An actor-manager is a leading actor who sets up their own permanent theatrical company and manages the business, sometimes taking over a theatre to perform select plays in which they usually star. It is a method of theatrical production used consistently since the 16th century, particularly common in 19th-century Britain and the United States.[ citation needed ]
The first actor-managers, such as Robert Browne, appeared in the late 16th century, to be followed by another Robert Browne (no relation) and George Jolly in the 17th century. In the 18th century, actor-managers such as Colley Cibber and David Garrick gained prominence. The system of actor-management generally produced high standards of performance, as demonstrated by such 19th-century actors as William Macready, Charles Wyndham, Henry Irving, Frank Benson and Herbert Beerbohm Tree, by husband-wife teams such as Squire Bancroft and Effie Bancroft, Frank Wyatt and Violet Melnotte, William Hunter Kendal and Madge Robertson Kendal and Thomas and Priscilla German Reed, and by women stars, such as Lucia Elizabeth Vestris, Selina Dolaro, Evelyn Millard, Sarah Bernhardt, Sarah Thorne, Gertrude Kingston, Emily Soldene, Laura Keene and Lydia Thompson, among many others.
In the 19th century, the negative reputation of actors was largely reversed, and acting became an honored, popular profession and art.The rise of the actor as celebrity provided the transition, as audiences flocked to their favorite "stars." A new role emerged for the actor-managers who formed their own companies and controlled the actors, the production, and the financing. When successful, they built up a permanent clientele that flocked to their productions. They could enlarge their audience by going on tour across the country, performing a repertoire of well-known plays, such as Shakespeare. The newspapers, private clubs, pubs and coffee shops rang with lively debates palming the relative merits of the stars of their productions. Henry Irving (1838–1905) was the most successful of the British actor-managers. Irving was renowned for his Shakespearean roles, and for such innovations as turning out the house lights so that attention could focus more on the stage and less on the audience. His company toured across Britain, as well as Europe and the United States, demonstrating the power of star actors and celebrated roles to attract enthusiastic audiences. His knighthood in 1895 indicated full acceptance into the higher circles of British society.
The 19th-century repertoire usually consisted of a combination of the works of Shakespeare, popular melodramas, and new dramas, comedies or musical theatre works. The era of the actor-manager was geared to star performances, such as Irving's role in the 1871 play The Bells .
The system of actor-management waned in the early 20th century, as actor-managers were replaced first by stage managers and later by theatre directors.In addition, the system of actor-management was adversely affected by factors such as the increasing cost of mounting theatrical productions, more corporate ownership of theatres, such as by the Theatrical Syndicate, Edward Laurillard and The Shubert Organization, a trend toward ensemble-style acting, and a move towards the financial security offered by long runs rather than rotating plays for a short period. After the end of World War II a combination of social, financial and technological factors, combined with the rising popularity of film and radio, lead to the diminishing of the actor-manager system, with its last two great exponents being Sir Donald Wolfit and Sir Laurence Olivier, both of whom were actively working within a (by then) old fashioned framework.
Though no longer the standard practice, modern actor-managers do exist and increasingly fringe work is being explored on this model as actors look to provide themselves with an artistic platform which they have the means to control. Examples include Kevin Spacey when he worked as the artistic director of the Old Vic in London, Samuel West when he briefly ran the Sheffield Crucibleand Kenneth Branagh in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company.
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree was an English actor and theatre manager.
Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh is a British actor and filmmaker. Branagh trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and has served as its president since 2015. He has won an Academy Award, four BAFTAs, two Emmy Awards, and a Golden Globe Award. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours and knighted on 9 November 2012. He was made a Freeman of his native city of Belfast in January 2018. In 2020, he was listed at number 20 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
Sir Squire Bancroft, born Squire White Butterfield, was an English actor-manager. He changed his name to Squire Bancroft Bancroft by deed poll just before his marriage. He and his wife Effie Bancroft are considered to have instigated a new form of drama known as 'drawing-room comedy' or 'cup and saucer drama', owing to the realism of their stage sets.
Sir Arthur Wing Pinero was an English playwright and, early in his career, actor.
Sir Donald Wolfit, KBE was an English actor-manager, known for his touring wartime productions of Shakespeare. He was especially renowned for his portrayal of King Lear.
