WHAT are we Catholics doing in the theatre world? Spiritually perhaps quite a lot hie' actively very little. In other words although we have our Catholic Stage Guild which exists to establish spiritual, social and artistic intercoura among Catholics of the theatrical profession, and which, in point ot fact, does enjoy certain spiritual benefits and material helps, there is still very little to show for our Catholic theatre.
Can we recharge with activity this state of apathy ?
In a series of articles beginning this week, " Strolling Player," a well-known actress, will outline some of the difficulties of the Catholic member of the theatrical profession when on tour or in town.
THE Catholic in the theatrical profession is a stranger in a foreign country. No doubt this is true of the active Catholic in any walk of life where his co-workers are non-Catholic, but it is doubly true
of the professional actor, for the nature of his work separates him (to some degree) from his brethren who are not cursed with the necessity of earning a living through the theatre.
So much so that he frequently finds himself without a permanent home, and usually without any particular parish church, the joys of which he misses, the burdens of which he is spared. If he is a touring actor he is a bird of passage with nowhere to lay his head. Often his people are living in the north of England. While working he tours; while not working is forced to spend the time in London because there is no other place where he can look for work, London being the centre of all theatrical commerce.
Consequently, the actor is thrown back upon his own kind for social life and companionship, and the need for some Catholic club or society which may embrace the Catholics in every branch of the profession is obvious.
H, the Catholic Stage Guild exists to establish /social intercourse among its members. To this end was founded in London the Interval Club, which though actually not a part of the guild works in close co-operation with it and is a social centre for the Catholics of the theatre. Here good food can be obtained at moderate cost and the atmosphere is friendly. The club has many activities, parties at Christmas and on the club's birthday, lectures, readings, plays produced from time to time, not to mention two oneday retreats every year (given by the Rev, Francis Devas) which many nonCatholics as well as Catholic members anticipate with quite encouraging eagerness, and there are also many and varied charitable activities.
In saying that the Interval Club is not part of the Guild is meant that Guild members are not bound to join the club. Club members have to be proposed and seconded and pay a separate subse.ription. The two, however, are related, and it is hoped that one day they will be able to work as one, and even now they have begun to labour to that end.
A recent innovation, and one that has proved popular amongst our members, is the Guild's monthly Mass which takes place at 9 a.m. every First Friday at Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane. After Mass, the members and the Chaplain (the Rev, Cyprian Rice, 0.P.), adjourn to the Interval Club for breakfast—an informal meal of rolls, butter and fruit (ad lib) with tea or coffee—which costs the modest sum of ninepence.
THE Guild also aims at forming social ties for its members in various parts of the country—but this is a part of the business which it is not easy to regulate.
The organisation in its present form consists of a considerable number of professional members, an equally considerable number of associate members, and many priest members all over the British Isles. The aim is—when possible—to put them in touch with one another.
At the moment this seems to be done chiefly—I might say only—by private enterprise, one member introducing another to the friends he or she has met on tour. It may in the end prove to be the best way of carrying out the work but at present it lacks system, and consequently enthusiasm (and activity) flags. A lonely Catholic, thirsting for some companionship apart from that provided by the theatre may never be introduced to a soul In the provinces, while another not eager for out-of-theatre ties might find himself inundated with unwelcome invitations —though the latter is far less likely to happen than the former as things stand now.
Indeed, that is the weak point in the Guild's social organisation, that little is done from headquarters in order to promote social intercourse among members in the provinces.
FOR those who work (or rest) in the Metropolis, there is an excursion to some place of interest in the summer— an annual " outing " so to speak—for those who care to go on It For the last two or three years this excursion has been to Lamport flail in Northamptonshire, this year it will probably take the form of a pilgrimage to Waisingham—but whether it will take place or not depends upon the number of pilgrims who are both willing and able.
There are usually two sherry-parties in the summer, at the Florence Restaurant, to which members are invited, and in January the Catholic Stage Guild Ball, but the latter is organised principally to raise funds which fail to result from subscription appeals, and is the concern of associate rather than professional members, being beyond the pocket of all but the chosen few!
The Guild's social achievements end with the very important and extremely active department ably managed by Miss Margaret McKenzie with the practical help of Miss Mary O'Farrell—the wardrobe department, where actors and actresses may buy good secondhand clothes very cheaply—clothes which enable them to get work, or to add to the extensive personal wardrobe which is necessary for film or repertory artists. and which is such a drain on an uncertain income.
Gifts to this department are always needed and always welcome. Trade is assured, for there is no profession where smart clothes are so necessary, nor such variety of smartness.