The Dramatic Society Flies with the ‘Eaglet’

Taking on a production of Edmond Rostand’s L’Aiglon as its spring production in 1940 was considered ambitious for the Holy Cross Dramatic Society. The play, about Napoleon II, Duke of Reichstadt (the son of Napoleon I and Maria Louisa of Austria), premiered in France in 1900 with the legendary Sarah Bernhardt in the title role. Later the same year, beloved American actress Maude Adams took on the role at the Knickerbocker Theatre in New York.

In Worcester four decades later, a cast of 58 Holy Cross men trod the boards for this intense drama about the life of Napoleon’s son, nicknamed L’Aiglon (“the Eaglet”) by author Victor Hugo. Rostand, who also penned Cyrano de Bergerac, paints a sad picture of the defeated monarch’s son in confinement in Austria from 1830 to 1832, taunted by those who had betrayed his father and stirred by Bonapartist conspirators who would have him return to France. There are secret rendezvous, a mysterious illness, a duel, haunting battlefield memories—and that’s just in Act IV.

On the eve of opening night, The Tomahawk editorial page noted the Dramatic Society’s stellar season, which included “a brilliant array of talent in the Passion Play, which is still evoking comment.” But a short review of the performance in the April 23 paper was mixed, stating that the play was “made tolerable by acting which was as refreshing as the play was depressing.” Special praise was reserved for director Rev. Frederick A. Gallagher, S.J., and his assistants for “having the courage to attempt L’Aiglon.”

More online:
Click on Web Exclusives to see a gallery of all the cast photos from the Dramatic Society’s 1940 production of L’Aiglon at holycross.edu/magazine