Historical Dictionary of American Theater


By (author) James Fisher

Hardback - £133.00

Publication date:

16 April 2015

Length of book:

570 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780810878327

Historical Dictionary of American Theater: Beginnings covers the history of theater as well as the literature of America from 1538 to 1880. The years covered by this volume features the rise of the popular stage in American during the colonial era and the first century of the United States of America, with an emphasis on its practitioners, including such figures as Lewis Hallam, David Douglass, Mercy Otis Warren, Edwin Forrest, Charlotte Cushman, Joseph Jefferson, Ida Aldridge, Dion Boucicault, Edwin Booth, and many others.

The Historical Dictionary of American Theater: Beginnings covers the history of early American Theatre through a chronology, an introductory essay, and an extensive bibliography. The dictionary section has over 1000 cross-referenced entries on actors and actresses, directors, playwrights, producers, genres, notable plays and theatres. This book is an excellent access point for students, researchers, and anyone wanting to know more about the early American Theater.
Fisher adds to this series with beneficial information on the American theater from its inception until 1880. The dictionary opens with a chronology spanning from 1538 to 1880, providing a framework for this period. Including brief biographical background along with some plot synopses, more than 1,000 short entries offer profiles of actors (Sarah Bernhardt in her debut, Edwin Booth, and Ira Aldridge), plays (Hazel Kirke, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Our American Cousin, and Fashion: Or Life In New York), and theaters (Walnut Street Theater, Ford’s Theater, the McVicker’s Theater, and the African Grove Theater, created for African Americans). Showman P.T. Barnum, producer David Belasco, and actor/playwright Steele MacKaye make appearances, as do historical events such as the Astor Place Opera House Riots and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Minstrel shows and the use of blackface are a part of theater history during this time, and discussions on both are included here. Cross-references appear in bold. Some entries, such as the description of the five acts of Dion Boucicault’s The Poor of New York go into more depth. An extensive bibliography is subdivided into sections on, for example, women, Native Americans, and cultural and regional studies, which is helpful for additional reading and research. VERDICT Offering a wealth of hard-to-find information in a single volume, this guide will enhance theater history collections. Students and theater buffs will relish this introduction to how theater developed in America.