Joyce a Zurigo

Tratto da The Odyssey of an American Composer,
New York 1980, pp. 185 ss.

Otto Luening
I first heard the name James Joyce from Philipp Jarnach whose family had shared a duplex house with the Joyce family. Jarnach admired him. Apropos of nothing in particular, Jarnach said in a music composition class, "And then, of course, there are real artists, like James Joyce. He never writes one single word that does not stem from the inner world of his subconscious self. Like a sculptor, he shapes his words into sentences and makes his imagined world become alive and vivid to his readers. Like all great artists he works slowly."
I was curious to learn more about Joyce. I bought "Exiles" in a German translation and found it extremely interesting.
In the spring of 1918, in the Pfauen Café, I met a young Englishman named Charles Fleming. He was about twenty and was the perfect model of an English barrister out on the town. He wore striped trousers, a cutaway coat, and a gray fedora. He was extremely dignified at our first meeting and remained that way during the two years of our friendship. Fleming invited me to visit a rehearsal by a theatrical group called the English Players. Before accepting his invitation I asked him to tell me something about them, and it took him all afternoon to do so.
Apparently, a typical Zurich World War I adventurer named Jules Joe Martin tried to get James Joyce to write a movie scenario in the spring of 1917. Joyce was struggling to support his family by teaching English and coaching voice. He saw the project as a way out of his financial difficulties, so he agreed to do the job. Claud W. Sykes, a former actor in the company of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, was his assistant. This speculative adventure collapsed, but Sykes suggested to Joyce that the two of them found a resident company to present English plays in Zurich with Sykes as producer and director and Joyce as business manager. The company was named the English Players.
Their first production, Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest", took place on April 29, 1918, in the Kaufleuten hall before a sold-out house. The play was enthusiastically received and the company made a small profit. Fleming explained that unfortunately Joyce had gotten into a real row with an actor in the English Players named Carr who worked for the British Consulate. Carr had left in a huff. The company now needed a replacement and some actors as understudies. Fleming, who was their stage manager, thought that I could fill the bill even though I had had no experience, so he suggested that I meet Joyce, Sykes, and the rest of the company after their next rehearsal.
At the time, the company was preparing "The Twelve Pound Look" by J. M. Barrie, "Riders to the Sea" by J. M. Synge, and, lastly, "The Dark Lady" of the Sonnets by G. B. Shaw for a performance on June 17, 1918. I attended the first dress rehearsal.
Having been conditioned to the German style of tragedy and comedy in Munich, my reactions to the three plays were immediate: the Barrie and the Shaw were extremely convincing in their brevity, but I had a hard time following the message of the Synge play with its Irish undertones.
It didn't take long to observe (and to hear from Fleming) that the company consisted of amateur, semiprofessional, and professional actors. Sykes appeared to be an efficient, if somewhat prosaic director. Joyce coached the actors in diction and then ruled the production from the prompt box. Sykes and Tristan Rawson, a singer at the Zurich Opera, were the most experienced actors. Joyce's wife Nora was remarkably convincing in the Synge play, but the others needed much coaching. Proofs of the program notes written by Joyce were handed around for comment. In the break I met Sykes, who sized me up with apparent favor and then steered me to Joyce, who made an elegant impression on me with his black jacket, gray flannel trousers, and little round black hat. His pale blue eyes, a small tuft of hair under his lower lip, and a smart mustache gave him a slightly rakish appearance. His handshake was relaxed and he moved with a willowy gait. He seemed more like a friendly, very competent man of the theater than an intellectual or literary figure of the kind we had come to know in Zurich. After the rehearsal, Sykes and Joyce took me to the Pfauen.
Over cognac, Sykes asked me to join the company and to be second understudy for a part in the next production, "Hindle Wakes", by William Stanley Houghton. Joyce, in his role as business manager, told me that members of the company were offered the opportunity to purchase shares for fifty francs. In addition to sharing the profits, they were paid a nominal fee and expenses. I agreed to join, and bought shares.
