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Our Society

Odell reports that the last offering of the regular [1885-1886] season was Our Society, adapted by Clinton Stuart and Mrs. Verplanck from Le monde ou l'on s'ennuie. "The cast of April 19th was delightful. The season was so far advanced that Palmer could keep this bright play but two weeks on his stage; it closed, perforce on May 1st, after having established once more the exquisite girlish charm of Annie Russell and the brilliant comedy talent of Maud Harrison." 

New York, Apr. 2, 1886  Had a reading of a new play [Our Society] at 2 PM and did not get home until after 5 PM, feeling very tired.  To-day we rehearsed the 1st Act which occupied about 3 hours.  My part is good but the play is weak and therefore a good part will not amount to much -- have to get one very handsome dress. 

New York, Apr. 9, 1886 We produce the new play [Our Society] a week from Monday next.  

Our Society  opened on April 19th, 1886 (with EJ Phillips as Mrs. Spencer) but "closed on May 1st as the theatre was committed to Richard Mansfield in Prince Karl. Clinton Stuart'splay, adapted from Le monde ou l'on s'ennuie closed the 1885-1886 Madison Squareseason, sustaining a profit in a two week engagement." Odell

The NY Times review (Apr 22 1886) noted that the original French play had been brought out at the Comedie Francaise five years before and that "Annie Russell as Sylvia Spencer, and the exertions of Messrs.[Herbert]  Kelcey, Walden Ramsey,LeMoyne,Davidgeand Mrs. EJ Phillips are all to be spoken of with praise" and "Miss [Maud] Harrison's delineation of the artful wife elicited a great deal of merriment, but its merit would have been enhanced by a little more repose and refinement on the part of the actress.

An incomplete, undated newspaper clipping criticizes the very slight plot, and the play's Anglomania, but says  "Everybody has fallen in love with Mrs. Phillips.  Her playing of the old lady [Mrs. Katharine Spencer] is the most charming thing our theatre-goers have seen for years and it is astonishing how warmly everyone in the audience feels toward the fairy godmother.  It is a little bit of inspiration."

Mr. LeMoyne, Miss Brookyn, Mr. Ramsey ("greatly improved.  He has gained control over himself, carries himself easily, and in the last act of the play shares the honors of one of the best comedy scenes on the stage") Maud Harrison ("beyond all dispute, the best comedienne we have ever seen here...There is nothing hackneyed about her Mrs. Tupper; but there never will be anything hackneyed about her") and Annie Russell ("Mr. Palmer gave us a surprise in Annie Russell") were in the cast.  Characters included a Congressman, a Senator, a poet, an office-seeker, a scientist, an old woman and two lovers.

After Jim the Penmanclosed on April 30, 1886, Our Society was revived on May 2nd for a four week run. [Odell]

New York, May 2, 1886 Open tomorrow night in [Boston in] Engaged.  It will be easy work for me and I am glad of it.  My part in Our Society is a hard working part.

Boston, May 8, 1886 Monday night Our Society goes on to try its luck with a Boston Audience.  I hope it will do as well as it did in New York.

Boston, May 11, 1886 Our Society made a hit last night, good notices this morning.  I will enclose you one from the Post.

Boston, May 13, 1886 One good thing.  I have a good part in Our Society and have made a hit in it and that advances my interest with A.M. P[almer].  Yesterday I received a box full of beautiful Red & pink roses and lilies of the valley from a Dr Harris and a very complimentary note.  

New York, May 15th 1887  Mr. AMP[almer] was in town yesterday but I did not see him. He sat through the performance of 'Our Society' just as much pleased as if he had paid a $1.50 for his seat. I heard he was very much pleased.

Chicago, June 7, 1886 We open tonight with  Our Society.  They say the "take" is not large, which looks like a bad beginning.  Hope we shall come out all right. 

