Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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A Stage-Struck Girl.
  Dear Madam: I am a young girl who would like to become
an actress.  I have ambition and talent, and am sure I would
succeed if I could get a chance to get on the stage.  But the
only thing is, I don't know how to get on the stage, so it is
that I ask if you will tell me what to do, as I cannot afford to
learn to become an actress.             VALERIE.
    Brooklyn, N. Y.

    There are, my dear young lady, a variety of
ways of "getting on the stage."  If you have
a great deal of money and influence you can hire
managers to allow you to take a small part in some
play, and even perhaps to star you in a third-class
company to go to obscure towns.
    If you are willing to give up all comfort and vio-
late every rule of health, you might even without
money or influence find a place in some traveling
company and go "barn-storming."  To do this
you will have to haunt dramatic agencies and hang
about them as domestics hang about intelligence
offices, only with about one-hundredth the chance
of obtaining a situation.  Unless you are very beauti-
ful or very magnetic or very pushing, or all three,
your chance of getting on the stage through the
agencies is remote, as there are twenty girls waiting
for every opening.
    You might marry and obtain a divorce, under
sensational circumstances, become notorious and
then hire yourself out to some manager who likes
that sort of "star."  But this takes a long time,
and is full of risks.  You run the chance of falling
in love with your husband and not wanting a
divorce, and think how disastrous that would be to
a "career."
    I know one actress who was asked to go on the
stage by a manager who met her and was impressed
by her beauty and magnetism.  Another who
walked into an office with her school-books slung
over her shoulder and walked out engaged as an
understudy for a leading lady.  But such cases are
rare, and can only be accounted for by a belief in
    Hundreds of girls are haunting agencies all over
America who never obtain positions.  Scores knock
at managers' doors who are never allowed to enter,
and scores who enter and go forth with despair written
on their faces.
    Even those who obtain places, not one in fifty
is ever heard of by the world.
    They belong to third or fourth rate companies,
and pass their lives in a drudgery far worse than
that of a shop-girl.  They live at cheap country
hotels and on way trains.  They retire at one
o'clock and rise at three to "make" the next one-
night stand.
    They dine on doughnuts and sandwiches bought
at the bakery en route to the station.
    Their expenses cover their salaries, and they are
always poor and usually in debt, for the associations
of theatrical life do not act as incentive to economy
or thrift.
    It requires a character of remarkable strength
and nobility to retain high ideals of life in a the-
atrical career.  The very fact of being "somebody
else" besides one's own self, year in and out, creates
a tendency toward insincerity, which affects the
brain cells and eventually the whole life conduct.
    The world has known a few great actors who were
also great men and women in principle and char-
    But they have been very few.  Examples of
greatness in all other professions are far more num-
    The artist, the sculptor, the author, the composer
is himself when he is doing his greatest work.  But
the great actor sinks himself in one, two or a dozen
other personalities, and his own individuality is
dwarfed and often perverted by the characters he
    It is well to consider all these things before you
stake your all upon a theatrical career.  And after
you have summed up the possibilities and probabil-
ities you had best sit down and ask yourself if the
attempt is worth making.

Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.

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