Take Our Word For It NOE No. 18
Feb 22, 2004 23:10 PST
Take Our Word For It NOE No. 18
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Once again we simply could not get even another encore issue of TOWFI up
this week with Melanie out. However, we at least were able to get a NOE
together for you.
**This Week's NOE**
We did some research for some friends who are promoting a vaudeville
show in the San Francisco Bay Area, the results of which we are sharing
with you here. (If you are or will be in the Bay Area and would like
more information about the show, drop us a line at
American vaudeville had its heyday during the second half of the 19th
century and into the first few decades of the 20th. It arose as demand
grew in America’s burgeoning cities for different forms of
entertainment. Theatre was already a mainstay and the use of theatre
houses for performances that went beyond traditional plays was only
natural. Vaudeville acts performed music, comedy, magic, acrobatics and
gymnastics, and there were even animal and novelty performances.
The father of American vaudeville was Tony Pastor. He was born in 1837,
in Brooklyn, New York. He first sang publicly at a temperance meeting
at the age of six, initiating a lifelong career in the entertainment
industry. He was a circus ringmaster by the age of 15 and then worked
as a clown until he reached his early 20’s. At the age of 23 he debuted
as a comic singer. In April 1861 he made a name for himself at the
American Concert Hall at 444 Broadway (known locally as the “444”) in
New York when, just as the Civil War was beginning, he closed his act
with “The Star Spangled Banner”. Thereafter he continued his fame with
his own topical songs, the material for which he culled from newspapers.
He opened his own opera house in 1865, and that same year he began Tony
Pastor’s Variety Show, a traveling troupe of minstrels that toured the
States into the 1890s. In 1875 he took over management of the
Metropolitan Theatre on Broadway, and it is there that he advertised
what was called "legitimate vaudeville", entertainment that could be
viewed by women and children in addition to the typical male audiences.
In 1881 he opened Tony Pastor’s New Fourteenth Street Theatre, which
came to be known simply as “Tony Pastor’s”. Variety shows ran there
until 1908, when audiences started heading to the theatres of Times
Square. Pastor’s venue became a movie theatre in 1908. Tony Pastor
died that same year.
Pastor is credited with not only solidifying the variety show as a
mainstay of American theatre, but also for supporting much of
vaudeville’s great talent of the late 19th century, and for making
vaudeville accessible to women and children.
Many of the early 20th century vaudevillians made the transition into
moving pictures. W.C. Fields, the Three Stooges, and even the Marx
Brothers got their starts in vaudeville. Today vaudeville is enjoying a
comeback in the United States. Interestingly, in the U.K. the term
vaudeville refers more to burlesque type shows; the British equivalent
to American vaudeville is known as music hall. The term vaudeville is
thought to derive ultimately from French vau de Vire, or “valley of the
[river] Vire”, located in Normandy. Songs from that part of France were
very popular in the 15th century, and they were often bawdy, satirical
or topical. Chansons du Vau de Vire “songs of the Vire Valley” was
shortened to Vau de Vire and then later corrupted via folk etymology to
voix de ville or “voice of the city”, a reference to the fact that such
songs often dealt with topics of the city. It was further corrupted to
vaudeville even before it came to be applied to variety shows. The word
first turns up in that form in written English in 1739, with the meaning
“a light popular song of a satirical or topical nature”. It was not
until the 19th century that it came to be applied to variety shows in
Don't stop sending us your funny stuff!
We hope to be back soon!
Until next time,
Take Our Word For It!
Melanie and Mike