Dame Alice Ellen Terry,, was a leading English actress of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray is a problem play by Arthur Wing Pinero. It utilises the "Woman with a past" plot, popular in nineteenth century melodrama. The play was first produced in 1893 by the actor-manager George Alexander and despite causing some shock to his audiences by its scandalous subject it was a box-office success, and was revived in London and New York in many productions during the 20th century.
Sir Henry Irving, christened John Henry Brodribb, sometimes known as J. H. Irving, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the West End’s Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as representative of English classical theatre. In 1895 he became the first actor to be awarded a knighthood, indicating full acceptance into the higher circles of British society.
The St James's Theatre was in King Street, St James's, London. It opened in 1835 and was demolished in 1957. The theatre was conceived by and built for a popular singer, John Braham; it lost money and after three seasons he retired. A succession of managements over the next forty years also failed to make it a commercial success, and the St James's acquired a reputation as an unlucky theatre. It was not until 1879–1888, under the management of the actors John Hare and Madge and W. H. Kendal that the theatre began to prosper.
Mrs. Warren's Profession is a play written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893, and first performed in London in 1902. The play is about a former prostitute, now a madam, who attempts to come to terms with her disapproving daughter. It is a problem play, offering social commentary to illustrate Shaw's belief that the act of prostitution was not caused by moral failure but by economic necessity. Elements of the play were borrowed from Shaw's 1882 novel Cashel Byron's Profession, about a man who becomes a boxer due to limited employment opportunities.
Sir George Alexander, born George Alexander Gibb Samson, was an English stage actor, theatre producer and theatre manager. After acting on stage as an amateur he turned professional in 1879 and, over the next eleven years, he gained experience with leading producers and actor-managers, including Tom Robertson, Henry Irving and Madge and W. H. Kendal.
Dame Madge Kendal, was an English actress of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, best known for her roles in Shakespeare and English comedies. Together with her husband, W. H. Kendal , she became an important theatre manager.
Sir John Hare, born John Joseph Fairs, was an English actor and theatre manager of the later 19th– and early 20th centuries.
Marie Effie Wilton, Lady Bancroft (1839–1921) was an English actress and theatre manager. She appeared onstage as Marie Wilton until after her marriage in December 1867 to Squire Bancroft, when she adopted his last name. Bancroft and her husband were important in the development of Victorian era theatre through their presentation of innovative plays at the London theatres that they managed, first the Prince of Wales's Theatre and later the Haymarket Theatre.
Thousands of performances of William Shakespeare's plays have been staged since the end of the 16th century. While Shakespeare was alive, many of his greatest plays were performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men and King's Men acting companies at the Globe and Blackfriars Theatres. Among the actors of these original performances were Richard Burbage, Richard Cowley, and William Kempe.
Over fifty films of William Shakespeare's Hamlet have been made since 1900. Seven post-war Hamlet films have had a theatrical release: Laurence Olivier's Hamlet of 1948; Grigori Kozintsev's 1964 Russian adaptation; a film of the John Gielgud-directed 1964 Broadway production, Richard Burton's Hamlet, which played limited engagements that same year; Tony Richardson's 1969 version featuring Nicol Williamson as Hamlet and Anthony Hopkins as Claudius; Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 version starring Mel Gibson; Kenneth Branagh's full-text 1996 version; and Michael Almereyda's 2000 modernisation, starring Ethan Hawke.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare has been performed many times since the beginning of the 17th century.
An actor or actress is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hupokritḗs), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of a role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. This can also be considered an "actor's role," which was called this due to scrolls being used in the theaters. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art.
Smallhythe Place in Small Hythe, near Tenterden in Kent, is a half-timbered house built in the late 15th or early 16th century and since 1947 cared for by the National Trust. The house was originally called 'Port House' and before the River Rother and the sea receded it served a thriving shipyard - in Old English hythe means "landing place".
Charles Doran was an Irish actor, one of the last of the touring actor-managers in the tradition of Frank Benson, John Martin-Harvey and Ben Greet. Among those who joined his company at the start of their careers were Cecil Parker, Ralph Richardson, Francis L Sullivan and Donald Wolfit.