Rhéa, Hortense

(1844-1899)
   Born Hortense Barbe-Loret in Brussels, Belgium, the French-speaking actress studied English intensively in London in order to have an American tour. Using the role of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing as her text, she worked diligently until deemed ready for a public performance, which she gave on 2 June 1881 and which garnered her an invitation to tour America as a star. For 17 seasons, she continued her tours, keeping Beatrice as the centerpiece of her repertoire, which expanded to include plays like Adrienne Lecouvreur, The Lady of the Camelias, and Josephine, Empress of the French. Although she never attained a New York following or ever shone with the magnitude of Sarah Bernhardt, she was much loved in the American heartland where she was appreciated not only for her charm, modest demeanor, and kindness to members of her troupe, but also for the Paris wardrobe that embellished her productions. Midwesterners also seemed more indulgent toward her use of English, which never became fully intelligible. Notable among the leading men who supported her on various tours was William S. Hart.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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