Tent shows

   A popular entertainment tradition in the Midwest in the 1850s, tent shows featured plays and variety amusements staged inside tents of brown canvas (to distinguish them from the white of circus tents) illuminated by naphtha lamps. Tent shows, also known as tent repertoire, and Chautauqua programs may both be considered offshoots of the repertoire companies that played small towns and rural areas. The Chautauqua circuit grew after 1904. Major stars, including Minnie Maddern Fiske and Sarah Bernhardt, performed with tent shows when they battled the control of the Theatrical Syndicate. By World War I, with improvements in transportation options, there were as many as 400 tent shows operating throughout the United States, with admission prices topping out at $1. After 1930, as the Great Depression set in, audiences for tent shows declined.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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