November 10, 1945 p. 26
THIS COLUMN HAS A HABIT of sticking its neck out on problems effecting the Negro in the various mediums of the art world, and if anyone thinks there is not a crying need for discussion on many of the ills of the business, both from the standpoint of the performer and those who control it, then that person is far from hipped as to what is going on. Sometimes we get results quite unexpectedly but most times, things which are wrong, just stay wrong. Unfortunately, the very folks who would benefit most by correction of these ills are least willing to help try to bring about the necessary correction.
However, we want to pause long enough to stick our chest out and crow a little bit about our recent victory. Three weeks ago, this space devoted itself to a discussion of John Wildberg, producer of the two companies of Anna Lucasta and the amateur and professional actors involved in the new to Broadway showing of this production. We talked about the lack of lobby billing for members of the cast, the lower bracket salaries, the lack of public announcement that the first company moved to Chicago and a second company opened at the Mansfield, and the role which the American Negro Theatre played in bringing the play to the attention of the drama critics and Broadway producers.
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OUT OF THIS CANDID discussion has come some recognition in the press for members of the second company. In the Sunday papers (October 28) appeared an article by John Wildberg (NY Tribune) in which he talks about the second and first companies. Accompanying the article was a picture of a scene from the play with the second company cast. There were photos of other cast members in other papers. This was the very first time that any publicity had been released by the producer's publicist to the press on the second cast members.
There is no doubt but that Wildberg will make the claim that the release of publicity on the show had been planned in advance and that this column had nothing to do with it. That may or may not be so, but the fact remains that prior to or since the date of September 24 (that is when the second company took over at the Mansfield), there had not been one word released to the press (metropolitan or otherwise) in reference to the second company's playing of 'Lucasta,' until more than a week after this column's discussion on the subject.
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WHAT OR WHO STIMULATED action in this direction is not nearly so important however, as is the fact that action has been taken. This is a step in the right direction. At least, the public through this method gets the opportunity of finding out who is playing what in the show and in turn it gives the actor some status as an actor.
We assume that Wildberg has no intention of inviting the dram critics to evaluate the performance of the second company since members of the first company are gradually being intergrated [sic]. (Georgia Burke is back from Chicago playing the part of the mother, while Georgette Harvey has joined the first company in the same capacity.) This is unfortunate, because that leaves Valerie Black, as 'Anna'; Charles Swain, as 'Rudolph'; Warren Coleman, as 'Frank'; Frank Wilson, as the father; Monty Hawley and several other members of the cast without impartial appraisal of their work by important critics.
It is totally unfair to these actors whose careers will depend a great deal on how good they were thought to be in various plays. I'm wondering if John Wildberg's career was that of acting rather than lawyer-producer, would he be content to perform in a play which did not give him the opportunity of having that work evaluated? I think not.
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GRANTED THAT WILDBERG has done the unprecedented in the theatre and thereby given an opportunity to a number of young people with a talent for acting but also he has ignored some of the good precedents of the theatre. It is entirely probable that in the producer's enthusiasm for the unique job he was doing he overlooked many things like billing, critical reviews, adequate compensation to the American Negro Theatre to enable them to carry on effectively their experimental theatre, etc., etc. If this be true, then there is every reason to expect readjustment to these problems now that Anna Lucasta has settled down to a comfortable and profitable run in Chicago as well as New York.