Today in theatre history–June 2–is the anniversary of the arrival in North America of the Hallam Troupe from London. Escaping the economic turmoil that was ravaging England at the time–putting severe pressure on the smaller theatre companies–the Hallams decided to give the New World a try. So in the spring of 1752 they left Portsmouth, bound for the Caribbean. After changing ships in Jamaica, they boarded a small coastal sloop called “The Charming Sally” and made their way up the eastern seaboard, landing in Williamsburg, VA, on this very day, June 2, 1752. Their arrival marked the first time a genuinely professional company of players appeared in the British North American colonies. While there were earlier cases of single performers (not to mention the Staggs who were actors indentured to Mr. Levingston of Williamsburg in 1716), the Hallams were the first actual commercial venture of professional players attempting to make a living touring in what would become the United States. And despite some troubles along the way, including occasional wars here and there and strong anti-theatrical sentiment among a certain percentage of the population, the Hallams made a go of it and formed the basis of the first successful professional theatre company ever in the U.S. The son, Lewis Hallam, Jr., would continue to perform and work as a leading actor and manager of the Park Theatre in New York City until his death in 1808.
- Today in Theatre History–THE FIRST AMERICAN-BORN ACTOR? WHO KNOWS?–March 13, 1790
- Today in Theatre History: WILLIAM WELLS BROWN’S “ESCAPE” LEAPS TO FAME–January 30, 1858
- Today in Theatre History: SHERIDAN’S FIRST PLAY, THE RIVALS, GETS A DO-OVER–January 28, 1775
- Today in Theatre History: OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD WITH DOROTHY AND IMOGENE THE COW–January 21, 1903
- Today in Theatre History: GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, “A THIRD RATE IBSEN”–January 9, 1905
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