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likely to make were, in a general way, always of the same character. They were the difficulties and mistakes which all actors encounter.
In my own early days I remember I used to wonder why it was not possible to guide myself somewhat by the experiences of others, as I could have done in almost any other profession. I knew there was little doubt that others had passed through the same trials that I was passing through. Why had they not left the story of their experiences to be a guide for me? Why were there no traditions, no standards in my art, as there were in every other art? Why did I, and every other novice, have to begin in the dark and carve out our own standards and traditions? It seemed to me then, and seems to me now, a great misfortune that there is no body of literature on the actor's art to which the novice might go for guidance. I do not
I mean text-books on “ elocution” (Heaven forbid!); I mean books of opinion, books of experience which might embody the enduring, time-tested traditions of our art. But there is no such body of literature; it has been truly said that the art of the actor dies with him. That is a great pity. Surely there are some truths which he could bequeath to posterity.
There is no lack of books dealing with the lives of those in the actor's profession. But few of them shed any light on the technique by which the admired actors of the past rose to high place. They are mostly pleasant, chatty reminiscences of their personal lives, whereas it is their professional lives that are significant. We know a great deal of Edwin Booth, for instance, as a popular idol fêted and revered by those in and out of the profession; but we know very little of Edwin Booth, the obscure, struggling youth he must have been in the beginning. The story and reasons for his unsung triumphs in those lean years preceding his success would be of infinitely more value to the profession he loved so heartily than the glowing accounts of his later triumphs.
The young actor is not concerned so much with the dizzy heights his predecessors reached as he is in how they went about it to scale the heights. It may be that the giants of the past each reached the goal by a different road, but surely it would be of advantage to the beginner if he could have some knowledge of each one.
However, in this little study, I have not attempted an autobiographical account of my early struggles in the profession, nor a story of my experiences on the stage; I have rather tried to derive from my experiences some truths which might be of service to the beginning actor, to state as concretely as possible some of the simple principles which bitter experience has made me believe are sound.
On the other hand, I do not wish to be suspected of formulating a technique of acting. I should not attempt anything so presumptuous. I am sure I know too much about the stage for that.
With regard to actual method, what is one man's meat is another's poison. In the details of his work, each actor must work out his own salvation to a very great extent; he must find his own technique, in a sense, since it is the individual quality he is able to give his work that must raise him above his fellows. My sole purpose in this book, then, is to assist the beginner in finding his own technique.
In the light of my own career I have endeavored to inquire into some of the broad, general laws which are constant in this everchanging craft of ours, and which must underlie all effective work on the stage. There are certainly in this craft, as in any other, some simple essentials which every beginner should know at the start, and which he can learn from others. I thoroughly believe that much depends upon the approach the young actor makes to his work, the attitude he takes toward his profession, the aims he strives for. It would seem that an analysis of some of the old-timer's experiences and opinions might be helpful and stimulating in starting the novice along the proper road.
It is my firm belief that there are two virtues to strive for: Simplicity and Truth. I believe that as one grows in knowledge of his craft, it becomes more and more difficult to retain these blessed qualities. The great effort should be to remain simple, to acquire a more intelligent and effective simplicity, as we progress; for the more we learn of the intricacies and subtleties of our craft, the more likely we are to depart from the solid primaries which must be the foundation of all enduring work.
This belief I have tried to justify and explain in the pages that follow; and I have tried to make clear what seem to me to be the primaries from which we should never depart.
In conclusion I wish to express my very hearty appreciation of the assistance given me by my young friend, Mr. Kenneth Andrews, both in valuable suggestions as to arrangement and other matters. Without