Running the Show, 1905

The following is the sixth excerpt of an article which first appeared in 1905 in the St. Louis Republic. Check out the first, second, third, fourth and fifth parts for the full story.

With the arrival of the stage employes he is prepared to issue the instructions which are necessary. The stage carpenter has laid the carpets for the different sets one above another, so that they are peeled off one by one as the curtain is lowered under the tableaux. The scenery has been placed in orderly piles against the walls, so that every piece is at hand at the proper moment.

Under the direction of the property man the stage hands than take a drill in setting the furniture, and each act is gone through with brief and definite instructions given each employe who will handle the least article of property. A blanket must be laid just here and a chair must be tilted back just there, and there is no piece of incidental fixtures appearing to the eye of the audience which has not been placed in its exact position by the order of the property man.

Up into the flies goes the stage hand who will drop the flying autumn leaves at the right moment, and all is ready for the performance.

Act by act the props are brought out from the capacious chests of the master hand and placed where they can be caught up at a second’s notice. He takes his position close by the stage manager, and while the curtain is up is as busy a man as anybody on the stage.

Fuller’s Earth scattered over the clothing of the cow punchers tells of the rides across the alkali plains, and a tin boxful must be ready for each man as he prepares to make his entrance. Trampus goes on with a cigar in his teeth and the cigar must be ready at the proper entrance, as well as a match with which it may be lighted. When the drinks are ordered up, out of a bottle of the genuine Kentucky article, the glasses are filled and ready for the waiter’s tray. Twenty minutes before poor Steve and the Spaniard drink their last cup of coffee together, down goes McCarrick into the basement and returns in plenty of time with a pot of smoking hot Java, which, placed over the red camp fire, is as realistic a scene as the most captious critic could desire.

Originally published in The St. Louis Republic, January 1, 1905.