Chicago, June 13, 1886 I rec'd a splendid reception last Monday night -- and splendid notices in all the papers.  I mention this as it is stock in trade for us. Our Society has done more for me than any part I have had for the past three seasons -- so that I feel lighter hearted professionally, than I have done for the same length of time.

Chicago, July 9, 1886 Mrs. Kelcey telegraphed Palmer that Sealed Instructions must be withdrawn from next week's programme or she would resign!  Well it is withdrawn and Our Society takes its place.  Business has not been great and times are very dull in San F'co, and altogether things looked very shaky for a day or two. 

San Francisco, Aug. 1, 1886 We open tomorrow night in Our Society - next week Jim the Penman, 3rd weekSaints and Sinners - 4th week Love's Martyr.  Whether we play here or not on the 5th week is not certain - but we go to Los Angeles on closing here.

THE STAGE, Immense Success of Palmer's Excellent Company
 Few French comedies have been more universally enjoyed than Le monde ou l'on s'ennuie and few have been so admirably translated into pointed idiomatic American.  clipping from San Francisco newspaper Aug. 1886

Our Society review San Francisco 1888

Denver, Sept. 21, 1886 Play S[aints] & S[inners} this Eve., then I do not play until that on Sat and Sat. Evening. Open with Our Society in NY on the 11th. D.[eo] V.[olente] 

New York, Feb. 28, 1887 No further news about "bus[iness]".  The latest was that we go to  London to play Our Society & Margery's Loversin August. 

New York, April 7, 1887 Rumour says that I remain in NY during May instead of going to Boston.  I to play in Our Society, Maud [Harrison] and[Walden] Ramsey will also remain here.  Mrs. Booth's husband is my authority, Palmer having asked him to oblige him by letting us remain, and he has consented, but it may all be changed when I hear again.

Jim the Penman closed on April 30th 1886 and Our Society was revived on May 2nd [1887] for a four week run. [Odell?]

Chicago, July 4, 1887  We are to remain here [Chicago] eight weeks including the present one - so that we shall not close here until the 27th of August.  Leave 28th for New York, arrive there the 29th & at end of week leave for Boston to open at Park Theatre on the 5th of Sept.  Not much of a vacation, is it? 

It will not be as hard for me as for some of the others, as I shall have only one new part to study.  This week Margery's Lovers, next Foregone Conclusion, week after Our Society.  To be followed by Elainein which there is no part for me.  I shall have that week to rest, or get ready for a part in a new comedy [?]. 

New York, Mar. 11, 1888  yesterday at Matinee, new parts were given out in a play by Robert Buchanan, the Poet and Novelist, called Partners.  It is now playing in London with great success. I have a good "part" - somewhat on the same order as Mrs. Spencer in Our Society.  We are to rehearse it tomorrow at 11.  I hope the play is as good as my part. [It wasn't.]

Philadelphia, July 4, 1888  [William Palmer] said he wouldn't go to California  without me. He also told me that Miss [Annie] Russell was going and possibly Maud [Harrison]. That Our Society is to be done & many things that make the Company much better than it was, as it was arranged, when I left Boston. 

Chicago, Oct. 18, 1888 I have been so busy have not had time to write, for performances are so late, and on Wed Mat[inee] sprung on us that I do not find time to eat.  We are also rehearsing Our Society and I have to get my dress ready for it, and have been working at it all afternoon.  It is nearly six o'clock and not having eaten anything since breakfast must go to dinner. 

