“The play’s the thing”
BY HOMER H. HOWARD
As early as eighteen thirty-five a theater known as the Lion existed where the Bijou now is. It was maintained under various names until taken possession of by B.F. Keith. Later he decided to make a motion picture place of this theater, and in February, 1908, it was opened for that purpose. Soon a new policy was adopted and Mrs. Josephine Clement was appointed manager of the Bijou Theater, with instructions to develop an entertainment of a different type from the usual motion picture program.
Mr. Keith did this not only from a desire to preserve the old theater, but to see if the public would not support a higher-class cheap show. His confidence in the sanity of the taste of the public has been fully justified by the results of the experiment.
Mrs. Clement’s first step was to improve the lecture which was a part of the regular program. These Ten-Minute Talks are now given by a good reader and really worth-while material is presented. Such men as Arthur Deitrick, Eugene Farnsworth, and C.W. Russel have prepared these talks. In order to secure good singing, it was made known that one day each week would be open for all those who wished to try. In this way good material has been secured and developed within the walls of the house itself. National songs, appropriately costumed, were made a part of the program, and recently the idea has been enlarged into a whole series of folk songs and dances. Mrs. Clement is too clever to force the growth of any tendency, but lets it develop and strengthen of its own accord. There is no set policy, rigidly followed, but changes are made whenever they are needed, and each new development aims to be a real improvement. There is a spirit of co-operation on the part of all those connected with the theater which has meant much in its success.
The idea which makes the Bijou especially deserving of notice is the introduction on Feb. 28, 1910, of a regular policy of producing a one-act play each week. This, with the occasional introduction of a short opera, has continued to the present time. As early as June, 1909, ‘Shadows,’ a mystical tragedy by Evelyn G. Sutherland, was put on, and in January of the following year a one-act comedy, ‘The Red Star,’ by Wm. M. Blatt, was produced. The success of these plays decided the management to adopt the one-act play as a regular part of the program. The play first to be acted under the new policy was Hermann Hagedorn’s ‘The World Too Small for Three.’ This is important because the one-act play has almost no place on the professional stage. Vaudeville houses put on an occasional one-act piece of the lighter sort. The Bijou now provides a place where the serious worker