- Broadly used, the term "manager" could encompass the activities of the producer, the entrepreneur, and the local theatre lessee. A company manager would need to interact with a theatre's manager, and both might deal with the management of a circuit of theatres. Star performers who managed their own companies often found the business side overwhelming, as did Edwin Booth during the period of construction of Booth's Theatre, when he exhausted himself with touring to raise funds, was taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators, and lacked the financial acumen to keep business matters entirely in order. On the other hand, Mrs. John Drew ran a tight ship in her long management of Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre. Bernheim (1964, 4) quotes two comments about managers made in 1883: "Most of our managers are thick-skulled people and few of them are gentlemen. They seem to have been born on the road, and how they got to New York and succeeded is only to be accounted for on the principle of ignorance and the almighty dollar." "As a general thing they are financiers and brokers, who, like their Wall Street brethren, watch the market and go as that goes." And an observation from 1879, also quoted by Bernheim: "The manager, if he would succeed, must cater to the taste of his patrons, both in the selection of his company and of his plays. He must give the public what they want, not what he thinks they ought to want." As those remarks suggest, it was not such a long step from managing to producing.At the top of the field, it becomes impossible to distinguish between a producer and a manager. Indeed, Michael B. Leavitt's memoir Fifty Years in Theatrical Management, 1859-1909—an impressive record of practices and personalities from all aspects of theatre management, including minstrels, burlesque, and other variety forms—uses the terms virtually interchangeably. Among the dozens of managers profiled in his book are Theodore A. Liebler, George C. Tyler, William Harris, Henry B. Harris, Henry W. Savage, and William A. Brady. Augustus Pitou rose to managerial prominence in legitimate theatre. In opera, Maurice Grau and Milton Aborn were outstanding. Nate Salsbury proved his managerial acumen first in operetta and later in Wild West shows.See also Actor-manager.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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