Early actresses playing in a popular stage "play" called Everywoman.
In 1912, Flora Nicholson went to a play at the Princess Theatre. She writes in a letter home from Macdonald Teachers College, "We all went to hear Everywoman at the Princess this afternoon.It was simply grand, I never saw anything I liked so well before."
"Everywoman was a popular play that toured for years in the era, "a modern morality play." Its full title was Everywoman: her pilgrimage in quest of love and it was written by a man, (but of course!) Walter Browne. This play hasn't withstood the test of time, but it was popular with theatre-goers, if not critics, in the pre-war era, which means it has something to say about that era.
(The sun has risen and a stream of sunshine illumines a path down the stage. Merry music and singing of birds is outside.Youth, Beauty and Modesty, three extremely pretty girls dressed in simple robes of white, and linked together with garlands of roses trip from the garden,through the windows and down the sunlit path in EveryWoman's home. They dance a graceful measure as they sing.Nobody, a male character in 'artistic'dress hides out of sight.
Women:Three very foolish faeries see,
Beauty, Youth and Modesty,
Though but her humble servants we
Everywoman heeds us
Soon as she rises from her rest
Each of us a welcome guest
We are the friends whom she loves best,
Everywoman needs us.
Hmm. I don't expect Flo to attend a performance of Mrs. Warren's Profession (which debuted in NY, I think, in 1906 to a great deal of controversy.) I think this Everywoman play is more the Mamma Mia of its day... Actually, that title probably goes to the Merry Widow, which the Nicholson women also saw performed in 1912.
Of course, this play is about, , "the lure of vice, the joy of virtue and the deceptions of flattery" (I'm quoting the NYTimes reviewer who clearly hated it) and it is a lavish production featuring "beautiful women clad in beautiful clothes."
(Sending mixed messages, I guess, sort of like Hollywood's staple of anti-war movies filled with gratuitious and titillating violence.)
Students such as the 19 year old Flora could see a stage play without guilt while soaking in the sensual pleasure of it all, while saving one's brain cells for course work.
I'm guessing the morality ladies of the Montreal Council of Women didn't have to drop in multiple times (as they did to movie houses) to make sure this was acceptable entertainment for the masses.
And even Reverend Pedley approved, I'm guessing. The Minister of Emmanuel Church gave a series of lectures on "Tempted Montreal" in the era, the fifth of which was "Mercenary Theatres and Promiscuous Patronage" which got a write-up in the Gazette.
Here it is
Here the Reverend proved himself a learned man with a love of the dramatic arts,in spite of himself (for the Methodist Church, he says, practically bans the theatre) discussing theatre from Greek times to the present, while lamenting its current degenerate state, Shakespeare and modern morality plays exempted of course. Plays, he said, could be a source of 'ethical light or a pander to the lowest instincts." I have a good idea into which category he'd put Mrs. Warren's Profession (probably without lowering his standards to go and see it.)
"What of the drama, today," he asks, "with its false ideas of life, its portrayal of vice in attractive fashion, its bringing of men, women and children into contact with the unclean?"
Anyway, as I do more and more in-depth research for my Flo in the City book, about a girl coming of age in the pivotal 1910 era, I am starting to feel like a 'stalker'. I have the review of the Montreal play that Flo attended, found on Google archives. An actress (or actor, as the call women performers these days) called Adele Blood played Everywoman. Ms. Blood was described as the most beautiful blond on the American stage during her run in this play. (I think I will have to 'hold my nose' and read the play and see how I can intermingle it with my Flo in the City book. )
Here's her pic. I posted it just below. Hmm. She's heroically proportioned. Skinny little Flo must have been impressed. This play seems to have been a great showcase for the beautiful actresses of the time, many of whom also played in the silent movie industry...where fine looks mattered more than on the stage.
Irony, trying to tell young women that looks don't matter, when the new motion picture medium was making good looks more important than ever. Bad timing!