David Bruce: The Coolest People in the Arts — Audiences, Authors


• Actress Drew Barrymore comes from two fine, well-loved theatrical families: the Drews and the Barrymores. John Drew’s sister, Georgie, married Maurice Barrymore, and they produced three children: Ethel, Lionel, and John Barrymore. All of them became famous actors. In his autobiography, My Years on the Stage, John Drew tells of his niece, Ethel Barrymore, appearing in an important role on the stage for the first time. She was nervous, and because she was nervous, she was inaudible. A member of the audience called out to her, “Speak up, Ethel. You’re all right. The Drews is all good actors.”

• In the 1930s, Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers were subjected to a noisy audience in the Middle West. Mr. Shawn stopped the performance and gave the audience hell, saying, “I have danced before the cowboys of Texas and the hillbillies of North Carolina, and I’ve never been subjected before to such a rude audience as this.” After Mr. Shawn had given the audience hell, the performance continued, and Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers were given an ovation.

• Henry Rowley Bishop wrote the opera Aladdinin competition with Carl Maria von Weber’s Oberon. Unfortunately, his “Hunting Chorus” was very similar to Weber’s “Hunter’s Chorus.” When the audience heard Bishop’s “Hunting Chorus” at the premiere of Aladdin, they derisively whistled Weber’s “Hunter’s Chorus.”

• Some musicians play from memory as a way to impress the audience, but perhaps the audience ought not to be impressed. One violinist memorized the Kreutzer, intending to play it from memory, but he insisted that the pianist use a score so that he could look over the pianist’s shoulder at the score if necessary.

• Gustave Mahler sat in the audience at the first performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor. The audience disliked it, and Mr. Mahler asked a man near him to stop hissing. The man replied, “There’s no need to get excited. I hiss Mahler, too.”

• When ballerina and actress Ida Rubinstein performed at the Opera Paris, she would say words of dialogue on stage—words such as “Où suis-je?” (“Where am I?”) Of course, sometimes someone in the audience would answer, “À l’Opéra de Paris!


• After Chilean author Isabel Allende’s first book, The House of the Spirits, was published, her agent, Carmen Balcells, threw a party for her in Madrid, Spain. Many Spanish literary celebrities attended the party, and she was bashful. How to solve the problem? Actually, she didn’t solve it—she avoided it. She admitted, “I was so frightened I spent a good part of the evening hiding in the bathroom.” As you would expect, she began reading at a very young age. When she finished reading Tolstoy’s massive War and Peace, her uncle gave her a doll. Her family encouraged her to be creative. For example, her mother allowed her to paint murals on her bedroom walls. (Later, when she was able to drive, she painted flowers on her car. For a while, she had a job translating into Spanish romance novels that had been written in English. However, because she was a feminist, she changed the heroine’s dialogue from insipid to intelligent, and she changed the endings so that the heroine became independent and did not need a hero. She got fired. In her own life, she found romance. San Francisco lawyer William Gordon spoke fluent Spanish and met her and asked her to go on a date. After they had had one date, he drove her to the airport, and she asked him if he loved her. She says, “Poor guy, he almost drove off the road. He had to pull over, and he said, ‘What are you talking about? We just met.’” She responded by writing a contract and sending it to him. The contract said that they could have a relationship on two conditions: 1) He could date no one but her, and 2) She could redecorate his house. He agreed. By the way, on 17 July 1988, they married.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved






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