Sunday, January 20, 2013

On the diversions of the playhouse

The following epistle may serve as a model for letters to write by, on the occasion that you should ever travel to New York City or Chicago, and intend to write a description of the various amusements therein, that is, to point out what is most worthy of Notice in it, to your dear mother and father.
Dear Honoured Parents,

Our chaperon has been very kind to us yesterday by conducting us to the playhouse. Upon hearing of the news, my cousin had o’erleapt with joy---Egad, my sweet coz! happy news! O how you shall adore the playhouse, said Jackey. Miss Cassie told us that we would be traveling to a famous district of New York City, known for its dramatical stage-spectacles, called Broadway in Times Square, where we would see a comedy---the name of which I forgot. I was trick'd out in my finest, and we hired a taxi to drive us to the theater.

You may believe I was agreeably surprised at the magnificence of the stage, and its elegant ornaments. And I was mightily pleased to see such a prodigious number of people, for the most part all strangers to one another, sitting together with ease, many of them bold enough to open conversations with those they couldn’t possibly have been properly introduced to. The mood was joyous and carefree, and I saw Jackey strike up a conversation with a lady, who was sitting next to us, wearing a sleeve-less dress.  'Fore Gad, dear parents, how sluttishly dressed were the women in attendance. 

We hurried to our seats, located near the stage, and I became further rattled to see the musicians being placed so near the audience. When the music began I was startled at the horrid loudness of the instruments.  Never could our Pastor Williams, I warrant ye, strike up the church organ as thundering as this. Hither the harpsichords went clickety-clak, the haut-boys went wizzle-wizzle, and the guitars went ting-tong-tang---whilst my foot went tap-tap-tap.

As I already said, this being a comedy, there was much punning in the dialogue, and witty retorts among the players---tho’ I did not understand the point of most of the humour. Forsooth, there was much vulgar joking, which did heartily please our Jackey, who went hack-hacking all performance long. As far I understood, the story was about a young fellow, recently graduated from university, who spent his daytime hours loafing about in his apartment, and in the evenings partaking in dance competitions. Lacking in any serious ambition for his professional advancement, which did anger his parents, who completely refused to pay his bills at one point, he goes on to win some major dance competition in the dance hall, and is on his way to becoming a television star---this triumph, as it were, ultimately reconciling him to his parents, who thereupon announced that, now that he would be raking in a fortune, they would love their son much more.  This is as much as I was able to gather from the story. Needless to say, in the course of the show, the fellow learned nothing of household husbandry,  which would have benefited him a great deal more than winning the frivolous contest.  

The central male personage thus exposed for a roguish fellow, and his family for vulgar Capitalists, the parts acted by women had several speeches and dance routines that I thought not quite consistent with the modesty of the sex. The freedom of their voice and gestures, tho’ perhaps suitable enough to the characters they represented, were not so pleasing to a mind bent upon innocent amusement, if not wholly upon instruction. What hardship must it be to the minds of these women to enter upon such saucy employment! How must their virtue be shock’d, to offer themselves for the entertainment of three hundred men, and to utter words which convey ideas too gross for a modest ear (such as mine).

I did not understand what purpose was served by the part of the roguish fellow in the story---because, as far as I could tell, the author made no attempt, in creating this central role, to draw any moral instruction for the audience  (such as on the dangers of disobeying one's parents, the vileness of the libertine's lifestyle, or shewing the consequences of overindulging children, especially, of encouraging them to expect luxuries from future life) And I am sorry to say that I could not understand why the people went hack-hacking all through the play so much. May-hap I shall ask Jackey to explain the jokes to me.   Some of the other male members of the company, I thought to behave quite commendably: The utmost decency was observed, on the part of certain minor personages, like the butler and the driver.  And it must be admitted that the music was enjoyable, and it stayed in my memory long after the curtains fell.

These, dear parents, are the rough thoughts, on this occasion, of,

                                                                                               Your dutiful daughter,

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