After Sykes and Joyce left, I questioned Fleming about Joyce, and he explained, "He's an Irishman and he's sitting out the war here. Berlitz sends him students because they reneged on a job for him. He's written a couple of books that you might find here. We may produce his play, Exiles. You might like to read his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He also has written some poems, entitled Chamber Music. He's very good." No one, even in Joyce's circle of friends, thought of him as a possible international celebrity, but he was definitely recognized as a contributor to the cultural life of Zurich.
After preliminary rehearsals for "Hindle Wakes", the revolution that had spread through Russia and Germany caught up with Zurich in the form of a general strike that shut down all services in the town including streetcars, the post office, and most shops. Cavalry regiments of the Swiss militia from mountain districts, which had little sympathy for urban troublemakers, moved in to keep order. Soon streetcars were run by soldiers with fixed bayonets. Horror was added to horror when the flu epidemic struck the city, paralyzing everything that had not been knocked out by the strike.
The epidemic hit close to home. Otto Strauss and David Rubinstein landed in temporary hospitals with pneumonia. My roommate, Oser, and I were nursed for three weeks in our apartment. Theaters and concert halls, including the Tonhalle, and many restaurants closed because of the epidemic. The Tonhalle was transformed into a hospital, but the orchestra kept on rehearsing in the opera house. All schools were closed and many of them were made into hospitals.
The Swiss Socialist Party was very active in spearheading the agitation. The strike was allegedly led by some of Lenin's Swiss disciples who had been indoctrinated by him while he lived in Zurich. Eventually, the Socialist paper Volksrecht announced a protest meeting in the square adjoining the Zurich Fraumunster. Bulletins were posted all over town and Strauss and I, by then barely recovered from the flu, went to the meeting at one o'clock to see the action.
The square was occupied by about three thousand people, ringed by cavalry. With our backs against the walls of the church, we were close to the dramatic events that took place. After we listened to inflammatory speeches and protests about various abuses inflicted on the proletariat, a militia captain came forward, silenced the crowd, and ordered it to disperse and leave the square within fifteen minutes. He was greeted by jeers, boos, and catcalls; nobody moved. At the deadline, he gave an order to the cavalry. The troopers trotted around the square to disperse the crowd with sabers, without success. The captain next climbed a platform and announced that if the square were not cleared in fifteen minutes, his troops would fire. After a few jeers and boos, the crowd stood still, sullenly. When the deadline arrived, the captain ordered the troops to set up machine guns. Within five minutes, he barked out a command that was followed by a rat-tattat from the guns.
Strauss and I were hit by chunks of bricks falling from the wall of the church. We looked up and saw that machine gun bullets had hit the church about two feet above our heads. We got out of the square in a hurry, frightened by the continuous rattle of machine-gun fire that lasted for about fifteen minutes.
After an hour, we returned to see what had happened and found the square occupied by soldiers. The remnants of the angry mob were moving in small groups to various parts of the city. As we spoke with a number of people, we pieced together the story. Forty-four people had been killed and seventy wounded. It was the closest that the Swiss Federation had come to a complete breakdown of civil authority.
Against these odds, Joyce and Sykes decided to go on with the play and the cast rehearsed almost every evening in the apartment of Mrs. Turner, one of the actresses. She lived about two miles distant from the rest of us. Sometimes we walked to her place in a group through streets that were patrolled by soldiers with fixed bayonets. Often we were caught up in mobs that were waiting to get bread. One of the actors, Bernard Glenning, died of influenza shortly before the opening. Fleming took his place and I became the understudy. Because of my sometimes conflicting duties as a member of the opera and symphony orchestras, I used the stage name James P. Cleveland.
