Thursday, February 9, 2012

1922 Presents ‘ The Dragon ’

© Alan Rabz, RABZ Illustration,

2012 is the Year of the Dragon so I thought I would post an excerpt and review of Goucher College's 1920 production of Lady Gregory's "The Dragon," wherein my grandmother played the role of the Queen, albeit unsuccessfully. Below is a rather critical review by then assistant professor, J. M. Beatty, Jr., who became an accomplished author and critic of American literature in his lifetime.

Here's a small excerpt from the play:

Queen: She is seventeen years. There is no day to be lost. I will go write the letter.
Nurse: Oh, you wouldn't send away the poor child!
Dall Glic: It would be a great hardship to send her so far. Our poor little Princess Nu!
Queen: (Sharply.) What are saying?
(Dall Glic is silent.)
King: I would not wish her to be sent out of this.
Queen: There is no other way to set her mind to sense and learning. It will be for her own good.
Nurse: Where's the use troubling her with lessons and with books that maybe she will never be in need of at all. Speak up for her, King.
King: Let her stop for this year as she is.
Queen: You are all too soft and too easy. She will turn on you and will blame you for it, and another year or two years slipped by.
Nurse: That she may!
Dall Glic: Who knows what might take place within the twelve month that is coming?
King: Ah, don't be talking about it. Maybe it never might come to pass.
Dall Glic: It will come to pass, if there is truth in the clouds of sky.
King: It will not be for a year, anyway. There'll be many an ebbing and flowing of the tide within a year.
Queen: What at all are you talking about?
King: Ah, where's the use of talking too much.
Queen: Making riddles you are, and striving to keep the meaning from your comrade, that is myself.
King: It's best not be thinking about the thing you would not wish, and maybe it might never come around at all. To strive to forget a threat yourself, it might maybe be forgotten by the universe.
Queen: Is it true something was threatened?
King: How would I know is anything true, and the world so full of lies as it is?
Nurse: That is so. He might have been wrong in his foretelling. What is he in the finish but an old prophecy?
Dall Glic: Is it of Fintan you are saying that?
Queen: And who, will you tell me, is Fintan?
Dall Glic: Anyone that never heard tell of Fintan never heard anything at all.
Queen: His name was not up on the tablets of big men at the King of Alban's Court, or of Britain.
Nurse: Ah, sure in those countries they are without religion or belief.
Queen: Is it that there was a prophecy?
King: Don't mind it. What are prophecies? Don't we hear them every day of the week? And if one comes true there may be seven blind and come to nothing.
Queen: (To Dall Glic). I must get to the root of this, and the handle. Who, now, is Fintan?
Dall Glic: He is an astrologer, and understanding the nature of the stars.

Goucher College Class of 1922

Class of 1922 Presents "The Dragon"
Freshmen Guests of Honor at Junior Play

The Junior Class presented as its annual play in honor of the Freshmen, Lady Gregory's "The Dragon," a Wonder Play in Three Acts, on Friday evening, November 19, in Catherine Hooper Auditorium.

The play is one in which there is an unreal atmosphere of folklore and ancient legend, a land of fancy where a beautiful princess is wooed by brave and by craven knights, where a kingly suitor comes in the guise of a cook, and a tailor in the stolen clothes of a king; and where, as in the tales of old romance, the hero meets the dragon that threatens his lady and subdues him. True, the scene is laid in Ireland, but it is not the Ireland that historians know; it is the Ireland whispered about at the peasant hearth, the land of fairy, where the wee people still come to the aid of mortals, and kinds and queens move in a pseudo-regal world imagined by churlish brains.

Into this strange world a dragon comes from the North to kill the Princess Nuala. Although he does not reach Ireland until Act III,  his reputation has long preceded him. His shadow clouds the kingly house from the very beginning of the play, although the new queen affects to disdain the prophecy that Fintan, the astrologer, has made about him. Yet thanks to Manus, King of Sorcha, disguised as a cook, the dragon does not turn the comedy into tragedy; the young hero meets the dragon, and instead of slaying him, merely removes his ferocious heart and substitutes for it the heart of a squirrel. Thereupon the dragon becomes very delightful company.

The play as a whole was enjoyable; the harmony of colors was unusually pleasing; but it is only just to say that there were some serious faults in the performance that could have been avoided. To be sure, the unexpected substitutions embarrassed the cast during the last days of rehearsal, but the substitutes did excellent work in the final performance. The defects in the production cannot be laid at the door of the substitutes. They can be laid to the forces of circumstance, to the necessarily limited time spent in rehearsals, to a failure to adapt make-ups to the lines and descriptions in the play, and in one or two cases, a perhaps unavoidable placing of the girls in roles that they are by nature fundamentally unfitted to take.

