10 Facts About Black Theater In The 1800s

Set the stage for Black History Month.
10 Facts About Black Theater In The 1800s

This Black History Month, amaze the theater and history buffs in your life with these 10 Black theater history firsts from the 1800s. Before, during, and after the American Civil War, African American playwrights, actors, and entertainers paved the way for future generations of creators. From the first Black theater to the first on-stage marriage, these historical tidbits are sure to educate and inspire.

Two Black entertainers got married on-stage THE BALDWIN THEATER. AVE FROHMAN.... ......Lossee WEDDING NIGHT-TO-NIGHT. LAST MATINEE TO-DAY.TE CALLENDER INSTREL FESTIVAL. HIS (SATURDAY) EVENING-Marriage Cer- emony during the performance and in view of the audience, of Miss Emma Louise Hyers, of the famous Hyers Sisters, and Mr. George Freeman, leader of the Callender Brass Band. The profits of this auspicious evening for the benefit of the bride and INVITATIONS to the WEDDING groom. BANQUET will not admit the bearers to the regular performance within the auditorium, and should only be presented at the stage performance. d or on Ellis which street
The first drama by a Black woman playwright GRACKED COM In 1879, at age 20, Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins wrote Peculiar Sam; or, The Underground Railroad, the first extant drama by an African American woman. Railroad, which featured Sam Lucas as well as The Hyers Sisters, was musical drama about a fugitive family-consisting primarily of women rather than the solo male trope-transitioning from bondage to freedom.
The first Black play set in Africa CRACKED.COM In 1879 the Hyers Sisters (Anna Madah and Emma Louise Hyers) starred in Urlina, The African Princess, a musical written by Е. S. Getchell. Emma Louise Hyers dressed in drag to portray Prince Zurleska, Urlina's love interest. The play toured widely, was very well-received, and made history as the first published Black play set in Africa.
The first American musical CRACKED COM In 1875 actor Sam Lucas starred as a freed slave who joins upper-class white society in Out of Bondage, or Out of the Wilderness, the first recorded American musical. Out of Bondage was written by white Union soldier Joseph Bradford and the show was attended and commended for its high quality by none other than the writer Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain).
The first Black play about slavery CRACKED.COM In 1858 abolitionist William Wells Brown published the first play by a Black playwright to tackle the subject of American slavery, The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom. Born into slavery, after numerous unsuccessful attempts, Brown finally fled to freedom in 1834. Although the play wasn't staged during his lifetime, Brown performed dramatic readings at antislavery meetings.
The first internationally successful Black actor CRACKED.COM In 1825 at age 17 Ira Aldridge made his international debut in London as Othello at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden. Не emigrated to Europe the year before and became the first African American actor to achieve international success and remained associated with the role of Othello until his death in 1867.
The African Grove's white patrons WHITE CRACKED.COM White audience members of the African Grove Theater were confined to a separate section because, in the words of the theater's management, whites do not know how to conduct themselves at entertainments for ladies and gentlemen of color. In 1823, the theater mysteriously burned down in what was likely an act of white violence.
The first drama by a Black playwright GRACKED.COM In 1823 William Henry Brown, founder of the African Grove, wrote and staged the first African American play, The Drama of King Shotaway, a historical drama based on the Black Carib War in St. Vincent in 1796 against English and French American settlers. James Hewlett and Ira Aldridge starred in the production which was repeatedly interrupted by white instigators.
The African Grove was briefly shut down CRACKED.COM In the 1820S Steven Price, white owner of the competing Park Theatre across the street had his friend, the constable, arrest the African Grove Theatre's entire cast and close the theater. They were released on the condition that they never again perform Shakespeare. However, once released, they continued to breathe new life into the bard's work.
The first Black theater CRACKED.COM In 1821 William Henry Brown, a free Black man, established a 300-seat theater on Mercer St in NYC called The African Grove Theatre. It opened with an all-Black performance of Shakespeare's Richard III and was the first to stage such productions. Не hired James Hewlett, the first African American Shakespearian actor, as his principal.
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