Joyce's row with Carr had developed into a lawsuit that was scheduled for trial on October 15, 1919. Occasionally, Carr or some of his friends would come to rehearsals when they were sure that Joyce had left, to argue with Sykes and the cast about the merits of the case. Sometimes they attacked Joyce in a most insulting way, but most of the cast defended him enthusiastically. Whenever Joyce's literary reputation was attacked, Sykes would fight back. Joyce had been writing Ulysses and Sykes had typed the entire manuscript for him. Some sections had been published in Harriet Shaw Weaver's Little Review in Chicago. He had read some of these for members of the company. One evening, a detractor pointed out vehemently that Joyce's writings were extremely questionable and obscene. Sykes defended his friend so firmly that his opponent blushed in anger and barked, "Well, I don't care what you say, but 'asshole' is a dirty word." Everyone was shocked and didn't know quite how to react, because in Zurich's artistic circles this was not really the way most people talked or acted! The emotional temperature was high and the morale and concentration of the company were at a low ebb; however, most of the actors were loyal to Joyce, and Sykes pulled them together in time for the "Hindle Wakes" performance on December 3, 1918, at the Kaufleuten. (Fortunately for me, I had not been cast. I was having a bit of trouble with Houghton's Lancaster dialect.) The performance was a disaster. Because of the flu epidemic, the attendance was small, and the company lost money. There were no reviews.
The company had recovered by December 11, when it performed before a polylingual audience Cavallotti's "Il cantico dei cantici", acted by Italian amateurs recruited and coached by Joyce; de Banville's "Le Baiser", played by actors from the Théâtre-Français; and Robert Browning's poetical play, "In a Balcony", performed by the English Players. It was at a rehearsal of the Browning that I first heard Joyce, accompanied by a guitar, sing the canzona "Amante tradito" by Giovanni Stefani from offstage after the curtain had gone up. Jarnach had told me that Joyce had a disagreeable and rather loud voice, a composer's reaction when he is being disturbed by a singer. I found it was a light voice, a cross between an Irish tenor and an Italian lyric tenor. His diction was impeccable and his interpretation expressive. He was applauded during the opening scene at the premiere.
After this performance, Joyce announced that the publicity about his lawsuit with Carr was damaging the players and he withdrew as manager of the company. Actually his interest and participation continued as long as he was in Zurich. He attended most rehearsals, helped with the planning, generally acted as prompter, coached diction, inflections, and movement, sometimes helped Sykes with the overall production, and at the end raised money for the company.
My real chance as an actor came when I was cast for the juvenile lead in G. K. Chesterton's "Magic", opening February 1, 1919, in the Kaufleuten. I was a natural for the part: a young half-American who was skeptical about immortality and anything pertaining to the spiritual or supernatural realms watches a conjurer do some tricks, all of which the lad can explain rationally. When the young man finally sees a trick that he cannot explain and it brings him to the threshold of madness, he collapses. The memory of the Bleuler lectures in abnormal psychology helped me to do a convincing job for I knew just how delicately the lines between fantasy, reality, and madness are drawn. Joyce was in the prompt box and was largely responsible for the smoothness of the performance, for he had a marvelous way with nervous actors who had forgotten their lines. He mimicked and mouthed cues over and over again until the actor had recovered himself and could carry on.
The audience was large and enthusiastic. The reviewer in the "Züricher Zeitung" said that without exception the performers were very good. After the show I was in the heady position of being a full-fledged partner in the company, destined to do juvenile leads and character parts and eventually to be the stage manager of the company at the ripe age of eighteen!
After rehearsals some of the actors enjoyed meeting in the Pfauen Cafe for food, drink, and conversation. Contrary to the expectations of many people who came to the Pfauen to chat with Joyce, he was most of the time more of a listener and observer than a lecturer or propagandist for his favorite ideas. Although he enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere on these occasions, he made many notes and wrote comments on envelopes, menus, and odd bits of paper to keep the ideas and images that came to him from being forgotten or blurred by our indulgence in good food and heady wine.
Joyce was a remarkable mimic. Sometimes after a few glasses of wine he would rise and do a kind of pantomimic dancc
willowy, graceful, and with great suppleness. He danced as if he had trained at Mary Wigman's studio. Sometimes he would lead a number of us in a group charade, or, on our way home from a cafe, in a snake dancc to the astonishment of any Zurich burghers still on the street.
From my first conversation with Joyce in the Pfauen, we established a very easy, interesting relationship. It began, of course, when we discussed the plays in the company's repertory. These he explained in detail, discussing particularly the relationship of the characters to each other and their underlying personality traits. On such occasions he seemed to be curious about my reactions to what he said, probably because I was sufficiently active as a musician and an actor to be very sure of my opinions and feelings; after my initial shyness, I displayed all the arrogance of an eighteen-year-old who fancied himself a junior celebrity.
