tent show

Definition

Theater

  • In America, a travelling company that staged plays under canvas.One of the first tent shows was that organized in 1851 by FayetteLodowick 'Yankee' Robinson in the Midwest states of Iowa and Illinois.Before the turn of the century, such outdoor offerings as the HarleySadler Show had become popular summer entertainment. Known humorouslyas rag opries, the plays were performed in a tent about 60feet wide on portable platform stages with basic props and scenery;the audience sat on wooden benches.

    The earlier tent shows generally produced pirated or poorlyrewritten melodramas, but the advent of tougher copyright laws forcedthem to commission original plays, mostly dealing with rural themes.A popular moralistic work was Charles Harrison's Saintly Hypocritesand Honest Sinners (1915). Many comedies were written featuringthe rustic hero Toby. By the late 1920s, some 400 tent showswere drawing an audience of around 78 million. The shows were doomed,however, by the Depression of the 1930s and the growth of cinema.

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