John Street Theatre, situated at 15–21 John Street, sometimes called "The Birthplace of American Theatre,"was the first permanent theatre in the Financial District of Manhattan, New York. It opened on December 7, 1767, and was operated for several decades by the American Company. It closed on January 13, 1798.
The theatre was built by David Douglass (c. 1720 – 1786), an English actor who had emigrated to Jamaica in about 1750. There he met Lewis Hallam, leader of a touring theatrical company, and, after Hallam's death, married his widow.The newly married pair formed the American Company from Hallam's old company and toured the United States performing and, if it was necessary, erecting theatres, across America. Douglass had built two temporary theatres in New York - on Cruger's Wharf and on Beekman Street - but his third New York theatre, the John Street Theatre, was the city's first permanent playhouse.
The John Street Theatre was modelled after Douglass's own Southwark Theatre in Philadelphia (the first permanent theatre in the United States),which was itself modelled on the theatres of London. No pictures survive of the building's exterior, Dunlap described it as "principally of wood, an unsightly object, painted red." It was set 60 feet back from the street, with a wooden covered walkway from the pavement to the doors. Inside, it had two tiers of boxes, a pit and a gallery. The dressing rooms and greenroom were located in a neighbouring shed, although Dunlap speculates that these were originally under the stage. Its seating capacity was approximately 750.
John Street opened on 7 December 1767with a production of "The Beaux' Stratagem," and for 31 years was the only theatre in Manhattan.
From 1767 to 1774,the theatre was operated by the American Company, who gave New York its first performances of The Merchant of Venice , Macbeth , King John and Every Man in his Humour , as well as contemporary plays. The theatre was also the first to introduce "Blackface" performances to the United States, with Lewis Hallam Junior's blacked-up portrayal of Mungo in The Padlock , which premiered at John Street on 29 May 1769.
A party of nine Cherokee chiefs attended a performance of Richard III at the theatre on 14 December 1767 and were so pleased with the civility of their reception that they offered to perform a traditional Cherokee war-dance for a future audience: the offer was accepted, although the management, in their advertisements, requested that the audience behaved with proper decorum "as the persons who have condescended to contribute to their entertainment are of rank and consequence in their own country".
The theatre was forced to temporarily close in 1774 when the Continental Association banned the performance of stage plays, considering them to be "extravagance and dissipation". The American Company returned to the West Indies, where they had been founded.
In 1777, after the British forces captured New York during the American War of Independence, the city's British garrison took over the theatre and renamed it "Theatre Royal".The troops, under the direction of the infamous Major John André (who was eventually hanged for his part in the Benedict Arnold affair), staged plays to maintain morale during the British occupation. André was particularly known at the theatre for his scene-painting, which was much admired.
The British withdrew in 1783 and two years later The American Company returned to John Street Theatre, under the direction of Lewis Hallam Junior. Beginning with small 'Entertainments' the Company were soon performing full-scale productions at the theatre again.
During this period the Theatre gave New York its first productions of As You Like It , Much Ado About Nothing , The School for Scandal and The Critic . As well as Hallam, the theatre's regular cast included such well-known actors of the day as John Henry, Thomas Wignell, Elizabeth Walker Morris and Charlotte Melmoth.
In 1787 the theatre produced Ryall Tyler's The Contrast, in which a character, Jonathan, visits John Street Theatre, and mistakes a scene acted on the stage for a real-life family party. The play also includes a description of the theatre.
George Washington visited the theatre three times in 1789, watching The School for Scandal, The Clandestine Marriage and William Dunlap's Darby's Return.
Shortly before its closure, the theatre produced what is considered to be America's earliest musical- 'The Archers' (Subtitled 'The Mountaineers of Switzerland'). Written by Dunlap and Benjamin Carr, and based on the legend of William Tell, it ran for three performances from 18–22 April 1796.
John Hodgkinson, an English actor newly arrived in New York, joined the American Company in 1792. He soon became extremely popular with the public, alienating the theatre's managers and current stars, John Henry and Lewis Hallam Jr, leading to acrimonious arguments. Henry eventually resigned from the company in 1794 and Hallam left three years later, leaving Hodgkinson and William Dunlap as the theatre's managers.
The theatre building itself was growing shabby and was no longer considered prestigious enough for a city of New York's growing importance. In 1795 plans had been made to build a new theatre, Park Theatre, on Park Row, Manhattan. Hallam and Hodgkinson had, despite their differences, jointly acquired the lease of it, with the intention of the new theatre becoming the new home of the American Company. Construction was slow, but it eventually opened on 29 January 1798. The American Company transferred there, and remained at Park Theatre, under Dunlap's direction (Hodgkinson having himself resigned shortly after Hallam) until 1805.