I told him that in the previous year my Piano Variations had attracted attention at the conservatory and that my First Sonata for Violin and Piano had been given an excellent public performance that was followed by a fine review in the Zuricher Zeitung.
Both pieces had definitely put me on the map in musical circles. The Sonata had enough youthful verve in it to be performed a few years later in Chicago. Fifty-five years later it was revived in New York and published. My "Sextet", which was partially a salute to the "Back to Mozart" movement then in vogue, had also attracted much attention.
Joyce's own distressing financial problems were, like mine, solved for a time by a stipend from Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick, who supported him and his family for a year - an arrangement that terminated only when she tried to persuade Joyce to be psychoanalyzed by Dr. Jung. In the interim she enabled Joyce to devote his entire energies to his creative work. Many years later he paid tribute to her generosity.
The English Players were going ahead with ambitious plans. Sykes and Joyce cast me in the part of an Irish doctor, aged forty, for the March 10, 1919, production of "The Heather Field" by Edward Martyn. Sykes went to some lengths to costume me. He found a greenish coat, an embroidered green vest with a gold watch chain dangling across it, baggy knickers, and gaiters. Joyce spent much time helping with the final touches.
Since October 1918, I believe Joyce had been working on "Lestrygonians", "Scylla and Charybdis", "Wandering Rocks", "Sirens", and possibly "Cyclops" from "Ulysses". In the Pfauen, he began questioning me more and more about music. His tastes were unconventional. He thought that the Swiss song composer Othmar Schoeck, who was also greatly admired by Hermann Hesse, was one of the greatest composers in the world - an opinion that may yet prove to be valid, since Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in 1970 recorded Schoeck's songs. Joyce also mentioned a number of seventeenth-century Italian composers whose arias or canzone he had sung and liked. He told Charlotte Sauermann, a soprano with the Zurich Opera, that he had once auditioned for opera and was not impressed. She promptly arranged a tryout for him for chorus and small parts in the Zurich Opera, but he refused to go through with it.
Joyce was not well known to the young musicians connected with the conservatory in Zurich, but he was a familiar figure at opera and concert performances. Donizetti, Bellini, and Puccini were composers that he really enjoyed, and Verdi was his favorite. He liked to talk about him and often sang phrases from his operas. Sometimes he would speak with nostalgia of old light operas like The Bohemian Girl.
With the exception of "Die Meistersinger", he disliked Wagner and he enjoyed ridiculing at great length both Wagner's "Tannhäuser" and the "Ring". Once, after a performance of "Die Walküre", he devastated that work and "Tannhäuser" verbally and with mimicry. As I had had my fill of both these works (we had given about a dozen performances that year) this pleased me greatly, and I joined in the fun by giving an impersonation of the "Ride of the Valkyries" as rehearsed in the Zurich Opera. With a bit of coaching from Joyce this became a performance that remained in my impersonation repertory for many years.
Joyce had a strong interest in Italian and Irish folk music. He sometimes hummed Thomas Moore's Irish melodies, particularly "O Ye Dead", and he remembered from his youth Irish, French, and Elizabethan sentimental and humorous songs. Sometimes he accompanied himself on the guitar, which he played indifferently. He was particularly convincing when he sang snatches of Gregorian chant, a cappella, of course.
Joyce seemed rather dapper and used a cane with grace. His tapered hands were quite beautiful, particularly when he used them to emphasize points. The shape of his face reminded me of Pan. Sometimes he looked a bit like a Mephisto who had reached a certain level of success and maturity in other than his usual occupation.

As I came to know Joyce better, he had a great influence on me. I sensed that he put up with my brashness, my vigor, and sometimes my impertinences because he knew that these habits were not ends in themselves, nor were they merely assumed. He understood that they existed because I had the excessive energy and drive of a young professional trying to function in the real world without giving up his ideals. He seemed to respect this. It was not his manner ever to be condescending, nor was there anything patronizing about him. He was always extremely stimulating.
Once, while we were having wine and cheese, he paused for a moment and then asked out of the blue, "Who do you think are the greatest composers?"
