Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Postcards from the Past: David Warfield" by Felicia Hardison Londré

This article is from the March 2013 issue of KC Stage

David Warfield (1866-1951) began his career in New York City's cheap concert saloons where ethnic humor reigned. Drawing upon his childhood observations of Jewish immigrants from his San Francisco neighborhood, Warfield (né Wohlfeld) got amazing comic mileage from the stage Jew's droll cliché expressions. Encouraged by producer David Belasco, Warfield gradually infused his roles with more humanity as he moved from portraying a traditional Polish peddler to the role of his lifetime: the cultivated German musician Anton Von Barwig, who is reduced to poverty during years of searching for his daughter.

The Music Master by Charles Klein, produced by Belasco, opened on Broadway in 1904 and ran a phenomenal 540 performances. Then Warfield toured it for many years before reviving it in New York in 1916. He brought The Music Master to Kansas City's Shubert Theatre in 1907 and 1908, and audiences could not get enough of the heartwarming tearjerker. Warfield would have the entire audience weeping, then suddenly elicit laughter with an eruption of humor, and then deftly bring them back to the heart of the matter.

This postcard was mailed on 22 July 22, 1906 from Syracuse, N.Y. to Geo. B. Histed in Belfast, N.Y. The handwritten message under the photo reads: "Your cards are certainly O.K. I intend to send you some soon. I intend to celebrate my birthday. Come without fail, Eugene."

Felicia Hardison Londré is curators' professor of theatre at UMKC, specializing in French, Russian, and Kansas City theatre history. She currently (2012-14) serves as dean of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

No comments:

Post a Comment