Shakespeare in American
- The plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) were frequently produced in North America from the earliest settlements by Europeans. Before American independence and well into the 19th century, English troupes, or British-trained actors, included Shakespeare's plays centrally in their repertories. The first performance of Shakespeare in New York is believed to have been Richard III, staged in 1750 by Thomas Kean, but he used Colley Cibber's bowdlerization of Shakespeare for his text. Resistance to English players in America came to a violent head in the Astor Place riot in 1849, pitting supporters of rivals William Charles Macready, an English actor, and Edwin Forrest, America's greatest tragedian to date, against each other. African Americans made their first theatrical inroads when the African Grove Theatre launched careers for black Shakespeareans James Hewlett and Ira Aldridge. By the mid-19th century, Edwin Booth emerged as the premiere American Shakespearean, scoring a major triumph with his Hamlet, which ran for 100 consecutive performances in 1865. Shakespeare was central to the repertoires of Booth and other touring stars: Thomas W. Keene, Lawrence Barrett, Frederick Warde, Louis James, Marie Wainwright, E. L. Davenport, Emma Waller, John McCullough, and Helena Modjeska. As European immigrants poured into New York beginning in the 1890s, foreign-language productions of Shakespeare were frequently seen, including notable Yiddish theatre performances by Jacob Adler in The Merchant of Venice and King Lear.In the first decade of the 20th century, E. H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe revived interest in Shakespeare on the road with their elaborately staged productions, from their 1904 triumph in Romeo and Juliet until the 1920s. Charles Coburn and his wife Ivah Wills performed virtually the entire Shakespearean canon on tour with their company. Modern European staging techniques began to have an impact on Shakespearean production in the United States with English director Harley Granville Barker's innovative A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1916 and others, but the New Stagecraft triumphed in the Arthur Hopkins-Robert Edmond Jones collaborations on Richard III (1920) and Hamlet (1922), starring John Barrymore, whom many critics considered to be the greatest Hamlet since Booth.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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