I was embarrassed as I answered, "That is difficult for me to say; I've played so many works and I myself compose. I haven't really settled on any favorite."
With an expression that sometimes came over him when anticipating the shocked reaction he would get as he said something outrageous, he continued, "For me there are only two composers. One is Palestrina and the other is Schoenberg."
It took me a moment to get my bearings, because I couldn't remember that Schoenberg had been played in Zurich in those years, except by Hans Heusser at the Dada gatherings. Joyce had never mentioned these so I had to assume that he had heard about Schoenberg from Philipp Jarnach, who was a great admirer of the Austrian composer. On this occasion and on others I was never quite sure whether a Joyce statement came from a profound and primal conviction he was confessing or whether his statements were made solely to draw me out and to make me talk more about the things he was interested in. He was remarkably successful in the latter, because on the surface I was at first rather shy with people I didn't know well. From the outset I was more open with him than with others, and I could sense his interest in my responses.
One afternoon, he opened a long discussion about religion. He spoke of the Catholic Church and its rituals - something I could follow because I had played in orchestras and sung in Catholic choirs in Bavaria, including the Munich Frauenkirche (the cathedral in that city). I had studied Catholic music rather carefully at the Munich academy, particularly the works of Orlandus Lassus. My family was not Catholic but I was encouraged to explore the Church in my own way. From my twelfth to my seventeenth year, the Catholic Church fascinated me: the incense, the music, and the ritual the church provided lifted my spirits and worked on my subconscious. As soon as Joyce learned that I had lived in this atmosphere, he created an unforgettably vivid verbal picture of what this all meant. On that day he seemed to be rather positive about the Church. He only occasionally voiced doubts and raised questions that unfortunately seemed so profound that I didn't feel equipped or secure enough to respond. After some silence, he said, rather aggressively, "And what is your religion?"
This took me by surprise because, with the exception of an Episcopal archdeacon in Munich who, when I was thirteen, suggested that I was going to Hell because I attended religious concerts instead of church services, no one had been interested in my beliefs. My father had always called himself a Monist or a Free Thinker and that had influenced me, but after listening to Joyce speak about the Catholic Church I felt strangely embarrassed and guilty. Eventually I answered, "I don't really have any religion."
"Everybody believes in something," he said. "What do you believe in and call yourself?"
After further hesitation, I parodied my father and replied, "I am a Free Thinker."
He looked at me doubtfully. "Oh, come, come. None of us is free and few of us can think."
This relieved a certain tension and he suggested that we go for a walk.
The cafe was almost empty, and as we left he did a beautiful improvised dance that was spectacular because of his sophisticated movements. The cafe staff watched approvingly and applauded enthusiastically. This was one of the many ways he showed the spontaneous side of his nature to his friends, a side that belied his reputation as a forbidding intellectual, an opinion that was already held by some people.
He was often preoccupied with thoughts and memories of Dublin, and he began telling me about that city. He was completely absorbed in "Ulysses" during that year and I think this informal verbalization helped him to let off steam and relax or to concentrate completely on the things he was describing. No matter what his motivation, listening to him that day was a spectacular experience for me. He created a word painting of Dublin. He described it in such detail and with such precise use of language that his inner image came alive and it seemed that I myself had been in Dublin. Even today I sometimes wonder if I haven't lived there.
As Joyce described a street, he began with the kinds of cobblestones… the shape of a stone and its relationship to the others that made up a stretch in the road… how they connected… and whether there was anything growing between them He described stalks of dried grass still standing and growing green shoots that enlivened one or another spot. He made vivid the sound of horses' hooves and the sound of footsteps on the cobblestones and their different echoes, and then the smells - musty sometimes, sometimes of dirt and sometimes of the fresh or dried horse manure that he called horse apples. He illuminated this street of the mind by describing how it looked at different times of the day in different kinds of light.
