Brooklyn Takes the Stage

Nineteenth–Century Theater in the City of Churches


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About the Book

America’s third largest city until 1890, Brooklyn, New York, had a striking theatrical culture before it became a borough of Greater New York in 1898. As the city gained size and influence, more and more theatres arose, with at least 15 venues ultimately vying for favor. Too many theatregoers, however, preferred the discomforts of a ferry and horsecar trip to New York’s playhouses instead of supporting the local product. Nor did the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 do Brooklyn’s theatres any favors. Manhattan’s Goliath slayed Brooklyn’s David.
This first comprehensive study of Brooklyn’s old-time theatre describes the city’s early history, each of its many playhouses, its plays and actors (including nearly every foreign and domestic star), and its scandals and catastrophes, including the theatre fire that killed nearly 300. Brooklyn’s ongoing struggle to establish theatres in a society dominated by anti-theatrical preachers, including Henry Ward Beecher, is detailed, as are all the ways that Brooklyn typified 19th century American theatre, from stock companies to combinations. Replete with fascinating anecdotes, this is the story of a major city from which theatre all but vanished before being reborn as a present-day artistic mecca.

About the Author(s)

Samuel L. Leiter, distinguished professor (emeritus) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, has published thirty books on Japanese theatre, the great stage directors, New York theatre history, and Shakespeare.

Bibliographic Details

Samuel L. Leiter
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 385
Bibliographic Info: 74 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9359-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5137-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1

Introduction: More Than Trees Grew in Brooklyn 5

1. The City of Homes and Churches 13

2. The Curtain Rises 24

3. The Battle of Brooklyn’s Theaters 32

4. Failure, Folly, and Futility: Managing a Brooklyn Theater 142

5. Theater Can Be Dangerous 165

6. Plays, Playwrights, and Premieres 181

7. The Stock, the Stars, the Scandals, and the Stranded 208

8. The Curtain Falls 272

Appendix A: A Narrative Performance Timeline, 1861-1893 279

Appendix B: A Performance Chronology, 1894-1897 315

Chapter Notes 345

Bibliography 361

Index 369