Hull-House Theatre


Hull-House Theatre
   From the beginning, Jane Addams made the arts integral to her social work at Chicago's Hull House, which she founded with Ellen Gates in 1889. There were play readings, concerts, and art exhibits offered with the aim of inculcating good values among the laboring poor through "recreation and education." Addams shunned the cheap appeals of the popular melodrama of the day and instead fostered theatre through a Shakespeare club. The first fully staged production at Hull House—indeed, the first settlement house theatrical performance in the United States—was The Sleeping Car by William Dean Howells, presented in 1896 on a platform in the gymnasium. Others followed, and the success of Shakespeare's As You Like It in 1897 resulted in the hiring of Walter Pietsch as director of drama for Hull House.
   A new theatre was completed in 1899. After a group of Greek immigrants performed a dramatization of The Odyssey in Greek, other ethnic groups mounted plays in their own languages. In 1900, retired actress Laura Dainty Pelham became director and brought the theatre to a new level of professionalism, eventually changing the name from Hull-House Dramatic Association to Hull-House Players. Because of Addams's insistence on producing plays of literary merit, Hull House was recognized as a leading proponent of the art theatre movement. Maurice Browne credited the Hull-House Players as the true origin of the little theatre movement in America.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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