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Theatre companies and managers
Touring stage companies By January 1882 the number of first-class American stock companies had diminished to three (of which the Union Square was one) giving employment to about 100 actors and actresses. "The remainder of the fraternity," wrote the New York Times, "must wander over the land for a livelihood, just as the strollers of old were wont to do" (January 1, 1882). There were upward of 3,500 theatres, opera houses, and places of amusement in the United States in 1887, giving employment to about 40,000 persons."
Railroads The expansion of the railroads was crucial to the growth of the theatrical industry. Only the railroad was capable of conveying scenery and actors.
The acting life Money Plays Theatres Travel Theatrical training
Theatre companies Producers/Managers Lawrence Barrett Augustin Daly Ben DeBar Charles Frohman Daniel Frohman Gustave Frohman Al Hayman Charles Hoyt BF Keith FF Mackay Ramsey Morris AM Palmer Wallacks
Augustin Daly (1838-1899), playwright and producer was a major rival to Palmer and Wallack. Daly "helped to establish the director as a major component in the theatre. His abandonment of "lines of business" (a then dominant method of casting) in favor of an ensemble company with no "stars"; his demand for natural acting; and his insistence on historically accurate sets, costumes, and properties marked the Daly Stock Company as the most progressive in America and one of the finest ensemble companies in the world." [Durham 1986]
Did EJ Phillips ever work for Daly? There's a brief mention of him in the quilt essay Fabric from a costume "used in a play by Augustin Daly. The original company of Daly's made quite a sensation by their elaborate dress. When it was given later at the Chestnut [St. Theatre] a reviewer remarked that Mrs. Phillips was the only one who dressed up to the Daly standard.
Augustin Daly, Wayne S. Turney, http://www.wayneturney.20m.com/daly.htm
AM Palmer's Union Square Theatre Stock Co. 58 E. 14th St.; The last play put on by Palmer was in 1883, and the company was disbanded in 1885. The theatre burned in 1888, was rebuilt but never re-established as a serious theatre, and demolished in 1936.
AM Palmer's Madison Square Theatre Stock Co Augustin Daly managed 1869-73 (burned down). Rebuilt in 77; Steel MacKaye renovated and renamed in 1879 (first use of gas lights and folding chairs). A. M. Palmer managed 85-91. The Shuberts took the lease in the early 1900's. http://www.ibdb.com/venue.asp?ID=1248
Stanford White's Madison Square Garden Theatre 1890
New York, Feb. 19, 1886 Well I had a talk with Mr. Palmer yesterday. I am to be a member of his theatre so long as he has one - and the company goes to Boston 1st of May for four weeks soon afterwards to Chicago for four weeks and from there to San Francisco to open on the 2nd of August for six or seven weeks. That is the future programme as far as I know it. Salary not raised I am sorry to say - but the present might be less. And I am grateful to get what I do.
New York, Apr. 9, 1886 Had a talk with Mr. Palmer. Today we have not anything after Boston but go directly to Utica for two nights and probably finish that week in Buffalo, thence to Chicago for seven weeks - then to far distant San Francisco.
Chicago, July 21, 1886 Direct your letters to Baldwin's Theatre, San F'co % A M Palmers Co. He is beginning the Wallack and Daly style.
San Francisco, Aug. 4, 1886 The business is not yet settled as to route after we leave here - and I hear we stay here for five weeks. Mr. Palmer who with his wife & sons [Palmer's stepsons had taken his name] and Mrs. [Jennie June] Crowly is still here, wants to send us back by way of Portland Oregon to play in Portland, St Paul, Minneapolis &c instead of Los Angeles - Virginia City, Denver, Salt Lake &c.
Palmer's Theatre Manhattan walking tour map Broadway & 30th, later (1891) Hoyt's Theatre, Union Square Theatre, Wallacks' Theatre (third) Broadway and Thirtieth Street (just south of Greeley Square)
New York, Nov. 23, 1891 Mr. Palmer is no longer the manager of the "Madison Square" Theatre on 24th Street, all his attention is now devoted to "Palmer's" Theatre, 30th and B'way.
The Lyceum Company opened the first of its twelve seasons at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City on November 1, 1887. "Although the company's leading performers were talented and respected, its greatest strength and experience lay in the supporting actors. The company included Mr. and Mrs. Charles Walcott (Isabella Nickinson) from 1887 to 1899.
