Monday, June 23, 2008

A Little Taste Of History (18)

Topic: New York City's Theatres Pre: 1911 #1

Abbey's Park Theatre

Nearly on the site of the old Buck's Horn Tavern, Abbey's Park Theatre stood in the seventies and eighties. The Stock company was one of the best in New York, containing several actors who later joined Daly's company. Between seasons many well-known actors appeared; among them, Mrs. Langtry, who made her American debut upon this stage.

The house was planned by Dion Boucicault, but he got into difficulties and was not its manager when it opened in 1874. It came under the management of Abbey on November 27, 1876,the actress Lotta being his financial backer. Among the plays first given here was "The Gilded Age" in which John T. Raymond appeared as the protagonist, Colonel Mulberry Sellers. The play was founded on Mark Twain's story of the same name. The house was destroyed by fire, October 30, 1882,several hours before the evening performance, and was not rebuilt.

Lester Wallack's Theatre

Lester Wallack moved into his up-town theatre at the northeast corner of Thirtieth Street in February, 1881, but the building was not ready for opening until January 4, 1882. The exterior of the building has never been completely finished. Here Wallack had an excellent stock company as before; but the house never became so famous or so popular as the old Thirteenth street theatre perhaps, because a new generation of theatre-goers had grown up and the actor-manager was getting old. He retired from active management, and the house opened as Palmer's Theatre on October 8, 1888, to become and remain Wallack's once more on December 7, 1896.

Banvard's Museum and Theatre

The oldest theatre in this neighborhood was originally Banvard's Museum and Theatre at 1221 Broadway, near Thirtieth Street. It was the first building in the city erected expressly for museum purposes, and was opened June 17, 1867. It became Wood's Museum and Metropolitan Theatre in 1868, and Wood's Museum and Menagerie in 1869. Very good plays with first-class actors were given under both managers, as I can personally testify. In 1877, it became the Broadway Theatre, and two years later it became Daly's remaining under the management of Augustin Daly until his death. It was the one theatre where the visitor could find the perfection of acting, management, and presentation, whether the play were a French or German farce or a Shakesperian revival. Ada Rehan, John Drew, Mrs. Gilbert, James Lewis, George Clarke, and others were known, admired, and loved by a generation of theatre-goers.

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