MARCH 9, 1953
DETROIT, Sunday—On Thursday evening in New York I went to see a performance of "John Brown's Body." It happens to be one of my favorite poems, and I was dubious about whether I would enjoy it on the stage. But Charles Laughton has done a wonderful job of directing it, and Raymond Massey and Tyrone Power both give their parts vital meaning. I am frank to confess that I had not expected Mr. Power to give a performance which would satisfy me as this did. I enjoyed the whole evening, which certainly leaves with you an unforgettable impression.
This was a benefit performance for the Citizens Committee for Children, and I was glad that it turned out to be such a full house. I saw many of my friends, so that it was a pleasant social evening as well as one of great artistic satisfaction.
John Golden, I understand, is starting a new project which I think may have distinct value for the future of the theatre. The veteran producer calls it "The Pawnshop for Plays," and it is a plan to finance playwrights who are in need of cash while writing their works. All a writer has to do is to prove that someone of responsibility believes he is capable of writing a play and that he actually is in need. Then he will receive a loan, which presumably will be paid back if anyone buys the play.
This whole idea was born out of Mr. Golden's conviction that the theatre needs new and good plays. You can build all the new theatres in the world; but if no good plays are written by modern authors for production in these theatres, they will remain empty and useless. You must have the play before you can employ the cast. Important as the interpretation of a play may be by good actors and actresses, it is really basic that the play must be good. A good actor may put over a poor play, and a good play may require good actors to be fully appreciated. But basically a play must have some meat in it and give something to the audiences, or there is no chance of building up a theatre which will provide constant audiences.
Due to various factors, tickets for the theatre have become luxuries for most people. I am always hoping that some method will be devised whereby it would be possible to lower the price of seats on certain nights so that the appreciation of the theatre will not be restricted to those people who can afford to pay high prices. But even such factors are subordinate to the basic point emphasized by John Golden. That there must be plays before there can be a theatre is a fundamental conception none of us who love the theatre should be allowed to forget.