Writing for Vaudeville eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 543 pages of information about Writing for Vaudeville.

Therefore, to the problem of original cost and transportation expense, now add the charge of forty dollars a week against scenery—­and an average of five dollars a week extra railroad fare for the stage-carpenter—­and you begin to perceive why a vaudeville producer asks, when you request him to read an act:  “What scenery?”

There is no intention of decrying the use of special scenery in vaudeville.  Some of the very best and most profitable acts, even aside from great scenic one-act dramas like “The System,” [1] would be comparatively valueless without their individual sets.  And furthermore the use of scenery, with the far-reaching possibilities of the special set in all its beauty and—­on this side of the water—­hitherto unrealized effectiveness, has not yet even approached its noon.  Together with the ceaseless advance of the art of mounting a full-evening play on the legitimate stage [2] will go the no less artistic vaudeville act.  But, for the writer anxious to make a success of vaudeville writing, the special set should be decried.  Indeed, the special set ought not to enter into the writer’s problem at all.

[1] See Appendix. [2] The Theatre of To-Day, Hiram Kelly Moderwell’s book on the modem theatre, will repay reading by anyone particularly interested in the special set and its possibilities.

No scenery can make up for weakness of story.  Rather, like a paste diamond in an exquisitely chased, pure gold setting, the paste story will appear at greater disadvantage:  because of the very beauty of its surroundings.  The writer should make his story so fine that it will sparkle brilliantly in any setting.

The only thought that successful vaudeville writers give to scenery is to indicate in their manuscripts the surroundings that “relate the characters closely to their environment.”

It requires no ability to imagine startling and beautiful scenic effects that cost a lot of money to produce—­that is no “trick.”  The vaudeville scenery magic lies in making use of simple scenes that can be carried at little cost—­or, better still for the new writer, in twisting the combinations of drops and sets to be found in every vaudeville house to new uses.



1.  The Olio

In every vaudeville theatre there is an Olio and, although the scene which it is designed to represent may be different in each house, the street Olio is common enough to be counted as universally used.  Usually there are two drops in “One,” either of which may be the Olio, and one of them is likely to represent a street, while the other is pretty sure to be a palace scene.

2.  Open Sets

Usually in Four—­and sometimes in Three—­there are to be found in nearly every vaudeville theatre two different drops, which with their matching wings [1] form the two common “open sets”—­or scenes composed merely of a rear drop and side wings, and not boxed in.

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Writing for Vaudeville from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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