Thursday, June 25, 2015


Out There: A Dramatic Composition in Three Parts opened at Broadway’s Globe Theatre ten days prior to the United States declaration of war with Germany.  It played for eighty performances from March 27, 1917 into June.  The play is set in both England and France, but the characters are British.  Part One takes place during the autumn of 1915 in the one room Annie and her family occupy.  The leading character “Aunted” Annie possesses the spirit of patriotism which motivates her to go “out there” (to France) and do her part.

During Part Two, Annie, the young uneducated cockney woman from the London slums, is stationed at a field hospital and contentedly doing the humble cleaning work. Part Three, Division One takes place in the same location as Part One. Annie’s family learns she has returned to England to give recruiting speeches. Part Three, Division Two reveals Annie, in Trafalgar Square, as a fully qualified Red Cross Nurse giving an inspired and moving recruiting speech.  This play is about serving one’s country during the war, no matter how lowly the job may be.  It is a recruitment play for all manner of services needed during the war including soldering, nursing and manufacturing munitions.  

Out There was written by J. Hartley Manners (1870-1928), who was born in England. He dedicated Out There “To the wounded men in Cliveden Hospital in 1915, . . .”  Manners came to the United States in 1902 with a production of The Cross-ways which starred his co-writer, the famous British actress, Lily Langtry.  He also acted with her in the production.  He continue to act and write plays for the New York theatre after The Cross-ways closed rather than return to England. 

 His play written in 1909, The Great John Ganton, was well received and a young actress in the cast, named Laurette Taylor, was introduced to the American stage.  In 1912 Manners became a very successful playwright, when his production Peg O’ My Heart opened on Broadway with Laurette Taylor in the role of Peg.  This delightful production ran from December, 1912 until May, 1914.  It racked up 603 performances.  Taylor and Manners married in 1912 and he continued to write many starring roles for her, including “Aunted” Annie.

Out There was designated to be America’s professional theatre’s project to aid the Red Cross drive for 1918.  An “all-star” cast of fifteen leading Broadway actors and actresses was selected. The stars were household names across the United States, as well as in many cities in Canada.  The list of stars is impressive and may send you to Wikipedia to learn the extent of their fame, since actors are often as ephemeral as many plays tend to be. The cast included: Laurette Taylor, George Arliss, George M. Cohan, Chauncey Olcott, O.P. Heggie, James K. Hackett, George MacFarlane, Julia Arthur, Beryl Mercer, Helen Ware, H. B. Warner, James T. Powers.  Burr McIntosh spoke to the audience following the conclusion of Part One and sold one program autographed by the actors in each city.  Minnie Fiske, the most prominent actress on the American stage at this time, spoke after the play concluded about the Red Cross Appeal.  This was followed by Eleanora de Cisneros, an internationally recognized opera star, singing to conclude the event. De Wolf Hopper conducted the auction sales for seats prior to the arrival of the acting company.  All of these individuals donated their time and services to this project as well as paid their own expenses.

The play was scheduled to tour from May 13, 1918 to June 1, 1918. There were twenty-three performances in seventeen cities all east of the Mississippi River.  The tour was anticipated to raise a half million dollars, but the net income for the Red Cross tallied $683,248.  (Based on the value of the dollar in 2015, the “all-star” cast raised funds approximately equal to $11,700,000.) 

While Out There may sound serious and intensely patriotic, it has humor as well as its inspirational moments. The reviews were favorable.  Newspapers in Canada proclaimed this play as a “remarkable drama” when it was announced a different cast would tour several cities in Canada. The tour played Winnipeg in February, 1918.  A production was mounted in Vancouver to benefit the Great War Veterans. The Vancouver Daily World in its November 23, 1918 announcement about this production quoted the New York Times: “There is more that is good and true and appealing in “Out There” than in any other play the war has brought out.  It is just an unbefogged study in patriotism that may be more illuminating and inspiring than all the rhetorical records of valor in the history of this war. The really extraordinary hospital scene is of engrossing interest.”

Laurette Taylor wrote a diary of the all-star tour titled “The Greatest of These---“.  It was published shortly after the tour concluded.  It provides insights into the logistics of the tour itself. Out There and Laurette Taylor’s book provide an interesting glimpse into that specific time in history when the United States became actively involved in World War One.  The play touched the hearts and the consciences of many who saw it and helped to rally a nation to fulfill its promise to the Allies.

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