Players and Plays in Old Albany
1750 to 1860

Nan Mullenneaux

Working Prospectus - November 2003

Nan Mullenneaux is investigating the great lengths players (mostly traveling British family acting troupes) went to put on a show in early Albany. Beginning in the mid-18th century, almost any Albany person could see touring companies perform a wide variety of entertainments - from juggling acts to Shakespearean tragedies.

By the 1820s. Albany finally had a theater of its own. Of special interest, is the theater's relationship to the emerging American community. What were the arguments for and against permitting players to perform? What were the most popular plays and players? Why were certain plays a hit with American audiences? What do the themes dealt with in these productions tell us about political, economic, social, and gender issues of the day? What is known about the actors and actresses who came through Albany? Charlotte Cushman, America's leading actress by mid-19th century spent a year in Albany early in her career. Edwin Booth performed there for two weeks in the 1850s.

Theater repertoires, reviews and memoirs are used as historical documents illuminating late 18th and early 19th century culture.



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first posted: 10/30/03