foreign stars and companies on the American stage
- By 1880, the regular appearance of European stars and companies on Broadway and on tour was commonplace. Between 1880 and 1930 most frequent visitors were British actors, including such major figures (with the year of their first appearance) as Adelaide Nielson (1880), Oscar Wilde (1882; as a lecturer only), Lillie Langtry (1882), Henry Irving (1883), Ellen Terry (1883), Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1885), Wilson Barrett (1886), the Kendals (1889), Marie Tempest (1890), Olga Nethersole (1894), Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1895), Robert Loraine (1901), George Arliss (1901), Mrs. Patrick Campbell (1902), Ben Greet (1902), Dudley Digges (1904), Sybil Thorndike (1904), Cathleen Nesbitt (1911), Leslie Howard (1920), Basil Rathbone (1922), John Martin-Harvey (1923), Jack Buchanan (1924), Gertrude Lawrence* (1924), Noël Coward* (1925), John Gielgud* (1928), and Laurence Olivier* (1929). Many visited frequently, some stayed permanently, and some, like Henry Irving who toured the United States eight times between 1883 and 1904, were influential in raising the quality of theatrical production by demonstrating a superior level of craftsmanship.British music hall, vaudeville, and musical entertainers also crossed the Atlantic. Richard D'Oyly Carte's Opera Company in productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas first appeared in 1879, and often enlisted American performers to supplement its company. Dublin's Abbey Theatre company brought the Irish players to New York in the first years of the 20th century, garnering lukewarm response to plays by J. M. Synge, Sean O'Casey, William Butler Yeats, and Lady Gregory.Among non-English-speaking stars and companies, the most notable include Italians (Eleonora Duse, Tommaso Salvini and his son Alexander Salvini, Ermete Novelli, Ernesto Rossi, Adelaide Ristori), Germans (Emma Carus, Ludwig Barnay), Czechs (Franc-esca Janauschek), Poles (Helena Modjeska, Bogomil Dawison), Russians (Alla Nazimova), Belgians (Hortense Rhéa), and French (Sarah Bernhardt, Constant-Benoît Coquelin, Gabrielle Réjane). Among all of these, Bernhardt, who toured the United States nine times between 1880 and 1918, was the most popular. The Moscow Art Theatre's (MAT) New York season of 1922-1923 generated considerable interest in the American theatre community for its repertory, which included works by Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Ivan Turgenev. The high quality of the MAT's ensemble acting inspired American actors to explore the "system" for acting developed by the troupe under the guidance of its director, Konstantin Stanislavski. Israel's Habima Theatre presented a New York season in 1926-1927 and the companies of Max Reinhardt (1912), Jacques Copeau (1917), and Nikita Baileff (1922) similarly inspired American artists and generated critical interest in their diverse repertories during Broadway seasons. By 1930, visiting actors and troupes extended beyond Europe. For example, Chinese actor Mei Lanfang appeared in New York that year, and for the next 75 years performers from virtually every culture have appeared regularly in the United States.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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