Theatre in Belfast, 1736-1800

John C. Greene
Lehigh University Press - Theatre in Belfast, 1736-1800
Theatre in Belfast, 1736-1800 provides the first comprehensive daily record of surviving evidence relating to the nearly seven hundred theatrical performances that took place in Belfast, Ireland, from the earliest recorded staging of a play there, in 1736, through the year 1800. In the first decades, Belfast theatregoers welcomed the visits of colorful rough-and-tumble strolling companies of actors who performed in such venues as The Vaults, Mill Gate, and Rosemary Lane theatres. This book offers a glimpse at the lives of such provincial strolling actors on the early northern Irish circuits, as well as at the members of the touring companies of professionals from the Dublin, Scottish, and provincial English theatres, who also visited Belfast regularly in the early years.
After 1780 a more-or-less resident company of actors was established in Belfast, when the long-time Belfast manager Michael Atkins acquired a de facto monopoly over theatre activity in the north of Ireland, and built the Ann Street and later the Arthur Street theatres. As the century progressed Belfast displayed a surprisingly active theatre life for a city of its size.
At the heart of the book is the daily calendar of performances, each entry of which includes date of performance, titles of main- and afterpieces, cast lists and roles enacted, scenery, costume, specialty acts, dances, songs, and other music, as well as commentary on theatre management and any other information that helps to illuminate the kind and scope of theatre entertainment available to Belfast audiences during the era.
Prefaced to the calendar are discussions of the location and architecture of the various playhouses; Belfast managers and their managerial policies; admission prices; audience behavior, the composition of the various acting companies; and the conditions of service of the actors. These introductory essays also provide an analysis of the seasonal repertory of the Belfast theatres and its relation to the repertories of the Dublin and London theatres.
The headnote to each section includes lists of all theatre personnel known to have worked in Belfast during that season, followed by biographical sketches of the actors. Particular attention is given to the biographies of Irish actors who performed in Belfast theatres since relatively little was known previously about their activities, and particularly about those who had not acted in London.
Appended to the calendar are several useful indexes: an author/play/performance date index; a complete list of Belfast actors, actresses, and other stage personnel, cross-referenced with roles (if specified) and performance dates; and a general index, which provides listings of songs, dances, and other entertainments.
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