The Theatre Magazine
Dec. 1905, Vol. V No. 58, pp. 303, x
The encore fiend, with his huge maulers and silly giggle, his bubbling, thumping, ear-splitting appreciation of everything that assails his lackluster eyes from the stage, has become such a nuisance in our places of amusement on first nights, second nights and all other nights that we think the time is ripe for a fuller appreciation of this most extraordinary specimen of the homi imbecilis.
There he squats in all his brazen glory. He has come to enjoy the “show,” not, mark you, in the manner in which as a normal human being he would enjoy anything else, by finely discriminating between what he likes and what he does not like; but he has come to enjoy—“take in”—this particular part of his day’s more or less diverting experiences by solemn compact with himself, not to be bamboozled, cozzened, or thimble-rigged out the equivalent for the two dollars he laid down at the box-office. And if the play is execrable, if the actors are doing their unspeakable worst, if there is in all the dreary stuff never a smile or a real emotion—no matter. Go to! He’ll have his penny’orth of excitement willy-nilly. He’ll have his hands do the work that his judgment out to be doing, if judgment the good God had given him. And while the rest of the audience wants to cool its heels in the lobby and its throat at the replenishing station next door, this maudlin vulgarian, exquisitely titillated by the work of his marvelous palms, has the curtain up again and again until the players themselves sneak knowing winks at one another, and even the manager looks at the arabesques in the carpet to keep a straight face. The Briareus of the stalls—who will deliver us from the body of this iniquity! All our theatres are now equipped with opera glasses and acousticons. Why not hang from the back of each seat a box containing a huge watchman’s rattle? Ah! that would be worth while. For a dime the fist-yammerer could then make Rome howl—even if they had not succeeded in doing so on the stage: make each particular hair on each particular bald head to stand on end like javelins upon the fretful elephant, and drive each decent and self-respecting playgoer into the street, leaving the auditorium wholly in the hands of the high priests of hubbub.
Have you never been awakened out of a sound sleep at the end of act three when all the air a solemn stillness holds by “Speech!” “Speech!” “Speech!”? That is the tertiary stage of encoritis. Nobody wants to deliver a “speech,” nobody wants to hear a “speech,” nobody who is anybody asked for a “speech”—but behold! the Palm has annexed a larynx, and tongues have sprouted on the night. The author, the manager, the star, anybody, will satisfy this unfortunate who has come among us. Just to see a real live man appear between the footlights and the fallen curtain, and hear those inspiring words: “Ladies and gentlemen, in the name of the company and myself—,” and all the rest of the platitudinous palaver that goes by the name “speech”—just to hear that and nothing more, brings the bliss that passeth understanding to the soul of the encoritic and satisfies him until the last act, when, emerging from his trance at seeing particeps criminis before the curtain, he will yet linger for a good-night love-tap.
Applause—the real simon pure article—is something that brings as much joy to the auditor who never applauds—we all know him, the fellow whose face is pipe-jointed to his Dignity, and who is afraid to let out a link in his macadamized attitude—as to the players on the stage. In the third act of “Zira,” when Margaret Anglin spins the web of despair all about her to break it in a whirlwind of defiance and then collapses into a heart-splintering confession, or when James K. Hackett in a splendid outburst pronounces his now famous anathema maranatha on the lady cigarette smokers and the finely upholstered man-killers of Mayfair, and in mighty vocables and unsterilized staccato smashes the smart set to infinitesimal flinders that pretty nearly knocks down the Coca-Cola sign in Long Acre Square, the audience is [x] carried off its feet and fairly bellows its appreciation. This is all very different from demanding of Edna June a repetition for the tenth time of “Under the Beerbohm Tree.”
Then, too, this scurvy encore fellow has no regard for the actor or singer. It was long ago officially announced by Mr. Mansfield that actors have rights which the public is bound to respect. Neither age, rôle, nor previous condition of perspiration is safe from the onslaught of the encoritic. His fiendish purpose is never satiated until he has seen all the company linky-hand, then he must see each bored countenance stand in the centre of the stage and bow its approval to this ass in evening raiment. Voices are worn down, but that is nothing to him; shoe-leather worn out, but that is nothing to him—an actor, a singer encored to death, but that is nothing to him.
It was the last night of all Time. Through the infinite darkness there reigned the calm that was to precede the Final judgment. From the east there flared intermittently yellow and purple-green lights, and the last of the earth-men, seeing these things, cowered deeper and deeper into their burrows. But the end had come. Sulphur and ashes filled the universe and giant sidereal systems flashed into flaming pyres, whose flames licked the roof of the Zenith. World rattled against world, comets clove the solid earth of the younger worlds and belched their fires to the furthest spaces. And over against the east, where the first dread flashes had been seen, the Angel Gabriel rose, and on his face there lay the marmoreal silence of eternity, and upon his trumpet that reached unto the last outpost of Space he blew the three prophetic blasts. And from out that grinding war of atoms and stupendous impact of force on force, through the hellish murk and lurid lights of vanishing worlds, there emerged the figure of a man who once had dwelled on earth. As the last trumpet-call died away the man smote one palm upon another in wild applause, and, with eyes fixed upon the face of Gabriel, he called wildly thrice: “Speech!” “Speech!” “Speech!” It was the encore fiend.
Benjamin de Casseres.