PAILLERON'S "Lc Monde ou l'on s'ennuie" has been artistically and thoroughly Americanized in "Our Society," now running at the Madison Square Theatre; and if Anglo-maniacs will kindly note the excellent work which Mr. Clinton Stuart and Mrs. J. C. Ver Planck have produced, they will see the boundless possibilities on this side of the Atlantic for stage material.    
"Our Society" is a delightful surprise. It seems almost incongruous to see on a New York playbill such characters as Senator Montgomery of Mobile, Ferdinand C. Tupper of Chicago, Miss Constance Grey from Boston, and      the Hon. Reuben Cary, member of Congress. It would be much more natural to have had all these people either lords or earls, ladies or countesses. American playgoers would have understood them better.    
After all, what do Madison Square audiences know about Washington society? London and Paris drawing-rooms they are completely familiar with—as portrayed in the dramatic importations of the day. They understand their tawdry hackneyness consummately. They know the noble lord, the instant he makes his entrance, by his gray trousers— rather tight—black coat, red gloves, and curled hat. They recognize the everlasting countess by her diaphanous attire, her short waist and her general appearance of a figure posing in the servant girl's only literary indulgence, known as The Young Ladies' Journal.    
"Our Society " is, indeed, a surprise. It was received with enthusiastic manifestations. The comparative novelty of seeing American characters on an American stage was answerable for this. The audience chuckled over the musty old Senator, who looked as much at home in his dress suit as a hod carrier would have done, and who could not sink the shop in the literary atmosphere of Mrs. Van Pell's drawing rooms. They laughed at the exuberant little American girl, who was so winsomely charming and refined, even though she said " I guess," and alluded to street cars.    
Then there was Mrs.  Ferdinand C. Tupper, who hated the idea of leaving Chicago and its favorite lake, even to accompany her husband as American consul in England. This abnormal character came in for a due share of appreciation— owing, presumably, to the glaring incongruity of the type. Mrs. Tupper proudly asserted that her papa was a respectable pork packer and —something must have bewitched that audience—she did not appear in the least disgusting after the confession.     
The girl from Boston, who wore spectacles, was a much more familiar character, thanks to caricatures. I can't help saying that I think the cultured Boston girl is a fond and treasured myth, comparatively unknown in the Hub of the Universe—but there, I don't want to open discussion.    
"Our Society" has only one unpleasant feature, and that is a riskiness, which might have been suppressed. Surely the society which professed disgust at a feverish little poem, the only charm of which—like that of grouse and snipe—was that it was a trifle "high," would never have tolerated such a sentiment from the lips of a Boston girl as "I believe that there must be love. It is absolutely necessary for the existence of the species."    
There is little room, however, for any but grateful criticism in "Our Society." The dialogue is racy; the action tolerably lively; the cast as nearly perfect as possible, and the stage setting so admirable that on the opening night both Mr. A. M. Palmer and his artist were called for.     Miss Annie Russell, as Sylvia, carried all before her. Her representation of the rollicking school-girl, who is withal so entirely womanly, was admirable. Miss Russell's art is rapidly approaching that of Miss Ada Rehan. Her methods are very nearly as delightful as those of Mr. Daly's leading lady. Mrs. E. J. Phillips, as Mrs. 
Spencer, was thoroughly appreciated, and Miss Harrison, as Mrs. Tupper, was bewitching. Herbert Kelcey had little to do. Mr. Walden Ramsey, as Ferdinand C. Tupper, was amusingly impressive. If " Our Society " do not succeed, it will be because it is too native to please Americans. It would draw crowded houses in London. Alan Dale.  Life Magazine 1886 

Last revised March  7, 2022


1886 4 19 2 weeks New York NY Madison Square Our Society   Mrs Spencer   Katharine
1886 6 7 4 weeks Chicago IL McVickers Our Society "good part in" Lydia   "take not large" Martyr Cazuran with co Tremont House
1886 6 1 2 nights Utica NY   Our Society                Butterfield House
1886 10 11 1 week Brooklyn NY Brooklyn Theatre Our Society  Business bad             Ashland House
1886 8 2 6 or 7wks San Francisco CA Baldwin Theatre Our Society Jim the Penman Saints & sinners Sealed Instructions Broken Hearts   Baldwin's Hotel
1887 2 28   New York NY Madison Square Our Society Margery's Lovers play in London in August latest news about bus    
1887 ?   4 weeks New York NY Madison Square Our Society revival was EJP in?    

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