19th Century American Theatre

American theatre
- starting to develop its own flavor
- up to this time borrowed from English
- early drama sparse
- the church controlled events
- theatre was viewed as sinful
the Puritans forbid theatre and prize
First theatre:
Virginia- College of William and Mary
1702- first play
1716- first playhouse (theatre)
1778-The Continental Congress denounced
theatre during the Revolutionary War- they
considered it to “divert minds from the
defense of their country.”
1787- THE CONTRAST-a comedy about American problems
- enjoyed by George Washington; he
enjoyed theatre
Tyler Royall uses the form to satirize
Americans who follow British fashions and
indulge in 'British vices'.
The Contrast marks the first play written by
an American citizen that was professionally
American theatre flourishes
Showboats traveled the Mississippi
Playhouses were built in major cities
Style of these theatres:
- smaller theatres
- narrow apron
- box sets
- incandescent lighting
- Powerful managers
- actors well trained
- the “age of the actor” had arrived
- repertory theatre emerged (railroads helped this)
road companies grew
- the long running Broadway Show began- New York became
the center of theatre
- theatre in America becomes big business
Edwin Booth
considered America’s greatest actor
excellent as Hamlet
Richard Mansfield
American actor best known for his performances in
Shakespeare plays, Gilbert and Sullivan operas and for his
portrayal of the dual title roles in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde.
Maude Adams
an American stage actress, who achieved her greatest success as
Peter Pan. Adams' personality appealed to a large audience and
helped her become the most successful and highest-paid performer
of her day, with a yearly income of more than one million dollars
during her peak. She was often referred to simply as "Maudie" by
her fans.
The Barrymores
The Barrymores had early intentions to break away from the family theatrical
tradition. But acting was their final choice thanks to family, natural ability,
talent and good looks. The Barrymores were stage idols.
Mrs. John Drew Barrymore
MINSTREL SHOW- black face; African-American songs and jokes,
very popular
VAUDEVILLE- extremely popular; variety show- trained animals,
singers, acrobats, jugglers, dancers, comedians, animal actsfinally died out with the advent of radio, movies, and tv.
MELODRAMA- sentimental; audiences wept at the plight of
poverty-stricken heroines in the clutches of evil villains
MUSICALS-a form of theatre combining music, songs, spoken
dialogue and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor,
pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated
through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of
the entertainment as an integrated whole.
The Black Crook is considered to be the first piece of musical
theatre that conforms to the modern notion of a "book musical".
The book is by Charles M. Barras (1826-1873), American
An evil, wealthy Count Wolfenstein seeks to marry the lovely village girl,
Amina. With the help of Amina's scheming foster mother Barbara, the Count
arranges for Amina's fiancé, Rodolphe, an impoverished artist, to fall into the
hands of Hertzog, an ancient, crook-backed master of black magic. Hertzog
has made a pact with the Devil (Zamiel, "The Arch Fiend"): he can live forever
if he provides Zamiel with a fresh soul every New Year's Eve. As Rodolphe is
led to this horrible fate, he escapes, discovers a buried treasure, and saves a
dove. The dove magically turns out to be Stalacta, Fairy Queen of the Golden
Realm, who is pretending to be a bird. The grateful Queen rescues Rudolph
by bringing him to fairyland and then reuniting him with his beloved Amina.
The Count is defeated, demons drag the evil Hertzog into hell, and Rodolphe
and Amina live happily ever after.
Note: The musical was 5 ½ hours long
Theatre in the 20-21st Centuries

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