the Beestons

Definition

Theater

  • The actor-manager Christopher Beeston (1570 - 1638), aleading figure in the early 17th-century English theater, and hisson William Beeston (1606 - 82), who also acted and managed.

    Christopher Beeston, who sometimes called himselfChristopher Hutchinson, made his stage debut with Strange's Men andprobably also appeared with the Lord Chamberlain's Men. In 1598 heappeared in Ben Jonson's Every Man In His Humour at London'sCurtain Theatre along with Shakespeare and Richard Burbage. In 1602Beeston performed with Worcester's Men and remained with the companywhen it became Queen Anne's Men a year later. He subsequentlybecame their business manager and in 1616 gave up acting to becomemanager of the Cockpit Theatre, which he converted into acovered private theater. He housed his old company at the venue andallowed others to lease it. Beeston owned two-thirds of the theater'sshares and began the practice according to which the theater manageralso owned the costumes and the playscripts. After it burned downin 1617, Beeston rebuilt the theater as the Phoenix and brought inPrince Charles's Men.

    Beeston was a close friend of Thomas Heywood, also of QueenAnne's Men, and put on several of his plays. After the plague of 1625had disrupted the profession, Beeston formed Queen Henrietta'sMen. He disbanded them when the plague returned in 1636, butthe following year obtained a royal warrant to bring together youngplayers as the King's and Queen's Boys, usually known simply as Beeston'sBoys (see boy companies).

    William Beeston, who had acted under his father,became master of the King's Company of boy players at Salisbury Courtbefore 1642. Following his father's death, he took over Beeston'sBoys and appeared with them at the Cockpit. After the closure of thetheaters during the Puritan Interregnum, he re-establishedthe company at Salisbury Court but was forced to close in 1649 whenthe army wrecked the interior. He was also imprisoned for stagingan unlicensed play. However, some suspected him of betraying actorsto the authorities (see an ill Beest).

    After the Restoration, he reopened Salisbury Court and leda company there until 1664. Beeston was therefore one of the few theatricalfigures to bring an essentially Elizabethan training into the Restorationera.

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