This three-volume work will accomplish for the American non-musical theatre what Bordman's American Musical Theatre did for our song-and-dance entertainments: it chronicles, in order by opening, every Broadway comedy and drama, show by show, season by season, offering a plot synopsis, principal players, and important statistics. Scenery and costumes are described where they might be of interest, and comments of the plays' contemporary critics are quoted. In many instances, extended excerpts from the play are included to give the reader a fuller understanding of its nuances and its period dialogue. Also included, and worked chronologically into the text, are details about cheap-priced, cliff-hanging melodramas, such as Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl and His Sister's Shame, which were among America's most popular diversions in theatres catering to blue-collar playgoers until silent films drew away their audiences. Examples of shows produced and designed for other than New York are included.
This volume deals with the great expansion of American theatre after the Civil War, the careers of such prominent actors and actresses as Edwin Booth, Mrs. Fiske, the Drew and Barrymore families, the first important American playwrights like Clyde Fitch, producers like David Belasco, and the influence of foreign plays and players. This stage history, besides giving a sense of each production, touches on the literary worth of the plays, provides brief biographies of major figures, and sets all of this against the economic and social backgrounds of the time. Readers will close the book feeling they, like their parents and grandparents, have sat through performances of these shows of another era.
"This well-written volume will serve students of American theatre for years to come and is essential for all libraries collecting in this area."--Choice
"The arrangement has a distinct advantage in putting theater into a historical and cultural context and showing interrelationships between plays, writers, actors, managers, producers, and so on. In addition, Bordman's own style, his vast knowledge of the subject, and the many interesting facts and asides he includes in the narrative help provide a real taste of what theater was like during the time....Highly recommended as a complement to The Oxford
Companion to the American Theatre for larger public and academic libraries."--Booklist/RBB
"Theatergoers interested in the history of the art form should not miss the landmark publication of [this book]....This is no dry, didactic account of the plays and players of the 1869-1914 period....Bordman's style may be concise but it is also warm and unpretentious."--Happening
"Those who have come to rely on Bordman's Oxford Companion to American Theatre will not be surprised at the wit, intelligence, and thoroughness of this new work."--Nineteenth-Century Literature
"A sprightly narrative that is much more than a mere compilation of names and dates. A vanished world of farce, melodrama and hardy troupers comes to life agan under Bordman's meticulous scrutiny."--Daily News