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John L. Burleigh's Debut

John L. Burleigh's Debut image
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I'he many fricnds of Col. Burleigii will be pleased to know tbat his debut in Jackson last Thursday evening was a success. The Detroit Evening News of the following day contained a very complimnntary notice of which tte following is an extract: "When it was announced, therefore, that Mr. Burleigh had actually cast the prosaic belongings of commerce from liini, and launohed his bark, for good or Ui, upon the troublous sea of art, his friends were not altogether surprised, but there was a shock of some sort. It was mostly cornposed of alarm for Mr. Burleigh's future. And so a lew of his friends went out to Jackson. ratlier to help him make the launch without disaster on the stocks, than with the hope of an extraordiuary sailing when he was fairly in deep water. They knew that Burleigh was intelligent, cultivated, confldent, clever, and would not, al the very worst, make a fooi of himself. To hope that any debutant, actual y raw to the real stajje, would in all things avoid being ridiculous, in a part hke Othello, whose sublimily conBtaatly skiits the precipice of the absurd - was to be very sanguine indeed, for few debutants, even those whohave wou the highest places, have been equal to it. Sume of Mr. Burleigh's f rienda were as sanguine as that. When, af ter the flrst scène or two, the Moor advanced upon the stage, that hope was quickly strengthened iuto conüdence. The vvhilom senator from Washtenatv was not recoguized in a single feature or movemeut o t the majestiu figure ciad in graceful Venetian garb that appeared there and moved about as calmly as selfpoised and as apparently uncouscious of luiuself as if he had been on the boards from ïDfancy, Was it the audacity of inexperieuce, perhaps ignorance? No: for when he began to speak, the calm dignity of tone, the well modulated, fullandmanly voice, and the action quietly and modestly suited to the word, showed that the man's confidence was based upon solid gioucd. That he would get through cis arduous taskat least cleverly was appaient before he made his exit. As he carne on again and again, and gradually uufolded his conception of the character.the uudience.or the critical members of :t, found thequiet satisfaction and relief they experienced in the lirst scène giving way to downright astonishment and aitmiration. ilere was not merely a clever reader, a goud player, but a real aclor, an aitist, perhapi a genius. There was no lunger any ueed of consideratiun, of illovvancos for uiexperience. Those who had been l'earing disaster with the solicitude of friends, were now searching for rlaws and ei rors, with the close scrutiuy of critics who feit they were dealiug wiili one who asked and needed no mercy at their hands. The main poiut is this: without any socailed professional Uaiuing to speak oT, and after no schooiing except that which was derived f rum long, devoted aud enthusiastic private study, Mr. Burleigh steps into the world of art and produces at once a work oí' the most ambitious subject, which is uot only saved trom ubsurdity, not only clever and agreeable, but which is conjprehensively and intelligent ly conceived, closcly and carefully elaborated, artistically drawn and Bhaded, and bandled with Uie vigor and streugth of positive genius. The Jackson Patriot says : In his portrayal of this familiar Shakesperean character Mr. Burluigu gives the most positive evidence of liaving made it a thorough study. Copyiuij after no one in his methl, but rather clothiug the charac ter to meet bis own ideal, he gives at once a strong and realistic impersonation, divested of staginess. The character is portrayed from the stand-poiut of the scholar. who m his research has laid aside the stereotyped traditions of the stage, aiming only to give such ïnterpretation as the study of the character suirgests ' to his mimi. That he was suceessful was abundantly testiüed by the repeated manifestations of approbatiou with which Mr. Burleigh's íffoits were greeted, and it must have indeed been with feelings of pride that this new aspirant for laurels iu the tragic roles of the immortal bard witnessed the pleasure with which he was greeted. The verdict was general that [f in the representation of other characters Mr. Burleigh is as successful as in that of "Olhello,'' his success is assured. Miss Lettie Allen's 'Desdemona" was in every way worthy of the "Othello." It is not an exacting part, and y et may be overdone. Miss Allen however, threw about itthe same charm with which she invested "Bessie Merribright," iu "Unknown," and by her careful and conscientious interpretation of the part, invested it with a charm that found its way into the hearts of the audience, and secured lor her un stintt'd commeudation. "Breezy" in the Detroit "Chaff" says Col. Burleigh's interpretation of the character was a revelation, and that the audience very generally thought it so . It was picturesque, powerful and effective; broad, thoughtful and original. Burleigh was bold in selecting one of the most hackneyed, and, perhaps, the least pleasing of the Shakesperean tragedies. His couoeption was boldly conceived and boldly impersonated. Beginning with his dress, he put the General of the Venetian army in Venetian costume instead of the traditional Moorish garments. This issomething no American actor, with the traditions of the Knglish stage staring him in the face, has yet dared to do. With amagniiieent physique, a musical voice, a marvelously expressive face, a magnetic manner and preseuce, he had his auditors with him ere the curtain feil on the first act and held them to the end which was, without doubt, str-ikiDgly effective and original. He was at all times reposeful and dignified and with rare good taste and discrimination, avoided anything which might have had the appearance of ranting or over-acting. Singular as it may seem there was not a hiten, or a jar in his readingor acting from his entrance until the dagger found his vitáis. A stranger would not have believed him a debutant and the house enthusiastically applauded his every scène, and at the flnal fall of the curtain the audience refused to go until the Colontl had bowed to the popular seal of success which was set upon him. Mr. Burleigh makes Othello much older than most of our actors do, even to the extent of an iron-gray wig. Thus it is that after he has killed Desdemoua and learns that his cruel suspicions were unjust he breaks down entirely and becomes weak and tremulous. So marked is the change in him that his horrible crime is half forgotten in the deep sympathy which is feit for his heart breaking grief. Pathetic in the extreme is this last act, as presented by this gentleman, and the silence which reigned in the theatre during its last half was more than painful. It was broken only by the thunderous applause in which the people acknowledged the actor's triumph. Col. Burleigh hasboth talent and genius and the knowledge to use them. He will succeed as an actor. There is uo question about that whatever. He is triumphant already.


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat