Orson Welles and John Houseman on a PLAN FOR A NEW THEATRE in 1937
With the release of Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles now scheduled for November 25, 2009, here is an article Welles and John Houseman wrote for The New York Times to announce the birth of the Mercury Theatre in 1937.
Updates about Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles can be found on their official Facebook page HERE.
You can also see pictures from the Orson Welles production of Julius Caesar as well as Me and Orson Welles at the Wellesnet Facebook page HERE.
PLAN FOR A NEW THEATRE
The Mercury Will Attempt to Arouse the Interest of a Wider Audience
By Orson Welles and John Houseman
Sunday August 29, 1937 -- The New York Times
When its doors open early in November, the Mercury Theatre will expect to play to the same audience that during the last two seasons stood to see Doctor Faustus, Murder in the Cathedral and the Negro Macbeth.
It was surprising that they came in such numbers, but that was not the only surprising thing about this audience. It was fresh. It was eager. To anyone who saw it night after night as we did, it was apparent that this was not the regular Broadway crowd taking in the hits of the moment. Even less was it the special audience one had learned to associate with "classical revivals." (A million people do not make a special audience.) One had the feeling, every night, that here were people on a voyage of discovery in the theatre... people who either had never been to the theatre at all or who, for one reason or another, had ignored it for many seasons.
By filling out the questionnaires we placed in their programs during the run of Doctor Faustus some forty thousand of them made their theatrical confessions to us. A large number professed themselves disappointed in the regular run of Broadway plays but stated that the theatre had once again assumed importance for them with the productions of the Federal Theatre. We asked for specific suggestions: the overwhelming majority of their requests was for "more classical plays," "classical plays excitingly produced," and "great plays of the past produced in a modern way."
This is the audience the Mercury Theatre will try to satisfy.
We shall produce four or five plays each season. Most of these will be plays of the past— preferably those which seem to have emotional or factual bearing on contemporary life. While a socially unconscious theatre would be intolerable, there will be no substitution of social consciousness for drama... We prefer not to fix our program rigidly too far ahead. New plays and new ideas may turn up any day. But we do know that our first production will be Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. As in Faustus, by the use of apron, lighting, sound devices, music, etc., we hope to give this production much of the speed and violence it must have had on the Elizabethan stage. The Roman Senators when they murder the Dictator will not be clad (any more than were the Elizabethan actors) in traditional nineteenth-century stage togas.
Next we hope, with George Bernard Shaw's consent, to produce what we consider his most important play, Heartbreak House. Also William Gillette's Too Much Johnson, Webster's Duchess of Malfi—one of the great horror plays of all time— and Ben Jonson's farce The Silent Woman. We expect to run our first play between four and six weeks. After that, without clinging to the European system of revolving repertory with its disturbing nightly changes of bill, the Mercury Theatre expects to maintain a repertory of its current season's productions. However at no time will more than two different plays be seen in one week.
We expect to occupy a theatre of medium size on the edge of the Broadway district. With a top price of two dollars, there will be four hundred good seats at fifty cents, seventy-five cents and one dollar available at every performance.