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"Pal Joey," "Native Son," "Annie Get Your Gun" - during the years of the Second World War, there was a new surge of exciting Broadway productions trying out in Philadelphia. But at the same time, the Shuberts' domination of the Philadelphia theater market was meeting increasing scrutiny. For a blog post on our website, with images from the producti…
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A reissue of our conversation with scholar Jonathan Shandell and director Jerrell Henderson, about a little-known chapter of Philadelphia's theater history. For a blog post on our website, with images from the productions we discuss in the episode: https://www.aithpodcast.com/blog/jericho-one-third-of-a-nation-and-prelude-to-swing/ If you enjoyed t…
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Philadelphia enters the Great Depression. Although a few shows were still having their Broadway tryouts in Philly, it wasn't enough to keep the wrecking crews from tearing down many of the city's grand old theaters. To see images and to find more information about this episode, go to: https://www.aithpodcast.com/blog/the-wrecking-ball/ If you liked…
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The fictional musical "Pretty Lady" has its opening night in Philadelphia! Another dramatic reading from the archives of Philadelphia theater history, underscored with evocative musical accompaniment. If you liked the show, leave a Review on Apple Podcasts! https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/adventures-in-theater-history-philadelphia/id156204667…
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A story of an "All Star Cast" touring production in 1927. After the unexpected death of its star, the veteran actor John Drew Jr., company member Peggy Wood wrote this detailed memoir of his final tour. A dramatic reading from the archives of Philadelphia theater history, underscored with evocative musical accompaniment. For images of John Drew and…
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Broadway tryouts and tours and revues were constantly coming to Philadelphia's many large and luxurious theaters during the 1920s - here's a quick review of the revues! Even the Moscow Art Theatre came through town - as well as great productions of Eugene O'Neill plays. Philly was a real Tryout Town, with such great venues as the Erlanger, the Garr…
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The story of the Shubert Brothers, and how they began to take control over almost every commercial theater in Philadelphia - just like they did in cities all across America. For a blog post with images of the stories and topics we discuss in this episode, go to our website: https://www.aithpodcast.com/blog/the-shuberts-and-their-philadelphia-theate…
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The "Little Theater Movement" arrives in Philadelphia, bringing modern plays and surprising new venues - including the Walnut Street Theatre, where The Green Goddess was given a World Premiere tryout run in December of 1920. For a blog post with images of the stories and topics we discuss in this episode, go to our website: https://www.aithpodcast.…
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Our annual Holiday episode! Featured are stories about the tightrope sensation El Nino Eddie, "Hitchy-Koo; the Intimate Revue," The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, Timbuktu!, Signor Blitz during the American Civil War, and many other tales about Philadelphia theater history. For a blog post with images of the stories and topics we discuss in this episo…
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Stories of seven notable vaudevillians who came from Philadelphia, including W.C. Fields, Ethel Barrymore, and Ethel Waters. (We also briefly profile Ed Wynn, Larry Fine, Walter C. Kelly, and the woman known as "Sober Sue.") Was Philadelphia "The Cradle of Vaudeville" in the same way it was The Cradle of the Nation? After listening to the show, let…
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Philadelphia, like all American cities of the day, was home to the exciting energy and show-biz hustle of vaudeville theaters in the first decades of the 20th Century. On our website, there's a blog post with a Bibliography of the sources for are show, plus lots of images of the Philly vaudeville theaters we talk about on this episode - "The Exciti…
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In the fall of 1915, D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was booked to play at the Forrest Theatre - a "legitimate house," not a movie theater - but would Philadelphia's city authorities allow it to be shown? After all, the film's racist source material, Thomas Dixon's play The Clansman, had been officially banned in the city back in 1906. But wa…
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We begin our third season of adventures! Here we learn about the historical originas of the "Tryout Town" in American showbiz of the early 20th Century. We discuss the movie 42nd Street and discuss many touring shows that came through Philly on their way to and from Broadway - including George M. Cohan's Little Johnny Jones, which introduced the so…
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Actress, director and educator Penelope Reed sits down for an interview with us, and shares fascinating memories of her long career in Philadelphia area theater. In particular she discusses her lifelong involvement and eventual leadership of the Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. This episode can be seen as a continuation of our Episode…
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[Note: This is a repeat of our Episode 12, first released in June 2021] Fires were a real danger in 19th Century theater, and some Philadelphia theaters were burned down and rebuilt multiple times. Inevitably, in some of these fires performers, audience members, and firefighters lost their lives. In this episode we go on exploration of how theater …
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First released as Episode 10 in May of 2021, we bring out this great story once again! You can find illustrations and additional information about the events we describe here, on our webpage: https://www.aithpodcast.com/blog/episode-10-George-Frederick-Cooke/ If you liked the show, leave a Review on Apple Podcasts! https://podcasts.apple.com/us/pod…
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The the final episode of our story about the Theatre of the Living Arts. While exciting work continues to happen on South Street, opposition to Andre Gregory's artistic leadership rises, and eventually matters come to a head after the production of the play Beclch. (The image for this episode is actress Sharon Gans in the role of Queen Beclch, in a…
