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The craftsman
Volume XXX, Number 2 (May 1916)

Mann, Dorothea Lawrance
The new stagecraft: illustrated by Josef Urban's imaginative setting of Shakespeare,   pp. 168-178 PDF (3.6 MB)


Page 168


THE NEW STAGECRAFT: ILLUSTRATED BY
JOSEF URBAN'S IMAGINATIVE SETTING OF
SHAKESPEARE: BY DOROTHEA LAWRANCE
MANN
            MAGINATION is the great fundamental force in Josef
            Urban's work. It is significance rather than reality
            which he strives to attain in the mounting of a scene.
              He came to America as the apostle of the new stage-
              craft, and even in the brief while that he has been at
              work here, he has created a lasting impression of power
              and individuality. He brings to his conceptions a
supreme knowledge of the arts of the new stagecraft. Many of hisi
methods have been used before in the German and Austrian "relief"
theaters, but his originality is of the type which without striving for
the eccentric leaves the impress of his individuality on all that passes
through his hands. He is not revolutionary after the manner of
Gordon Craig. It seems a very long way from the now famous in-
stance of Gordon Craig's mounting of "Hamlet" at the Art Theater
in Moscow, by the use of different arrangements of white and gold
screens, to the beautifully appropriate and distinguished scenery of
Urban's "Macbeth." We cannot, however, fully appreciate the work
of Urban unless we consider him in relation to the ideals and methods
of others who are striving with him to rid our stage of the uselessly
conventional attempts at realism which hamper the work of actors.
    Henry Irving once described the seventeenth century as the period
 of great play writing; the eighteenth, as the century of great play
 acting; and the nineteenth, as the century of great play mounting.
 While such a statement is too epigrammatic to be wholly accurate,
 it is true that the nineteenth century and the early twentieth have
 been marked by a noticeable tendency on the part of theatrical pro-
 ducers to use extravagantly splendid stage scenery. Money has been,
 lavished in an effort toward reality, which has been at once futile as-
 realism and a hindrance to acting. No matter what the diligence of
 directors in erecting real buildings, setting out actual gardens and
 all the other paraphernalia of the realistic school, the fact remains that
 it is the illusion of reality rather than reality which they produce.
 They never can overcome the obstacle of their houses and gardens
 stopping abruptly at the line of the back drop, and they are seriously
 at a loss to create sky.
    The new stagecraft works upon the theory that, as it is impossible
 to produce reality, they will try rather for the most stimulating illu-
 sion. In any stagecraft the spectator must cotiperate with the pro-
 ducer, lending his imagination in greater or less degree to the illusion
 x68


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