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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Searching for Play: Please Help
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2592  Tuesday, 13 November 2001

From:           Frances Dann <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Nov 2001 15:30:22 +0000
Subject: SHK 12.2529 Searching for Play: Please Help
Comment:        Re: Fwd: SHK 12.2529 Searching for Play: Please Help

>Richard Burt <
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 > forwards a question to the list
>from a non-member. If you care to reply, please to so directly to the
>original questioner, Mary M. Zimmerman <
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>
>Hello, I have been desperately searching for an out-of-print play and
>have come up empty so far.  Perhaps you can help me.
>
>The play is called "A Dress Rehearsal of Hamlet". My grandmother
>performed in this play as a teenager in Philadelphia, PA in the 1920s.
>Unfortunately that is all I know about it. Except that it takes the
>"play-within-a-play" theme of Hamlet to a new level (it's a play about a
>dress rehearsal of the play within a play!) It was probably written
>before 1928.
>
>I definitely want to purchase this play no matter what the price. If
>there is any way you could help me I would greatly appreciate it. Any
>input you may have about where else I should look would also be
>wonderful. Thank you very much. My contact information is below. I
>appreciate your attention to this request.
>
>Yours truly,
>Mary M. Zimmerman
>
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Dear Ms Zimmerman,

Alerted to your query by a colleague, I have forwarded it to the
Committee of the Society for Theatre Research via my fellow Joint Hon
Secretary. They may come up with an answer. My materials are mostly
pre-1900 and my hunch is that the play you mention is after that date,
not only because it wasn't in my books but because comedy dates so
quickly, (especially anything in the nature of a spoof or send-up) that
what was considered a hilarious take on Hamlet in 1850 wouldn't be funny
in the 1920's.

I enjoyed my trawl through the reference books, turning up the Duke of
Buckingham's play "The Rehearsal" (1671) and several adaptations or
sequels.  How about The Rehearsal; or, Bayes in Petticoats by Mrs Clive,
1753 - this sounds to me like a frolic for a benefit night with the men
in the cast transposed into women, especially if this is Kitty Clive,
the actress.

Earlier and odder, there was an entry for A REHEARSAL; OR, A SECOND PART
OF MRS CONFUSION'S TRAVAIL AND HARD LABOUR SHE ENDURED IN THE BIRTH OF
HER FIRST MONSTROUS OFFSPRING, THE CHILD OF DEFORMITY, THE HOPEFUL FRUIT
OF SEVEN YEARS' TEEMING, AND A PRECIOUS BABE OF GRACE, DELIVERED IN THE
YEAR 1648 by Mercurius Britannicus - goodness knows what that is !

Sounding American, but I think not, there's The Rehearsal at Gotham by
John Gay (1754)

Moving on to Hamlet, no end of versions .... a selection:-

Hamlet in French by Eugene Morand & Marcel Schwob, done for Mme Sarah
Bernhardt's season (She played the Prince, of course) (1899)

Ambroise Thomas's delightful opera "Hamlet" with a particularly good
drinking song for the Prince, as I recall (Oh, liqueur enchanteresse,
verse d'ivresse et d'oubli mon coeur... ), 1868 Hamlet a la Mode, a
burlesque by G W Anson, Liverpool 1876

Hamlet Improved; or, Mr Mendall's Attempt To Ameriorate That Tragedy

Hamlet the Hysterical "A Delusion in 5 Spasms" (1874)

Hamlet Travestie by John Poole (1813)

Hamlet Whether He Will Or No by George Booth, Sheffield 1879

The Grave-Makers, a Droll by Kirkman out of the tragedy of Hamlet (1672)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, a tragic Episode in 3 tableaux founded on
old Danish legend by W.S.Gilbert (1891)

To Be or Not To Be ? Duologue by Mrs E Argent Lonergan, Hornsey 1894

The Mousetrap, Farce by Mrs Burton Harrison, Bar Harbour 1886 (of course
this may just be about mice)

Famously, there is Sheridan's The Critic; or, A Tragedy Rehearsed (1779)
swiftly followed by The Critic Anticipated; or, The Humours of the
Green-Room (1779) by "R.B.S."

Not to mention

The Dress Rehearsal, a one-acter by L.Diehl published by Samuel French
Ltd A Dress Rehearsal, a one-act musical skit by Seymour Hicks and A.C.
Robatt (1907)

and lastly a charming comic sketch about amateur actors

A Pantomime Rehearsal by C.Clay (1891) which I've actually seen and was
made to go with a swing by the director who presided at the piano with
tremendous verve.

If I were you I'd go to a library and get help to find lists of what was
in print at the time of your grandmother's performance. Sometimes firms
which publish plays advertise their whole range or part of it at the
back or on the cover of their books. It is highly likely that the piece
you want was printed as a little booklet by itself by a firm that
specialised in such, for before photocopying sets of plays, bought or
borrowed, were the norm. Nor does this sound like the sort of thing that
would come in a solid volume of somebody's collected dramas. A direct
approach to Samuel French might be a good start, to see if that Diehl
play is the one you're seeking. Poole's Hamlet travestie was done in the
Dick's Plays series and should be traceable by a library for you.  But I
think it would be hopelessly old-fashioned by the 1920's and the name's
wrong anyway.

I've no doubt you will soon find out who was publishing plays at the
right time and what their lists contained. I strongly advise you not to
make reckless offers of "no matter what the price" as the play will
probably be a tatty little thing - the problem will be one of survival
and you may get a battered sole survivor from a much-loaned library set.
Best of Luck !

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