend of dramatic opinion to-day points not only to the transformation of theaters into centers of social enlightenment and moral elevation, but also to the transformation of the churches into centers for the imaginative presentation, by means of all the arts combined, of the deeper truths and meanings of life." Personally, I do not know anything about this society, but surely there is nothing out of harmony with Christianity in these professions, and I am glad to find here an alliance between the two greatest factors in the development of Western thought and culture -- the church and the theater. The newspaper article to which I have referred was describing the "old morality play, Everyman" which had been performed in the church. The visitor who was somewhat critical, and apparently unused to seeing the theater in a church, wrote of the performance thus: "Both the music and the dressing of the play were perfect, and from the moment that Death entered clad in blue stuff with immense blue wings upon his shoulders, and the trump in his hand, and stopped Everyman, a gorgeous figure in crimson robes and jewelled turban, with the question, `Who goes so gaily by?' the play was performed with an impressiveness that never faltered.
"The heaviest burden, of course, falls on Everyman, and the artist who played this part seemed to me, though I am no dramatic critic, to have caught the atmosphere and the spirit of the play. His performance, indeed, was very wonderful from the moment when he offers Death a thousand boons if only the dread summons may be delayed, to that final tense scene, when, stripped of his outer robe, he says his closing prayers, hesitates for a moment to turn back, though the dread angel is there by his side, and then follows the beckoning hand of Good Deeds, a figure splendidly robed in flowing draperies of crimson and with a wonderfully expressive mobile face.
"At the conclusion of the play Dr. Stanton Colt addressed a few words to the enthusiastic audience, `Forsake thy pride, for it will profit thee nothing,' he quoted, `If we could but remember this more carefully and also the fact that nothing save our good deeds shall ever go with us into that other World, surely it would help us to a holier and better life. Earthly things have their place and should have a due regard paid to them, but we must not forget the jewel of our souls.'"
I have, of course, heard of the "Passion Play" at Oberammergau in Germany where the life of Jesus Christ is periodically represented on the stage, but I say nothing about this, for, so far as I know, it is not performed in America, and I have not seen it; but I may note in passing that in China theaters are generally associated with the gods in the temples, and that the moral the play is meant to teach is always well driven home into the minds of the audience. We have not, however, ventured to introduce any of our sages to theater audiences.
The theater in China is a much simpler affair than in America. The residents in a locality unite and erect a large stage of bamboo and matting, the bamboo poles are tied with strips of rattan, and all the material of the stage, excepting the rattan, can be used over again when it is taken down. Most of the audience stand in front of the stage and in the open air, the theater generally being in front of the temple; and the play, which often occupies three or four days, is often performed in honor of the god's birthday. There is no curtain, and there are no stage accessories. The audience is thus enabled to concentrate its whole attention on the acting. Female parts are played by men, and everything is beautifully simple. There is no attempt to produce such elaborate effects as I have seen in the West, and of course nothing at all resembling the pantomime, which frequently requires mechanical arts. A newspaper paragraph caught my eye while thinking of this subject. I reproduce it.
"The Century Theater in New York City has special apparatus for producing wind effects, thunder and lightning simultaneously. The wind machine consists of a drum with slats which are rotated over an apron of corded silk, which produces the whistling sound of wind; the lightning is produced by powdered magnesium electrically ignited; thunder is simulated by rolling a thousand pounds of stone, junk and chain down a chute ending in an iron plate, followed by half-a-dozen cannon balls and supplemented by the deafening notes of a thunder drum."
Although, however, Chinese play-goers do not demand the expensive outfits and stage sceneries of the West, I must note here that not even on the American stage have I seen such gorgeous costumes, or robes of so rich a hue and displaying such glittering gold ornaments and graceful feathers, as I have seen on the simple Chinese stage I have just described. Western fashions are having a tendency in our ports and larger cities to modify some things that I have stated about Chinese theatrical performances, but the point I wish especially to impress on my readers is that theatrical performances in China, while amusing and interesting, are seldom melodramatic, and as I look back on my experiences in the United States, I cannot but think that the good people there are making a mistake in not utilizing the human natural love for excitement and the drama as a subsidiary moral investment. And, of course, all I have said of theaters applies with equal force to moving-picture shows.
Chapter 15. Opera and Musical Entertainments
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