Circle Stock Theater

Touring American Small Towns, 1900–1960


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About the Book

Circle stock theater was based on the repertory companies that began to tour America after the Civil War; unlike their repertory brethren, circle stock troupes toured a regular circuit, usually consisting of six small towns situated roughly in a circle around a base community where the performers lived. Through interviews, written reminiscences of veteran circle stock performers, and extensive research, the history of this unique slice of Americana is here presented for the first time.

About the Author(s)

Landis K. Magnuson is a professor of English at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he specializes in theatre direction, acting for the stage, and American theatre history. The former chair of the English department, Magnuson continues to serve as director of the Anselmian Abbey Players.

Bibliographic Details

Landis K. Magnuson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: 58 photos, notes, references, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014 [1995]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9361-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword by Brooks McNamara vii
Preface 1

1. A Wagon Wheel with Spokes 5
2. Early Practitioners and Circuits 13
Benjamin B. Bernon 13
Albert L. Trahern 14
Trousdale Brothers 34
An Era of Circuits 39
Vaudeville Circuits 40
Burlesque Wheels 41
Airdome Circuits 42
Additional Circuits of the Period 44
Early Theatrical Circuits 45
Theatrical Syndicate 46
The Shuberts 48
One-Night Production Circuits 49
3. Maintaining Body and Soul 54
Financial Motivations 54
Interpersonal Motivations 64
4. Satisfied Patrons Always Come Back 74
Play Selection 75
Broadway vs. Midwest Plays 82
Toby Plays 83
War Plays 87
Play Brokers 88
Script Alteration 93
Play Piracy 95
Vaudeville Specialties 101
Presentation 108
5. Controlling the Grouch Bag 112
Managers 112
The Company 114
Personnel Management 116
Actors’ Equity 118
Governmental Involvement 123
Chiseling 126
Rehearsal Methods 126
Transportation 129
Weather Conditions 134
Performance Sites 141
Scenery 145
Competition 149
6. Real Dollars and Sense 158
Admission 158
Depression-Era Merchant Circle 162
Commonwealth Companies 165
Show-and-Dance 171
Candy and Popcorn Sales 176
Radio Connections 181
The Ballyhoo 185
Expenses 194
Special Problems in the Wartime Economy 200
7. Variety Galore 205
Variations in Length 205
Variations in Location and Environment 207
Variations in Format and Content 212
8. A Quiet Demise 216
Decline in Quantity 216
Decline in Artistic and Management Practices 218

Notes 233
Works Consulted 239
Index 247

Book Reviews & Awards

Choice Outstanding Academic Title
“this important study is strongly recommended”—Choice; “nicely illustrated excellent study”—Theatre History Studies; “draws on primary sources consisting of interviews with veteran troupers, theatrical memorabilia, and rare trade publications”—Library Journal; “an exemplary job…well-researched and detailed”—New England Theatre Journal.