The Lyceum Theatre was built in 1885 (demolished in 1902) by Steele MacKaye (1842-1894 dramatist [Hazel Kirke], actor and inventor) "who had recently been forced out of his brilliantly conceived Madison Square Theatre. The new theatre incorporated many of the innovations of the older auditorium and was the first theatre erected with electrical lighting throughout the building. The lighting was supervised by MacKaye's friend Thomas Edison." The Lyceum was on the west side of Fourth Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets.
Once again MacKaye was quickly out of the theatre and Daniel Frohman who had helped manage MacKaye's Madison Square Theatre took over.
Philadelphia, July 1, 1888 Friday we received the wedding cards of Sarah Cowell & Mr. [William J.] LeMoyne. I think they will soon start for California with the Lyceum Co. [LeMoyne had been dismissed from the Madison Square Company in April 1887 because he had signed with Daniel Frohman and the Lyceum Company.]
Maud Harrison left Palmer's to join Daniel Frohman's Lyceum Company.
Empire Theatre "For many years the oldest and most prestigious playhouse in New York [all the earlier ones seem to have burned down], built by Al Hayman and Charles Frohman. Stood directly across Broadway from the Metropolitan Opera House, one door away from 40th Street. [Oxford] "With just over 1,000 seats it was a compact, well-designed playhouse and a favorite among actors and audiences. [COC]
Charles Frohman (1860-1915) Youngest of the three theatrical Frohman brothers, his career as a producer was launched with Bronson Howard's Shenandoah. He organized a stock company in 1890 and built the Empire Theatre with Al Hayman in 1893.
Frohman and several other men met secretly in 1895 "to organize what became known as the Theatrical Syndicate or Trust. Ostensibly the group's aim was to bring order out of chaos in cross-country bookings, but it soon controlled all the important theatres in the country and demanded exorbitant fees from producers and performers....Frohman recognized that a star could attract audiences even when his or her vehicle was weak, while a fine play without a star often had to struggle for business. It remains important to note that not all the plays Frohman offered were merely effective but ephemeral theatre pieces. He was responsible for the American premieres of many works by such significant and durable playwrights as Oscar Wilde, Sir James Barrie, Arthur Wing Pinero, Somerset Maugham and Georges Feydeau.
Charles Frohman was at the height of his career when he died in the sinking of the Lusitania. He had been described as a "little round, slant-eyed Buddha". [Oxford]
The Theatrical Syndicate: two differing contemporary accounts, Wayne S. Turney http://www.wayneturney.20m.com/syndicate.htm
Daniel Frohman (1851-1940) eventually abandoned producing, but stayed active in the theatre, serving as president of the Actors Fund from 1904-1940
Gustave Frohman (c 1854-1930) Detroit, May 15, 1896 Gustave Frohman is an enthusiast on the subject [of bicycles], and I think will kill himself overdoing the thing.
New York, Nov. 29, 1895 By today's Herald I see that Chas Frohman is going to put John Drew in Palmer's Theatre on Jany 6th, and that I guess has given rise to the report that he was trying to get a theatre to put us in on January 6th, but I guess we will have to go to Brooklyn and Harlem and dear knows where! before getting to Boston when we are to stay for a "run" (4 weeks I guess)
Al Hayman (1847-1917) Partner of Charles Frohman, who provided the financial backing behind the successful producer, and enabled them to build the Empire Theatre in New York in 1893. "Hayman's decision to leave artistic matters to Frohman and to allow Frohman lone public credit for productions mounted largely with Hayman's money meant that to playgoers he was little more than a shadowy figure. His fiscal acumen, however was such that he left an estate of $1,692,815, while his more visible partner, Frohman, left behind a mere $451." Oxford
San Francisco, Aug 14, 1886 Well, it is now decided that we do not go to Los Angeles. We play here five weeks, that is three more after this which ends tonight, a week in Sacramento, and then Salt Lake and Denver and Omaha. That ends our engagement under the management of Al Hayman.
Boston, 1888 When [Al] Hayman the California manager sees the casts of the plays [going to California] I think he will be justified to "Kick". I cannot imagine what A.M.P[almer] is about!
