Herts, were really remarkable. It seemed a pity that lack of funds should have brought this excellent educational venture to an untimely end.
The following letter was in reply to one inclosing a newspaper clipping reporting a performance of The Prince and the Pauper, given by Chicago school children.
To Mrs. Hookway, in Chicago: Sept., 1908. DEAR MRS. HOOKWAY,--Although I am full of the spirit of work this morning, a rarity with me lately--I must steal a moment or two for a word in person: for I have been reading the eloquent account in the Record- Herald and am pleasurably stirred, to my deepest deeps. The reading brings vividly back to me my pet and pride. The Children's Theatre of the East side, New York. And it supports and re-affirms what I have so often and strenuously said in public that a children's theatre is easily the most valuable adjunct that any educational institution for the young can have, and that no otherwise good school is complete without it.
It is much the most effective teacher of morals and promoter of good conduct that the ingenuity of man has yet devised, for the reason that its lessons are not taught wearily by book and by dreary homily, but by visible and enthusing action; and they go straight to the heart, which is the rightest of right places for them. Book morals often get no further than the intellect, if they even get that far on their spectral and shadowy pilgrimage: but when they travel from a Children's Theatre they do not stop permanently at that halfway house, but go on home.
The children's theatre is the only teacher of morals and conduct and high ideals that never bores the pupil, but always leaves him sorry when the lesson is over. And as for history, no other teacher is for a moment comparable to it: no other can make the dead heroes of the world rise up and shake the dust of the ages from their bones and live and move and breathe and speak and be real to the looker and listener: no other can make the study of the lives and times of the illustrious dead a delight, a splendid interest, a passion; and no other can paint a history-lesson in colors that will stay, and stay, and never fade.
It is my conviction that the children's theatre is one of the very, very great inventions of the twentieth century; and that its vast educational value--now but dimly perceived and but vaguely understood--will presently come to be recognized. By the article which I have been reading I find the same things happening in the Howland School that we have become familiar with in our Children's Theatre (of which I am President, and sufficiently vain of the distinction.) These things among others;
1. The educating history-study does not stop with the little players, but the whole school catches the infection and revels in it.
2. And it doesn't even stop there; the children carry it home and infect the family with it--even the parents and grandparents; and the whole household fall to studying history, and bygone manners and customs and costumes with eager interest. And this interest is carried along to the studying of costumes in old book-plates; and beyond that to the selecting of fabrics and the making of clothes. Hundreds of our children learn, the plays by listening without book, and by making notes; then the listener goes home and plays the piece--all the parts! to the family. And the family are glad and proud; glad to listen to the explanations and analyses, glad to learn, glad to be lifted to planes above their dreary workaday lives. Our children's theatre is educating 7,000 children--and their families. When we put on a play of Shakespeare they fall to studying it diligently; so that they may be qualified to enjoy it to the limit when the piece is staged.
3. Your Howland School children do the construction-work, stage- decorations, etc. That is our way too. Our young folks do everything that is needed by the theatre, with their own hands; scene-designing, scene-painting, gas-fitting, electric work, costume-designing--costume making, everything and all things indeed--and their orchestra and its leader are from their own ranks.