Charlotte Cushman

A Biography and Performance History


In stock

About the Book

Charlotte Cushman, one of the great actors of 19th century American theatre, was a lesbian who kept her identity hidden by focusing her career on male characters (Romeo, Claude Melnotte, Wolsey), and also on strong and passionate women (Lady Macbeth, Bianca in Fazio, and Queen Katherine in Henry VIII). This biography is an authoritative record of Cushman’s life and performances, showing how her complex gender identity illuminates and is illuminated by 19th century theatre critical views. Part One is a biography; Part Two is a performance history listing all of Cushman’s known performances, often with a description of her role and critical commentary.

About the Author(s)

The late Arthur W. Bloom was a retired professor of theatre and administrator at several public and private American universities. He is the author of biographies of Joseph Jefferson, Edwin Booth, and Edwin Forrest.

Bibliographic Details

Arthur W. Bloom
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 309
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9087-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4854-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Part I
Introduction 1
One. Pilgrim Roots and Early Performances: 1816–1835 7
Two. New Orleans: 1835–1836 14
Three. Acting in New York and Albany: 1836–1837 20
Four. Stock Company Actress, Manager and Leading Lady: 1837–1844 28
Five. Working with Macready 37
Six. First English Tour: “I Could Make a Fortune Here” 42
Seven. “Miss Cushman is a very dangerous young man”: 1846–1849 52
Eight. Return to America: 1849–1852 64
Nine. Italy, England and Ireland: 1852–1857 69
Ten. American Tour and Emma Crow: 1857–1858 80
Eleven. On the Via Gregoriana: 1858–1860 86
Twelve. Touring During the Civil War: 1860–1863 95
Thirteen. Retirement: 1863–1871 105
Fourteen. “I Never Give Up”: 1870–1875 112
Fifteen. Death: 1875–1876 121
Sixteen. “My Genius Is Hard Work” 124
Part II
Performance History 131
Sources for Appendix and Performance History of Charlotte Cushman 255
Chapter Notes 267
Bibliography 283
Index 289

Book Reviews & Awards

• “A vivid picture emerges of Charlotte Cushman both on and off the stage in this sorely-needed update of her life and performance history. Arthur Bloom has captured definitively the essence of Cushman’s challenges, successes, and relationships (both professional and personal). Significantly, he combines extensive contemporary documentation and context with an appropriate 21st Century interpretation to pay overdue homage to this uniquely powerful actress.”—Thomas A. Bogar, author of American Presidents Attend the Theatre and Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination

• “An engaging biographical account of a colorful female actor of the nineteenth century. A must-read for those who have only just begun discussing non heteronormativity in acting—you might have much to learn from theatre history and indeed this precious book!”—Professor Ross W. Prior, author of Teaching Actors: Knowledge Transfer in Actor Training

• “Precisely researched and skillfully written, Charlotte Cushman: A Biography and Performance History qualifies as an important addition to the field of cultural studies. Arthur W. Bloom delivers an engrossing account of a woman who had the boldness to follow her passions—both on and off the stage.”—David Freeland, author of American Hotel: The Waldorf-Astoria and the Making of a Century

• “With meticulous research and careful commentary, Bloom walks through the challenge and success of Cushman’s navigating life in the nineteenth century as an actor and a queer woman. At a time when women were expected to conform to acceptable values of ‘true womanhood,’ brash Cushman (who towered over her male counterparts in height and emotion as Lady Macbeth) comes across as both remarkable and relatable in her efforts to be good in the public eye, to be great onstage, and to be true to herself throughout.”—Betsy Golden Kellem, historian and media attorney, board member of the Barnum Museum and the Circus Historical Society