Benjamin Franklin Keith (1846-1914) Theatrical manager, started out in the circus business, expanding to become a vaudeville proprietor and promoter, inducing legitimate stage stars to appear and greatly increasing salaries. [DAB]
Wallacks The third Wallack's Theatre in New York opened on January 4, 1882 and was on Broadway and Thirtieth Street (just south of Greeley Square). Lester Wallack's management ended in 1887 and the stock company was disbanded in 1888. This was the longest continuously operating stock company in New York. Earlier Wallacks had been on Broadway near Broome Street (Soho) from 1852-1861, and then Broadway at Thirteenth Street (just south of Union Square) from 1861-1881. Owen Marlowe [Virginia Nickinson's husband] and Mrs. Charles Walcott [Isabella Nickinson] were members of Wallack's Theatre Company. more
Wallack's Theatre, Wayne S. Turney http://www.wayneturney.20m.com/wallack.htm
EJ Phillips was at one time in Lester Wallack's company and figured notably in an old lady character in the notable production of Rosedale [or The Rifle Ball by Edward Bruce Hanley, adapted by John Lester Wallack Jan 1881Mar 1894]" from Marie Burrough's Art Portfolio of Stage Celebrities 1894.
The stock company system provided theatrical training by affording young actors the chance to play many different roles under the tutelage of their more experienced elders. The rise of the star system and decline of the stock companies influenced the demand for more formal training.
Dion Boucicault spent most of his last years teaching at a drama school established by AM Palmer. "The gentlemen were for the most part, awkward, stiff and slow, the girls graceful, quick and refined. Among the lady students we found twenty-two who aspired to be Juliets and Paulines and Parthenias, and one who consented to play old women. When faced with this result Mr. Palmer could not refrain from quoting Falstaff's bill of fare "Two gallons of sack for one half penny worth of bread!" D. Boucicault "My Pupils" North American Review 148 November 1888:435-440.
Buffalo, Dec. 20, 1892 I had a letter from Aunty [Christine Zavistowski] yesterday and she was telling me a young lady from M [iddle]'town was taking lessons from Uncle [Antonio Zavistowski] for the Highland fling which she would teach in Middletown. Aunty wanted Uncle to write you but he said if you knew he could do anything in M'town that you would write to him. I wrote for her to send Uncle to see you. That I knew you would be glad to see him & give him a night's lodging and a good meal. The young lady learning the Highland fling said she knew you and was getting up an entertainment for which she was to receive $300. I think Uncle would have instructed a class for less money.
Philadelphia Pa, 5-30-94 I would finish my visit soon as the 8th of July was over. I expect to give acting lessons to a young lady for a few weeks, and that will be the only thing to detain me. How long she may want to take them, I do not know. It will depend upon how she succeeds. She thinks it is easy work, and she was surprised to find there is as much work and fun in it. She is over thirty, rather late to begin.
3219 Clifford St, Phil Pa, June 15th 1894I of course wanted to be with Albert for his birthday, but the young lady I told you of -- who is anxious upon my teaching her -- we began lessons last Wednesday, and the second lesson took place yesterday. She is to come regularly on those days and said yesterday that, perhaps after this week, she would come oftener.
She is willing to pay, and I need the money. She has begged me not to go away but to stay and give her lessons so I shall have to ask you to excuse me -- for not fulfilling my promise for the present but will, I hope be able to stay longer when I do come.
Another lady is to call on me this week -- who lately made her appearance in Palmer's Theatre NY in the Lady of Lyons. The newspapers were very severe on her, but it has not made her afraid. She thinks she has talent and is going to try it again. Whether she will want me to give her lessons or not I do not know, but when she calls -- and if so, that will add to my income a little. She has wealth.
Philadelphia, Aug. 12, 1894 I still have my one pupil, but she has missed several lessons on account of the weather, and consequently my income from teaching is as yet a small one, but if nothing turns up, I shall endeavor to get some other pupils when the hot weather is over and try to earn my salt, if I cannot get enough for bread. I did not expect this state of things so soon and feel it very seriously, but what cannot be cured must be endured.
Forbes-Winslow, D. Daly's, the Biography of a Theatre. London: W.H. Allen .
Frohman, Daniel, Daniel Frohman Presents, New York, C. Kendall & W. Sharp [c1935]
Manzella, Abby, Looking at the Business of Theater 1896-1919, Univ. of Virginia, 2000 http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/INCORP/theatre/theatrehome.html
Marcosson, Isaac F. and Daniel Frohman Charles Frohman: Manager and Man New York: Harper Brothers, 1916
Turney, Wayne S. The Theatrical Syndicate: two differing contemporary accounts. http://www.wayneturney.20m.com/syndicate.htm
Last revised Jan. 16, 2005
Theaters in the United States 1858 from Rede's Guide to the Stage http://www.artsci.washington.edu/drama-phd/dhgostg.html
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