Page 10, 14th July 1939

14th July 1939
Page 10
Page 10, 14th July 1939 — The Catholic in the Theatrical Profession III

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The Catholic in the Theatrical Profession III

The Stage Guild sees the Snags

THE question must surely arise" why does such apathy exist (or seem to exist} amongst our members, both professional and associate? " asks " Strolling Player " in the third of her articles on the work of the Catholic Stage Guild.

I am inclined to suggest, she continues, that a number of the professionals consider they are not given enough chances through guild membership to act in plays, that the names appearing on the programmes at our performances are too often the same.

Of course, our reply is that we can so seldom find a play suitable for West End production, and have such difficulty in raising funds that We must fill the programme with names that are likely to be the best box-office draw; in other words, those of our members who are already well-known actors and actresses. So here again arises the need for more frequent and cheaper productions—shall we call them " try-outs "?—at some small theatre; and why not the. Interval Club theatre? Most of Jur talented and not-quite-so-well-known brethren are members of the club.

If there were felt to be good opportunities in this guild of people proving their acting ability before London audiences, I think there might be more of a rush of ambitious folk to join it and a larger subscription could justly be claimed.

After all, the theatrical profession is such an uncertain one that the greatest corporal act of charity one healthy " pro " can do for another is to put a job in his way, or, contrariwise, to put him

in the way of a job. And there is nothing more satisfactory to an actor having need to earn daily bread than to be Seen working.

AS things are at present., it seems to me that many good souls who pay their subscriptions regularly do so out of sheer piety with the idea that they are supporting something Catholic, It exists, they are Catholics and professionals, so, of course, they must belong to it; but they lon't quite know what the good work is to which they are contributing, nor what is being done with their money. Those caught in a less pious mood cease to subscribe after a year or two, because "after all," they say. " what's the good. What do we see for our money?"

But, adding a word in defence of any committee that endeavours to make professional artistes " pull together " for an ideal, it is a thankless and a very difficult task. Th few will support the movement and put themselves out for it, the many, who never lift a finger to help it and never raise their voices at meetings. have nothing but, adverse criticism for the work. It is the same with British Equity—the society which exists to procure just dealings between theatrical artiste and manager.

And in defence of the artiste, the nature of the profession is such, that working, One is apt to have very little spare time (except on tour, when one is somewhat out of things), and resting, one's only 'thought is to find another job. And fobs have to be

chased with satanic energy! This state of things tends to make hini apathetic to everything that is outside his quest for paid work, and if in this worried state of unemployment and uncertainty he is to wok above and interest himself actively in a spiritual edifice that does not help to solve his problem of daily bread, he is superhuman.

WHAT I have been labouring to prove in these articles is that the aims of the Catholic Stage Guild are high (and to some extent misconstrued, especially by the outsider), its achievements as yet mediocre, and its possibilities great.

It has achieved more socially and spiritually than it has artistically, but none of its three objectives is fully justified as yet. A Catholic theatre built of professional material is an ideal beset by "snags," difficulties that often hold things at a standstill—the chief one being that the actor must act in order to live. He cannot do it its a hobby with the money that he earns at some other game.

The same applies to the playwright— do budding (and mature) playwrights know that the Catholic Stage is desperately in need of interesting plays of a high standard? That they so seldom come its way; that years sometimes pass without a production?

But I do not for one moment suggest that these difficulties are insurmountable; someone (I don't quite know who) said that difficulties were meant to be overcome. and I'm with him. The guild is even now trying to overcome the difficulty of the dearth of plays by organising a competition with a substantial prize for the winner (closing date October the first).

IF apathy among professional members can be cured, it will not be hard to reuse associates (with the help of our Catholic Press) for the chief, and perhaps the only, cause of their apathy is that they hear little of cur doings and see no tangible results of our efforts to establish spiritual, social and artistic intercourse among the Catholics of the profession, and also between Catholic actor and audience.

Apathy is not the eole state of our members, there is enthusiasm, but it has been, until now, somewhat scattered, but I am glad to say that through the efforts of those who care, and through our social activities, it is beginning now to be gathered up into something solid.

Will those who criticise us have patience; end who fling the successful propaganda of pagan and foreign societies in our faces try instead to be constructive and to help us if they also think the Catholic Theatre is a need?


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