The Theatre: Marvelous Boy

  • Share
  • Read Later

(5 of 5)

At fhe Mercury, Houseman runs the business end, Welles is Caesar (not Brutus) where stagecraft is concerned, and in his own opinion "pretty dictatorial." Welles does all cutting and rewriting, and does it with a fearless hand. For the much-applauded episode of Cinna the Poet in Julius Caesar, Welles cooly snitched lines out of Coriolanus. When a Mercury actor was asked when rehearsals on one of the season's classics would begin, he answered: "As soon as Orson has finished writing it."

Welles's catholic tastes include Broadway, swing music, the cinema, but he has no hobbies. "I am essentially a hack, a commercial person. If I had a hobby, I would immediately make money on it or abandon it." How much money Welles is making he will not say. He is not even sure he knows. His habit at the Mercury is to draw "what he needs" from the box onice usually, the box office reports, some $200 a week. Houseman does the same. Says Welles: "Houseman and I aren't making enough money to cheat each other."

Next? Welles is full of ideas for next season's Mercury, though there are no announced plans beyond Five Kings, which will be tried out this summer and produced for the Mercury by the Theatre Guild in the fall. Five Kings will be a double-header performance telescoping Shakespeare's chronicle plays: the end of Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I & II, Henry V, Henry VI, Parts I, II, III, and Richard III. Welles will direct the whole enterprise, and play Falstaff. The Theatre Guild will supply part of the backing and the fat pickings of its 60,000 subscription list, but the Mercury will have full artistic control.

Shadow to Shakespeare. Shoemaker to Shaw—all in one season—might be a whole career for most men, but for Welles it is only Springboard to Success. Nor does he want the Mercury to pin all its faith on the classics: he pines to do a real mystery, a real farce, a British pantomime, a fast revue, a Mozart opera. He has shown in Heartbreak House, with its careful, elegant sets by John Koenig, that the sceneryless stage of Julius Caesar and The Cradle Will Rock was not the fetish of a flash in the Pantheon, but simply a well-timed theatrical stunt. The brightest moon that has risen over Broadway in years, Welles should feel at home in the sky, for the sky is the only limit his ambitions recognize.

*When the Theatre Guild produced Heartbreak House in 1920, a violent crisis arose with Shaw when the Guild suggested cutting it. The Mercury made no such suggestion. Said Welles: "The play's not good enough to cut." In the next breath: "It's the greatest play of the last hundred years.'' <FOOTNOTE>

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. Next Page