Lyceum Theatre (Park Avenue South)

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Lyceum Theatre - Fourth Avenue 1885.jpg

The Lyceum Theatre was a theatre in New York City located in Manhattan on Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue S) between 23rd and 24th Streets. It was built in 1885 and operated until1902 when it was torn down to make way for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower. It was replaced by the Lyceum Theatre on 45th Street. For most of its existence, the theatre was home to Daniel Frohman’s Lyceum Theatre Stock Company, which presented many important plays and actors of the day.

Building[edit]

The three-story building’s auditorium was 75 feet (23 m) deep by 48.5 feet (14.8 m) wide, with a seating capacity of 727: boxes 88, parquet 344, dress circle 172, balcony 123. Thomas Edison is reported to have personally worked on making it the first theatre lighted entirely by electricity (not the first to use electric lights), and Louis Comfort Tiffany designed aspects of the interior. Not all new technologies lasted: for the first season the orchestra rode an "automatic elevator car" into the fly gallery to play in a gallery over the proscenium during performances, but the car was removed in the theatre’s second year. Ticket prices initially ranged from $1 to $2.50.[1][2]

Origins[edit]

Actor/playwright and theatre technology innovator Steele Mackaye and producer Gustave Frohman built the theatre as the base for the Lyceum School of Acting, to be run by them and Franklin H. Sargent. The school quickly became the New York School of Acting and then, by 1888, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA).[3][4] Sargent soon left and after six months Mackaye and Frohman were forced to sell their interests to benefit Tiffany and other creditors.[5] Actress Helen Dauvray then became manager, making her one of the first woman theatrical executives in the U.S. Gustave’s brother, the impresario Daniel Frohman, took over at the beginning of the theatre’s third season and stayed until it was demolished in 1902, when he established the Lyceum Theatre on 45th St.[6]

Lyceum Theatre Stock Company[edit]

Daniel Frohman ran the Lyceum Theatre Company, a stock company with a more or less constant troupe of actors performing several different plays each season. Frohman sought to introduce as many new, “modern plays” as possible. The plays reflected both the older melodrama style and the newer naturalistic or realistic style, common to the last decades before the motion picture era. The Lyceum Company also sent productions on the road with full complements of actors, sets, musicians, crew, and publicists. (Prior to this, lead actors tended to tour alone and work with local actors and musicians, with results of varying artistic quality.)[7][8] From 1886 until 1890, David Belasco worked for the Lyceum Company as stage manager (in today's terms, director or artistic director),[9] co-wrote three of the company’s productions with Henry Churchill de Mille, and taught at the acting school. In January 1899, three years before the old Lyceum shut down, Daniel Frohman moved the Lyceum Theatre Company to Daly’s Theatre.[10] He and his brother Charles Frohman continued to produce plays at the Lyceum after the stock company moved.[11]

Actors[edit]

Lyceum productions featured top American and English actors. Many later appeared in silent films.[12][13]

Among the married couples in the company were:

  • William Faversham and Julie Opp
  • James K. Hackett and Mary Mannering
  • Herbert Kelcey and Effie Shannon
  • Morton Selten and Kate Pattison-Selten
  • E.H. Sothern and Virginia Harned
  • Mr. and Mrs. Charles Walcot
  • Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Whiffen

Presentations[edit]

Over 80 plays were presented at the Lyceum, not counting dozens of benefits, concerts, lectures, amateur and student productions, short-stay touring performances, and revivals of these plays in repertory. (WP=world premiere, AP=American premiere.)[11][13][14][15][16]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Brown, A History of the New York Stage, p. 419-420.
  2. ^ Lyceum Theatre, Internet Broadway Database (ibdb.com).
  3. ^ Brown, A History of the New York Stage, pp. 419, 424.
  4. ^ Frohman, Memories of a Manager, p. 77.
  5. ^ Belasco, "My Life's Story", Mar. 1915, p. 321.
  6. ^ Brown, A History of the New York Stage, pp. 420, 422, 441.
  7. ^ Frohman, Memories of a Manager, pp. 132-136.
  8. ^ Wickham, A History of the Theatre, p. 209-210.
  9. ^ Winter, Life of Belasco, p. 313.
  10. ^ Frohman, Memories of a Manager, p. 75, 210.
  11. ^ a b Mantle and Sherwood, The Best Plays of 1899-1909, pp. 346-584.
  12. ^ Actors listed appeared in five or more of the main productions, i.e., those cited by Frohman in Memories of a Manager, pp. 205-211.
  13. ^ a b Brown, A History of the New York Stage, pp. 419-441.
  14. ^ These plays ran for at least 48 performances, or six weeks if performance data are not available. Opening Night dates are in the format MM/DD/YYYY.
  15. ^ Frohman, Memories of a Manager, pp. 205-211.
  16. ^ Chapman and Sherwood, The Best Plays of 1894-1899, pp. 83-260.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Belasco, David, "My Life's Story", Hearst's Magazine, serialized, vols. 24-28, Mar. 1914-Dec. 1915.
  • Brown, Thomas Allston, A History of the New York Stage From the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, vol. III, (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company), 1903.
  • Chapman, John, and Garrison P. Sherwood, eds., The Best Plays of 1894-1899, (New York: Dodd, Mead, & Company), 1955.
  • Frohman, Daniel, ‘’Memories of a Manager: Reminiscences of the Old Lyceum and of Some Players of the Last Quarter Century,’’ (London [printed in NY]: W. Heinemann), 1911.
  • Mantle, Burns, and Garrison P. Sherwood, eds., The Best Plays of 1899-1909, (Philadelphia: The Blakiston Company), 1944.
  • Wickham, Glynne, A History of the Theatre, 2nd Edition, (London: Phaedon Press Limited), 1999.
  • Winter, William, ed. by William Jefferson Winter, The Life of David Belasco, Volume 1, (New York: Moffat, Yard), 1918.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°44′26″N 73°59′09″W / 40.74048°N 73.98596°W / 40.74048; -73.98596