BROADWAY SMALL THEATRES.
There are also a number of "intimate" theatres, as they are called—small places seating from one hundred and fifty to three hundred persons. Here you avoid the vulgar crowd and usually see one of those wholly uninteresting but excessively intellectual productions that require a small auditorium in order that the audience may be seen with the naked eye. This season, however, the show business has been so profitable that several genuinely good plays have found their way into these dramatic cold storage vaults, and have played to capacity.
This development has also shown that the small theatre has its attractions, and they have grown in popularity quite amazingly. They also rejoice in a new school of nomenclature, like "The Bandbox," "The Little Theatre," "The Punch and Judy," etc., which is a distinct improvement over naming it after the plumber who built the structure or the gasfitter who owned the lot.
That these miniature houses present intelligently selected plays that are actuated by a serious purpose is shown by the great success of some of the offerings. "The Better 'Ole" started in the Greenwich Village Theatre, moved up to Broadway and has achieved a nation-wide success. The Provincetown Players, largely recruited from a bunch of amateurs, who played for their own amusement in that delightful Cape Cod hamlet of this name, gave some very creditable performances and showed that there was still a chance for originality in New York.
The most ambitious attempt to offer plays without fear of financial results was undoubtedly tried in the heavily endowed Century Theatre. The result proved disastrous. A large fortune was sunk and the results were disheartening. Not alone were the plays worth-less, but the attempt proved once more that a genius cannot be developed by any hot-house process. The cry that new writers are not wanted, that the old clique keeps out everybody else is still the plaint of unsuccessful playwrights. The yearly success of unknown writers nevertheless keeps on and each season produces its Eugene Walter and Bruce Bairnsfather or "John Ferguson."
For a slight advance (fifty cents) tickets for all the popular successes are usually obtainable at any of the hotel offices. It is hardly worth while trying to save this half dollar if you want to see the show the night you apply. While this seems something of an imposition, it is really a convenience to persons whose time does not permit of postponement. In London there is a similar charge for "booking," as they call it over there. In both cases the customer is saved the trouble of going to the theatre personally. So don't let this charge spoil your temper and your enjoyment of the evening. There are many other petty exactions in the city infinitely more exasperating than this.
The daily papers contain announcements of all the current plays, together with location of the theatre. If time permits it is well to arrange your theatre engagements a week or two in advance when you first arrive.
There is always more or less trouble to get a good seat at a popular success even with this precaution.
The theatre district is quite easily reached from almost any part of the city. Taxis being smaller, are much better for this purpose than a huge private car and easily obtainable. The entire list of attractions playing in the city is usually displayed in a bulletin board on the newspaper stand of the hotel.
The summer season is not the best time to judge New York theatrically. Most of the best houses are closed, but the girl and music show is generally in evidence all through the year. The roof garden is recommended for a sultry night, but it is a sad strain on credulity to describe any of these performances as entertaining. There is a tendency to improve them each year, how-ever, and it may be that in time they will not be as they chiefly are today—a very poor excuse for taking two dollars from any one's pocket. Along with the hat check extortion, and other petty graft for which the town is celebrated, the average roof garden show has them all beaten to a standstill.
In the back of this book is a list of the prominent theatres and their locations. For the most part they are within five minutes of the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street, a point easily reached from any part of town by subway, elevated or surface car or taxi. It is the center of the hotel district and the stranger will have little or no difficulty in finding any particular place desired. A taxi may be had for a trifling sum and their use is a great comfort and convenience.
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