Stock company

   An ensemble of actors, led by a manager or director and performing a season of plays in sequence during a residence at a theatre or in a town, a stock company was an important form of theatre management during much of the modernist period, despite economic vicissitudes. The essence of it was that the same actors, employed according to lines of business, worked together for an extended period. During the 1870s, before the rise of the road, a city's resident stock company would have to perform a different play almost every night, and thus, the early stock companies performed what amounted to rotating repertory. During the heyday of touring companies presenting several plays in repertory in the 1880s, stock companies disappeared except in the biggest population centers like New York, Boston, and San Francisco. With the rise of the combination system in the 1890s, stock companies once again found audiences that relished the old familiar warhorses of dramatic literature. Typically, the leading player dominated (and often managed) the company, but in some cases—as with Augustin Daly's company, the ensemble as a whole was more important than any single player.
   According to Gladys Hurlbut in Next Week-East Lynne!, stock companies were "the best chance that actors had of learning their business," but the system was wiped out by silent motion pictures and then the "talkies." As late as the 1910s and 1920s, there were "over a hundred stock companies east of the Mississippi." She recalled that "they lived in a town for a season of twenty to a hundred weeks and they put on a different play each week. They dished up last year's hits in five rehearsals and in between they revived the old thrillers that still did business, East Lynne and Uncle Tom's Cabin, The [Old] Homestead and Trilby" (1950, 24). Gladys Hurlbut's Next Week-East Lynne! provides a vivid glimpse into the world of the stock actor in the late modernist period: "Stock acting was the most sweatshop kind of work I ever heard of, and the most exhausting for the brain and the body. Fifteen hours a day in the theater, many towns played daily matinees and the Middle West played seven days a week, two of the old on Saturday, two of the new on Sunday. At night the actors studied, an act a day until they knew their parts. They furnished their own wardrobes and the women sewed and pressed and trimmed and washed—always with their crumpled, frayed, typewritten parts for next week propped up before them. At night they kept them under their pillows, firmly believing they soaked in that way" (1950, 25).
   The term stock also is used to refer to scenery. In a pinch, a few basic settings could serve the needs of most plays on the road prior to and during the early modernist period: the street scene, the forest, the garden, the humble interior, and the fancy interior. Opera houses kept wings, borders, and a drop for each of those scenes in stock at the theatre. Thus, the "stock sets" (as well as costumes and props from previous productions) could be pressed into service as an economy or whenever a troupe's own stock was damaged or delayed on the road.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Stock company — Stock Stock (st[o^]k), n. [AS. stocc a stock, trunk, stick; akin to D. stok, G. stock, OHG. stoc, Icel. stokkr, Sw. stock, Dan. stok, and AS. stycce a piece; cf. Skr. tuj to urge, thrust. Cf. {Stokker}, {Stucco}, and {Tuck} a rapier.] 1. The stem …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • stock company — ➔ company * * * stock company UK US noun [C] US LAW, FINANCE ► a company that is owned and controlled by shareholders → See also JOINT STOCK COMPANY(Cf. ↑joint stock company) …   Financial and business terms

  • Stock company — Stock Stock, a. Used or employed for constant service or application, as if constituting a portion of a stock or supply; standard; permanent; standing; as, a stock actor; a stock play; a stock phrase; a stock response; a stock sermon. A stock… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Stock company — can refer to:*Joint stock company ( see also Types of corporations and Types of companies ) *Stock company (acting) referring to a group of actors …   Wikipedia

  • stock company — stock .company also stock n AmE 1.) a company whose money is divided into ↑shares so that many people own a small part of it = ↑joint stock company 2.) a group of actors who work together doing several different plays …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • stock company — n. 1. a company or corporation whose capital is divided into shares 2. a commercial theatrical company that presents a repertoire of plays, usually at one theater …   English World dictionary

  • stock company — index corporation Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • stock company — stock ,company noun count 1. ) AMERICAN a business whose money is divided up into SHARES that are owned by different people 2. ) a group of actors who only perform in one particular theater and who work together on different plays …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • stock company — Synonyms and related words: Aktiengesellschaft, accident insurance, acting company, actuary, aktiebolag, annuity, assurance, aviation insurance, bail bond, body corporate, bond, business, business establishment, business life insurance, cartel,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • stock company — 1. Finance. a company or corporation whose capital is divided into shares represented by stock. 2. Theat. a company acting a repertoire of plays, more or less permanently together, usually at its own theater. [1820 30] * * * ▪ theatre… …   Universalium

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