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Our story continues, with productions of the '65-'66 second season of Philadelphia's first scrappy non-profit resident theater company - at its home on South Street. Visit our website to find a blog post with mages about the plays we discuss, as well as additional information about this episode. There is also, as always, a bibliography of our sourc…
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Announcements, Corrections, Answers to questions from our listeners - and some exciting personal news! (The episode image is of the frontage of the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, ca. 1820. From Charles Durang's History of the Philadelphia Stage.) PLEASE LEAVE US A REVIEW OF OUR PODCAST! You can do it easily, right here: https://www.aithpo…
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The founding of Philadelphia's first major resident theater company: The Theatre of the Living Arts. As the 1960s begin, the fortunes of the Quaker City - and its theater - are flagging. Even the longtime supply of Broadway 'tryout' shows coming through town are beginning to dry up. To jump-start a revival, two Philadelphia area women, Jean Goldman…
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Would Sunday in New York perform on Saturday in Philadelphia? Were the "riffraff and lowlifes" of Brecht'sThreepenny Opera suitable for its Playhouse in the Park? Could the first publicly funded and owned city theater in the country survive in the maelstrom of Philadelphia city politics? Find out on today's episode - as we continue our Season Two "…
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An interview with the Producing Artistic Director of the historic Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Bernard Havard. Visit our website for a blog post with photos of our tour, including many of the items we discuss in the episode: https://www.aithpodcast.com/blog/photos-for-the-walls-of-walnut-street/ If you enjoyed the show, PLEASE LEAVE US A …
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During the Great Depression years of the 1930s, some touring Broadway shows got into trouble in Philadelphia. "The People's Mayor" S. Davis Wilson had his limits when it came to what he would allow in the city's theaters. This is another episode in our ongoing series about censorship and public campaigns against certain controversial shows during t…
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In the 1920s, Philadelphia theater censorship controversies were usually about what women were wearing - or rather were NOT wearing - on the city's stages. A great cast of historical characters in this episode, set during the Prohibition Era: fan dancer Sally Rand, bandleader Ted ("Is Everybody Happy?") Lewis, The Marx Brothers, Broadway producer E…
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In 1911, actress Sarah Bernhardt's production of La Samaritaine met with fervent opposition from Philadelphia clergymen. In 1912, the Irish Players' production of Playboy of the Western World caused yet another Philly audience riot! What was going on? Listen and find out! It's all part of our continuing Season Two: "Drama Is Conflict". Please Note:…
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The last installment of the saga of Oscar Hammerstein in the "Opera Wars" - and the grand Philadelphia theater he left behind, when the war was over. We also meet the New York banker Otto Kahn - the power behind the rival Metropolitan Opera - and how that name gets transferred to the Philadelphia building. Despite many transformations, over the yea…
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February 1909: The opera "Salome" at Oscar Hammerstein's new Philadelphia Opera House needed to be stopped, as a matter of public decency, declared hundreds of clergymen and civic leaders. Meanwhile, the impresario himself was threatening to take his newly-founded opera company back to New York, and set up the enormous theater as a vaudeville house…
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November 17, 1908 : The magnificent new theater in North Philadelphia was ready for its first opera! It was "as if some master magician's wand had called it into being," wrote one admiring journalist. Everyone in the city, especially its most wealthy and socially prominent citizens, could hardly wait to get inside to see the show. But first they ha…
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1906: A coalition of African American men attempt to stop Thomas Dixon Jr.'s play The Clansman from being performed in Philadelphia. After leading a public protest in front of the Walnut Street Theatre, the whole matter ends up in City Hall, at a hearing before Mayor John Weaver. There is a blog post on our website, which has additional information…
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Seven short and light vignettes from the history of Philadelphia Theater - all of which took place in the city during the Holidays, from various theatrical seasons over the past 150 years. A gift to all of you listeners and supporters of the podcast. We hope you have a wonderful and restful Holiday season, and that the New Year of 2023 brings you h…
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We continue our story about Thomas Dixon Jr. and his 1905 play The Clansman with an examination of the early life of this formidable man. We learn the root causes of his political obsessions - and about his need to express himself in the world of the theater. Also in this episode, we finally meet J. Frederick Zimmerman and Samuel F. Nixon, the two …
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We begin the harrowing and alarming story of "The Clansman," in Philadelphia. Although this play by the author Thomas W. Dixon is know as the progenitor to the 1915 D.W. Griffith film "Birth of the Nation," few are aware of its early controversial history, The narrative begins in the streets outside the Walnut Street Theatre, as a large crowd of th…
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A re-broadcast of an episode originally released in November of 2021. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, an exploration of performances by Indigenous People in theaters of the City of Philadelphia in the 19th Century. We also detail plays by white performers that supposedly depicted Native people and stories in that period. The attached im…
