American Company

Definition

Theater

  • A US theater company that played a major part in the developmentof early American drama and had a virtual monopoly on US stage performancesfor many years. The company was assembled in 1763 - 64 in Charlestonby David Douglass from former members of the elder Hallam's troupe,including his widow and son (see Hallam family).It was soon housed in the John Street Theatre, New York, under thejoint management of John Henry, Lewis Hallam, and John Hodgkinson.In 1796 William Dunlap became manager after bringing in thefirst Joseph Jefferson (see Jefferson family) asthe leading actor. The company had no serious rival until 1794, whenTomas Wignell, their former leading man, formed his own troupe andopened the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

    The American Company was the first to stage a professionalproduction of a play by an American, Thomas Godfrey; his tragedy ThePrince of Parthia was presented for one night at the SouthwarkTheatre, Philadelphia, in 1767. The company's repertoire includedseveral by Dunlap, such as The Father; or, American Shandyism(1789) and André (1798). In 1798 it moved to New York'sPark Theatre but was disbanded in 1805 after Dunlap went bankruptand retired. The theater was taken over by a member of the company,Thomas Abthorpe Cooper.

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