Tuesday, July 24, 2007


This is a blog about 19th-century theater, primarily meant for members of New Old Theater (http://www.newoldtheater.org/), an acting company dedicated to the revival of popular 19th-century drama and its conventions.

Above is a picture of Covent Garden circa 1815 -- I believe the play is Shakespeare's Henry V. Notice the positioning of actors downstage near the footlights, the extended postures of actors -- you can even tell which one is speaking at the moment -- the division of audience into pit, boxes and gallery, and the manner in which the audience is as much a matter for viewing as is the play. In our next production, featuring The Stage-Struck Yankee (1849) and Nahum Tate's The History of King Lear (1681), we will be working towards creating the feel, if not the plush surroundings, of this type of theatrical experience.

Please check my blog regularly for text of handouts, photos and drawings of 19th-century actors, material on stage conventions and announcements about our group.


Marc Rehr said...


Linda G. said...

I thought I was leaving a comment but it was an email. So here is my comment: Thanks for doing this! There is a lot of fascinating information here for the history buff and it is pleasing to the eye! Thanks also for helping promote New Old Theater.

Linda G. said...

Can you explain more about "gagging," the custom of an actor being able to perform without having fully memorized the lines? So it was OK for them to go up on their lines? How was this commonly handled? Thanks!

Buff Huntley said...

Marc, thank you for your compliment. It's nice to get them.

Linda, thank you too. I hope you get a chance to check out some of the links I put in here.

About "gagging," it was a lifesaver in a time when actors could be performing one play every evening, rehearsing a second, and perhaps learning a third in any spare time. Remember that actors would specialize in a character, a "line of business." So, to use a familiar genre, if you were to play heroines in fairy tales, and one week on stage you forgot your lines for Sleeping Beauty, you would be able to supply appropriate words from your experience as Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, etc. The stock character would be strong enough for you to supply substitutes for any lines that slipped your mind.
This was not encouraged, of course!