Meanwhile, the John Street Theatre was rented to Sollee's theatrical company, from Boston, for the Autumn season of 1797. Sollee's cast included Eliza Arnold, mother of Edgar Allan Poe, and Elizabeth Whitlock, sister of Sarah Siddons. Afterwards, the American Company gave a last brief winter 1797/98 season at the theatre before moving to Park Theatre.
The John Street Theatre was used for the last time on 13 January 1798; after which Hallam sold it for £115to the neighbouring grain and hay store, who briefly used the building for an extension of their business.
It was demolished in late 1798.The Downtown New York branch of Brasserie Les Halles now occupies part of the site.
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1767.
Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats, located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Broadway and London's West End together represent the highest commercial level of live theater in the English-speaking world. While the thoroughfare itself has become eponymous with the district and its collection of 41 theatres, only three of the theatres are physically located on Broadway itself, the rest are located on the numbered cross streets extending from the Nederlander Theatre one block south of Times Square on West 41st Street, north along either side of Broadway to the Vivian Beaumont Theater, located outside of the Theater District on West 65th street, with the highest concentration of theaters located between 42nd Street and 49th Street. While exceptions exist, the term "Broadway theatre" is generally reserved for venues with a seating capacity of at least 500 people, smaller theaters are referred to as off-Broadway, while very small venues are called off-off-Broadway, a term that can also apply to non-commercial or avant garde theater, or productions held outside of traditional theater venues.
Theater in the United States is part of the European theatrical tradition that dates back to ancient Greek theater and is heavily influenced by the British theatre. The central hub of the American theater scene is New York City, with its divisions of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway. Many movie and television stars got their big break working in New York productions. Outside New York, many cities have professional regional or resident theater companies that produce their own seasons, with some works being produced regionally with hopes of eventually moving to New York. U.S. theater also has an active community theater culture, which relies mainly on local volunteers who may not be actively pursuing a theatrical career.
The Old American Company was an American theatre company. It was the first fully professional theatre company to perform in North America. It also played a vital role in the theatre history of Jamaica. It was founded in 1752 and disbanded in 1805. It was known as the Hallam Company (1752–1758), the American Company (1758–1785) and the Old American Company (1785–1805). With a few temporary exceptions, the Company enjoyed a de facto monopoly of professional theatre in the United States until 1790.
The Park Theatre, originally known as the New Theatre, was a playhouse in New York City, located at 21, 23, and 25 Park Row, about 200 feet (61 m) east of Ann Street and backing Theatre Alley. The location, at the north end of the city, overlooked the park that would soon house City Hall. French architect Marc Isambard Brunel collaborated with fellow émigré Joseph-François Mangin and his brother Charles on the design of the building in the 1790s. Construction costs mounted to precipitous levels, and changes were made in the design; the resulting theatre had a rather plain exterior. The doors opened in January 1798.
Lewis Hallam was an English-born actor and theatre director in the colonial United States.
Thomas Wignell was an English-born actor and theatre manager in the colonial United States.
The New York Vauxhall Gardens was a pleasure garden and theater in New York City. It was named for the Vauxhall Gardens of London. Though the venue passed through a long list of owners, and suffered buyouts, closings, relocations, and re-openings, it lasted until the mid-19th century.
Lewis Hallam Jr. was an England-born American actor and theater manager, son of Lewis Hallam, one of the pioneers of Theater in the United States, and Sarah Hallam Douglass. He was the leading actor of the Old American Company, at the time the only theater in America, and the manager of the same Company in 1779-1796.
The Federal Street Theatre (1793–1852), also known as the Boston Theatre, was located at the corner of Federal and Franklin streets in Boston, Massachusetts. It was "the first building erected purposely for theatrical entertainments in the town of Boston."
Mrs Charlotte Melmoth was an 18th-century English actress, the estranged 'wife' of British actor/writer Samuel Jackson Pratt, and known as "The Grande Dame of Tragedy on the Early American Stage" After a mildly-successful stage career in Great Britain and Ireland she emigrated to America in 1793 and became one of the best-known actresses of the late 18th/early 19th century.
John Hodgkinson was a well-known actor in the United States in the late 18th and early 19th century. He was born in England and came to the United States in 1792. William Dunlap and Hodgkinson managed the John Street Theatre together for a few years in the 1790s.
Isabella Mattocks was a British actress and singer.
John Henry was an Irish-born actor and early American actor and theatre manager.
Stephen Woolls (1729-1799) was an American actor and singer, and member of the American and Old American Company.
Sarah Hallam Douglass was an English-born American stage actress and theatre director.
Margaret Cheer, was an English-born American stage actress. She was engaged in the Old American Company, the first permanent theater company in America, and as such belonged to the first generation of pioneer actresses in North America.
Eliza Hallam née Tuke, was an American stage actress.
David Douglass (1720-1786), was a British-American stage actor and theatre manager. He was the managing director of the Old American Company between 1758 and 1779.
The Theatre on Nassau Street, or The New Theatre, was probably the first purpose-built theatre in Manhattan.