The tableaux, at the end of both Act I and Act III, were poorly worked out and sustained. The characters began to move from their positions even before the curtains were drawn. The King was represented as a man of forty, in full possession of his powers; yet the Princess refers to him as old and feeble, and his lines are those of a man well along in years. The Nurse is three times referred to as a hag. In the performance last Friday, she was represented as quite a comely woman with a nun-like countenance. But most ridiculous of all, the two aunts of the Prince of the Marshes, specifically described in the play as old ladies and kindred of a king, appeared on the stage of Catherine Hooper Hall as two young mincing milliners of Cranford in the year 1820. Both in costume and in make-up, they were utterly out of keeping with the atmosphere of the play.

One of the most serious criticisms that can be made of the play, however, should be directed against the enunciation and expression of the actors. The actors did not, except in a few instances, address each other or show more than a forced recognition of what other people were saying on the stage. If jokes were made, they passed unnoticed by the actors who were supposed to hear them; if tears were shed the onlookers were unmoved by grief. The scene where the frightened girl and her family were watching the fight with the dragon lacked suspense because the actors were thinking more about their lines than about the situation.

In spite of these general criticisms, however, the work of many of the actors was very creditable. Miss Kirk, Miss Loventhal, Miss Kohn, Miss Dunnock, Miss Nelson and Miss Koehnline were easily the stars.

The Dall Glic, or blind wise man, was of that race of mortals who have seen into the other world and who ever after have retained some trace of their fairy experiences. Miss Kirk represented this gnome-like figure with rare insight into his warped soul and mystic relationships. Her stage-voice shared the honors with Miss Dunnock's.

Miss Loventhal, in spite of the fact that she was new to the role, was very entertaining as the rotund and gormandizing father of the princess. She was at her best in Act III, almost overcome by drowsiness after the magical dinner that Manus provided. Her voice was, perhaps, a trifle too boyish for the aged king.

The Princess was very beautiful, as every good princess should be. Miss Kohn played the part with energy and decision. She was, by far, the most regal of the royal household. If she had been more natural in her gestures, however, she would have been even more effective.

Of all the men in the play, Manus seemed most at ease in male costume. Miss Dunnock succeeded well in suppressing those feminine characteristics that sometimes mar the acting of men's parts by women. She was boyish, yet serious; regal, not haughty; and brave, not boastful.

Like Manus, Taig was triumphant over feminine traits. Miss Koehnline caught most successfully the rude boorishness of a king not born to the purple.

Miss Nelson, as the Prince of the Marshes, was well adapted to the part. She is more naturally suited to play the part of a girl; the only type of man that she could imitate successfully is such a one as this Sir Perceval, in whom feminine traits predominate.

Miss Voegtly and Miss Erwood were not perfectly suited to their parts. Miss Voegtly looked the part of a queen, but did not quite succeed in bringing out more than the superficial characteristics of her part. Miss Erwood was neither a motherly old creature nor a hag. She could not throw herself into the emotion demanded of her.

I would say that the choice of the play was excellent, and that although in some respects the performance was not up to our usually standard, nevertheless, with the talent displayed in this play and with other latent talent in the class, 1922 should, next year, produce a Senior Play of the first rank.

Joseph M. Beatty, Jr.
Instructor in English, 1917-20, assistant professor, 1920-23, associate
professor, 1923-30, professor, 1930-.

The King...Dorothy Loventhal
The Queen...Sarah Louise Voegtly
The Princess Nuala...Eleanor Kohn
The Dall Glic (The Blind Wise Man)...Hanna Kirk
The Nurse...Florene Erwood
The Prince of the Marshes...Hope Nelson
Manus, King of Sorcha...Mildred Dunnock
Fintan, The Astrologer...Stella Biddison
Taig...Mildred Koehnline
Sibby...Elizabeth Barker
Gatekeeper...Constance Steuer
Aunts of the Princes of the Marshes...Helen Mears, Miriam Chalmers
Servant Girls...Sophronia Mayberry, Maybelle Galbreath
Gnomes...Gertrude Russell, Janet Kelly
The Dragon.


Chairman...Bessie Lineback
Scenery...Asenath Johnson
Costumes...Mary Louise Bird
Properties...Mary Beaton Gibbs
Lighting...Helen Heard, Elizabeth Abbott
Programs...Margaret McKee
Dance...Elizabeth Barksdale

Reprinted with permission from Goucher College, Goucher College Weekly, Volume VI, No. 6, 1920.


  1. Wow, I know he was reviewer but way to harsh for a school play!

    1. I agree Jeff. I couldn't believe how serious he was. Hey, I'll call you this week.