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Playing Two Parts

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To be able to play two parts in the same piece - to portray, perhaps two characters of totally different caliber - is not au uudertaking which many actors care to attempt. It is only the experienced artist wbo naay attempt the feat with irnpunity, and even then, though he may appear to the audienoe to achieve his end without an effort, there are many more difficulties in his path than meet the eye of the habitual theater goer. Not only must the actor be possessed of no sinall amount of histrionic talent, but he must often cali in the aid of an understudy, whose dnty it is to gull the onlooker into the belief that their favorite is performing the impossible feat of being ia two places at one and the same time. For in nearly every play of such a character it is well nigh impossible for the author so to arrange his piece that the actor may never be called upon to be on the stage with his doublé. Any one who bas been to see "The Prisonerof Zeuda" performed at theSt. James theater, must have maiveled at the ligbtning celwity with which Mr. George Alexauder, a moment before the drunkei; kiug of Ruritania, suddenly, as by sr.rae ictof witchcraft, reappeared as RudoJf Eiissenriyll, ciad in the ordinary costuffie of tbe English tourist. Then, to every oue's surprise, the supine body of the king was carrïed in so that to ali appearauces Mr. Alexander was gazing upou his own person. In reality, of course, it was nierely a lightning change, and the understudy had to be requisitioned to supply the person of the king. A more famous case of doublé impersonation, however, is that of "The Corsican Brothers," the first play perhaps in which Sir Henry Irving gave us a taste of his wonderful talent. In the first act - to give a slight restime of the play - the ghost of Louis, killed in a duel by a certain Chateau Renaud in the forest of Fontainebleau,. appears to Fabien, his brother. The secoud act takes na to Paris, and through varied incident to the death of Louis. Here Irving was Louis. In the third act, however, it Is Fabien who is once more before us, who bas constituted himself the avenger of his brother's death. He meets Chatean Renaud and demands satisfaction. Renaud isworsted and falls tothe grouud. Then suddenly the ghost of Louis appears, and, to personate the spirit of the dead man, Irvmg had had to fly to the wings, make his way below the stage and take his stand upon the trap, which conveyed him upward to the gaze of the thrilled spectators. How was it done? The andience was amazed. Yet the explanation is cornparatively simple: Irving stepped behind a "propertv" tree. His "doublé" instantly filled his place, taking good care not to face the audience when it was necessary for him to confront the ghost. Henee the lightning change frora mortal to spirit and the resultant bewilderment of the beholders. Neither is the "Corsican Brothers" :he only play in which Irving has contrived to take a doublé part and yet nonplus ,the audience by the adroitness of his metaruorphosis. Those who are familiar with the "Lyons Mail" will doubtless remeruber the most telling sceue iu the play. Here Dubosc, the murderer, is iu au attic, gaziug dowu upou the preparations beiug made for the executiou of the innocent Lesurques - whose likeness to the real murderer has brought him to such a terrible pass - au expression of horrible glee upon his face, clapping his hands as he sees the apparently doorued man step forward to his death. But his exultation is premature. Lesurques is reprieved, and the crowd suddenly catches sight of the villainous face of the real murderer at the attic window. The door of the room is battered in. Behind it stands Dubosc. The wretch is dragjed from his refuge, aud as tbey do so Irving-Lesurques coolly walks in upon the scène of turmoil. The door of the attic is made to open inward, thus shuttiug Irving-Dubosc from view of the auditorium. ín a moment he slips through a trap. His "doublé" takes his place, to be hustled unceremoniously by the crowd of "supers, "whose duty it is also to conceal the man 's face in case the fraud should be discovered. Irving-Lesurques can hen. come on in his new role. But an actor has been known to play two parts without the assistance of a dummy. In a certain play it was the duty of the hero to leap out of the window of his room and to enter from a door on the opposite side of the stage ciad iu different clothes, though otherwise the same. This, bowever, was juggling pure and simple. The actor dropped into his second dress in much the same way as an American flreman is reputed to jump into his uniform. The costume consisted of but one piece with a patent fastening down the back, and as he leaped through the wiudow frame he leaped into his clothes, which, so to speak, shut behind him and left him rena bilitated. Neither is the part of the understudy one to be given toany ordinary "super" from the mass of warriors, countrymen and the like that go to make up a stage crowd. He must be possessed of no slight amount of adaptability and smartness to euable his principal to go through his arduous task without a hiten. -


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