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The mob is gathering in the street outside the Chestnut Street Theatre, while inside the rehearsals for the scandalous play The Quaker City go on! The thrilling conclusion of our three part series! Will it all end in a deadly riot? The suspense is building . . For a blog post about this episode, with more information and images about the people and…
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George Lippard's novel "The Quaker City, or the Monk's of Monk Hall" is made into a new play. The excitement about it builds in Philadelphia, just as the national election of 1844 roils the city. We learn more about the young Philadelphia writer, and how he was recruited by theater manager Francis Wemyss to provide a script for his Chestnut Street …
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The theater of Philadelphia was being staged during the roiling years of the 1840s. Bankruptcies, riots, labor unrest, growing religious fervor and racial tensions, rising crime (and public perception of crime due to increasing availability of journals and newspapers) were everywhere. This is the context for the first episode of our Season Two: "Dr…
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A quick announcement about our upcoming season of new episodes . . . For an exciting season about Philadelphia's "Theatre History" or "Theater History" - however, you spell it, this is the place. Spoiler Alert: There will be lots of drama. And conflict! Support the show © Podcast text copyright, Peter Schmitz. All rights reserved. ℗ All voice recor…
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Jasper Deeter formed Philadelphia's oldest repertory theater company in 1923. Though seemingly self-isolated in the small and intense community of theater workers he had founded, his work as a director, actor, visionary and longtime acting teacher had a profound affect on shaping Philadelphia's - and America's - theater for years to come. In this s…
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This special episode of the podcast goes on a journey to the Paul Robeson House and Museum in Philadelphia. Included is an interview with Janice Sykes-Ross of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and a recording of a live tour of the Paul Robeson House with docent Terry Fimiano Guerin. For a blog post on our website with additional information,…
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Like the ghost of Hamlet's father, John Barrymore wouldn't stay still and kept showing up! A chapter about Philadelphia's most famous acting family, from Wicked Philadelphia, a book by Thomas H. Keels Wicked Philadelphia: Sin in the City of Brotherly Love by Thomas Keels, is available on Amazon.com. Please visit Tom's website, www.thomaskeels.com, …
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As an addendum to Season One, here are six more stories of 19th C. Philadelphia theater. We discuss Alexander Reinagle, Joseph Jefferson III, James Murdoch, Matilda Heron, John McCullough - as well as two stagehands at the Walnut Street Theater you likely never heard of before, but may never forget! To see images and more information about today's …
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An interview/conversation with Jonathan Shandell, the author of a January 2022 article in the journal Theater History Studies entitled "Caricatured, Marginalized, Betrayed". The article examines the history of the Philadelphia "Negro Unit" of the Federal Theatre Project in the 1930s - specifically the history of three plays produced by the FTP at t…
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January 1990: The appointment of Mary B. Robinson as the new Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Drama Guild is announced, taking over from outgoing Artistic Director Gregory Poggi. Robinson's tenure at the Drama Guild was slated to begin in August of 1990, so she could move back to Philadelphia and start planning her first season. At a press con…
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From the 1876 Centennial Exposition to the end of the 19th Century, Philadelphia's experienced a boom in theater construction. New plays, musicals, operettas and vaudeville shows constantly cycled in and out of the city to fill these theaters. By the 1890s, one newspaperman estimated that on average each of Philadelphia's one million people saw fiv…
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John A. Arneaux plays "Richard III" at the Academy of Music, then mysteriously exits the American stage. His co-star, the actor Henri Strange, remains - and strives to create a Shakespeare theater for Philadelphia's Black audiences. The second half of a two-part story. Guest Voices John A. Arneaux: Aaron Bell Reporter: Bill Van Horn R. Henri Strang…
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John A. Arneaux billed himself as "The Black Booth" and starred in a one-night all-Black production of Shakespeare's "Richard III' at Philadelphia's prestigious Academy of Music in January 1887. Who was he, where had he come from, and why had he chosen Philadelphia for this audacious feat? We explore his fascinating story in the first of our two ep…
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Before ending their occupation of Philadelphia in 1778, the British threw themselves a hell of a theatre party! Knights and heralds, pageantry and theatricals, pomp and parading, feasting and flirting, all-night dancing and oh-so-many borrowed mirrors. Learn all about it from Peter's reading of the chapter "Oh, It's a Lovely War: The Mischianza 177…
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The story of one of America's most infamous - and influential - performance traditions, as it specifically relates to the history of theater in Philadelphia. For blog post with images and more thoughts about this topic, go to: https://www.aithpodcast.com/blog/where-our-mothers-and-fathers-laughed-their-troubles-away/ An additional blog post, with t…
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The famous 19th Century American tragic actress - and the 2Oth Century Philadelphia women who founded an organization in her honor. Check out all our recent episodes about Philadelphia's "Theatre History" or its "Theater History" - however, you spell it, this is the podcast for you! For a blog post on our website about this episode, go to: https://…
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Mike Lueger of "The Theatre History Podcast" interviews Dr. Christian DuComb about the history of Philadelphia Mummers Parade, the history behind the iconic annual Philadelphia event, and the 'Mummers Wench'. Although I've added some additional material, this interview was originally released as Episode 55 of Mike's "The Theatre History Podcast." T…
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