He talked about the shops with their particular stoops, entrances, and colors, and why some looked like poor and some like rich shops. He described their interiors - how they were sometimes light, but then dark and gloomy as the sky clouded, and how they were filled with inside smells and sometimes outside smells that had wafted in through the door. He told how it felt to touch the objects in the shops and how they often made him come alive inside and respond with a purchase. His mural-like yet detailed portrait was done with such color, simplicity, and clarity that it taught me something new about art. No one else has ever shared with me an even remotely similar experience. I learned then of the great warmth that his sharp intellect could radiate and that his mind was not remote and distant, but at once precise and alive with a warm, human understanding.
Sometimes his wife, Nora, would join us and the conversation would be somewhat more relaxed. She was a friendly, warmhearted Irish woman. When their son, Giorgio, was there both parents were very attentive and kind to him and gave him the run of the restaurant. Like most European boys, Giorgio was well behaved, but Joyce encouraged him to roam around while we drank our wine and modulated our conversation into small talk. At other times I noticed what a remarkable observer of people Joyce was - sometimes sarcastic, sometimes scurrilous, but always extremely sensitive with a capacity for deep friendship and a sublimated love for many of the people he knew.
During the period of these meetings in the Pfauen, I was composing my First Strillg Quartet. I had also looked into the works of what my fellow composers called "the old Netherlands school". I was fascinated with these studies and practiced and applied the fanciest kinds of inversions, symmetrical and otherwise, transpositions, and passages in augmentation and diminution, both separately and combined. I used the most intricate kinds of canonical passages, in retrograde or in retroglade inversions, combined with anything else I could possiblv dream up or discover. Of course, there was nothing new about these techniques. They had been practiced for centuries, but thev had been carried to a new plateau by Schoenberg, Busoni, and Jarnach. Joyce had had ample opportunity to discuss these musical materials with Jarnach, but he seemed fascinated as he heard about their application in my quartet. Because I was young and unknown, he could ask me about details that might not interest Jarnach. These I explained at length. At that time I was just beginning to be interested in acoustic relationships, the relationship of a fundamental tone to its other partials. This too interested Joyce a great deal, particularly when I pointed out that the third partial of the note C was G and the fifth partial was E and that I saw no reason why polvtonal passages in which the music was played in C major, G major, and E major at the same time were not only logical but were rooted in natural relationships in the harmonic series.
Joyce's actual expelience with music was so different from his intellectualizing about counterpoint that he seemed to be two people. He had heard Hans Zimmerman, a student of mine and later director of the Zurich Opera, conduct a chamber orchestra for which I had arranged and performed a suite of Gluck's music, including the famous flute solo "Dance of the Departed Spirits" from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. Afterwards, Joyce said that he considered this solo to be the greatest piece of music ever written. He began going through the piece, note by note and phrase by phrase, literally transposing it first into word inflections and then into verbal images. At the end of this evening with Jovce I had learned more about the relationship of language to music than ever before or since.
Joyce enjoyed giving literary interpretations of the contrapuntal techniques in music. This turned into a kind of intellectual exercise in which he professed to use the devices for his own purposes in his own medium.
On June 18, 1919, he walked with George Borach around the Zurich See justifying his writing of "Sirens". He said, "I finished the 'Sirens' chapter during the last three days - a big job. I wrote this chapter with the technical resources of music. It is a fugue with all musical notations: piano, forte, rallentando, and so on. A quintet occurs in it too as in the "Meistersinger", my favorite Wagnerian opera. Since exploring the resources and artifices of music and employing them in this chapter, I haven't cared for music any more. I, the great friend of music, can no longer listen to it. I see through all the tricks and can't enjoy it any more."
In a letter to Harriet Weaver on August 6, 1919, he wrote:

Perhaps I ought not to say anymore on the subject of the Sirens but the passages you allude to were not intended by me as recitative. There is, in the episode, only one example of recitative, on page 12 in preface to the song. They are all the eight regular parts of a fuga per canonem and I did not know in what other way to describe the seductions of music beyond which Ulysses traveled. I understand that you may begin to regard the various styles of the episode with dismay and prefer the initial style much as the wanderer did who longed for the rock of Ithaca, but in the compass of one day to compress all these wanderings and clothe them in the form of this day is for me only possible by such variation which, I beg you to believe, is not capricious....

