actor-manager

Definition

Theater

  • An actor who manages his own company, generally both directingand starring in its productions. This arrangement dominated the 19th-centuryEnglish stage, with the actor-managers Henry Irving and BeerbohmTree achieving particular prominence. Irving managed theLyceum Theatre with some 600 employees, while Tree managed three theaters,the comedy, the Haymarket, and Her Majesty's. The great actor-managers wereoften accused, with some reason, of mounting productions that were littlemore than showcases for their own bravura talents (the actor-manager wasdefined by one wit as a man to whom the part was always greater than the whole). The authority of actor-managers began to wane at the turn of the century withthe rise of independent non-acting directors. Notable 20th-century exceptionsto this trend include the appointment in 1944 of Olivier and Richardsonas co-directors of the Old Vic and Olivier's appointment in 1962 as directorof the National Theatre Company. The tradition of the actor-manager has morerecently been revived by Kenneth Branagh, whose Renaissance TheatreCompany toured widely in the late 1980s, and by Mark Rylance atShakespeare's Globe.
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