Later, when Joyce lived in Paris, his musical interests were reawakened, mostly because of his contact with George Antheil, the American avant-gardist, Darius Milhaud, and Erik Satie. Antheil told me he had planned an "electric" opera that used the "Cyclops" episode of "Ulysses" as a libretto. He wanted to use thirteen electric pianos and recorded drums, xylophones, and noise instruments. The singers were to be invisible and their voices amplified. The action was to be in pantomime. Joyce was fascinated but Antheil abandoned the project. By a strange coincidence, when Joyce's "Ulysses" in "Nighttown" was produced in New York in 1958, the director used electronic music by Luening-Ussachevsky; he probably used it in the production in London also.

The may 7 production by the English Players had been well received by the press, so we were finally able to go ahead with the production of Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer". The play had been chosen by Joyce, Sykes, Frank Budgen, and myself a short while before, sitting over cognac in the Cafe de la Terrasse.
For the production of "She Stoops to Conquer" on May 26, 1919, Budgen was cast as Stingo the Publican and for want of anyone better, Sykes gave me the part of Tony Lumpkin.
Joyce was, as always, animated and extremely helpful from the prompt box in rehearsals. My part included some singing and the recitation of an epilogue by J. Kraddock, so Joyce coached me carefully in diction and I colored my midwest accent so that I spoke with a slight Irish inflection. This was an incredible experience, for he made me so aware of the particular musical and expressive qualities of our language that I wrote to my parents, in describing the rehearsals: "I am learning to speak English."
The performance of "She Stoops to Conquer" in the Pfauen Theater was an outstanding success. There were repeat performances and the company was engaged to appear in the Stadttheater in Basel. Unfortunately, these triumphs possibly induced the treasurer to abscond with the company's funds. It was a most inopportune time for there were many outstanding bills. On June 23 the company was scheduled to do "The Twelve Pound Look" by Barrie, "The Dear Departed" by Houghton, and Overruled by Shaw.
Sykes was desperate. But at a rehearsal on June 12 Nora Joyce burst into the theater and announced that her husband had just received $700 from Padraic and Mary Colum's millionaire friend, Schofield Thayer, and 300 dollars from J. S. Watson, Jr. Of this money Joyce gave 200 dollars to the English Players to bail them out. Through the good offices of Colum and Harriet Weaver he again received substantial funds from the United States. In July Joyce gave the English Players 10,000 francs so that they were able to plan future productions of "That Brute Simmons" by H. C. Sargeant and Arthur Morrison and a revival of "The Importance of Being Earnest". The former was performed on September 10, 1919, and was very well received by the audience and the critics, who hailed the company for providing a part of Zurich's artistic life. I received my first "name review" in the "Züricher Zeitung": "Mr. Cleveland [my stage name], as John Culver, was the young son of the house, a handsome, dear boy just as he is in the play." I could find no mention of the superior quality of my acting, but after the performance Sykes suggested that I leave the musical profession and join the company on a permanent basis. He assured me that we soon would be touring Europe, a somewhat optimistic prediction.
Joyce was connected with the English Players from April 1918 until he left Zurich in October 1919. He was entrepreneur, then founder, and later business manager and treasurer. He was active in one way or another in every production during his stay in Zurich, even after he had severed his official connection with the company. He assisted Sykes in directing and costuming the plays, gave suggestions about the sets and the actors' movements, served as prompter in every production and as an incomparable diction coach for what was a heterogeneous group, and personally sold tickets. He exerted a great influence on Sykes in choosing the plays. In addition to the English authors Houghton, Chesterton, Barrie, Browning, and Arnold Bennett, Joyce saw to it that Ireland was well represented - Wilde, Shaw, Synge, Goldsmith, and Martyn. He wrote program notes for "Riders to the Sea", "The Twelve Pound Look", and "The Dark Lady of the Sonnets", and coached an Italian company in Cavallotti's "Il cantico dei cantici".
His devotion to the English Players was obviously rooted in his love of the theater, for it took much energy to sustain the company. Joyce's relationship to most of the actors was less that of the famous literary figure he later became than that of a brilliant Irish writer and English teacher who sang, was dedicated to the English theater, and wanted it to be properly represented in the international artistic circles of Zurich.