touring company



  • A theater company that travels to different venues, eitherwith a single hit play or with a more varied repertory. This may beon a set circuit within range of its home city or theater,but often involves venturing into unknown territory. If the companyis financially secure, it may be accompanied by elaborate sceneryand its own technicians. Touring is as old as the early Western theater,being a feature of the 16th-century commedia dell'arte. BeforeWest End plays came to rely upon tourists, productions were oftentried out on provincial tours before they were seen in the capital.Likewise, many West End hits would subsequently tour the provincesrather than move to Broadway. In modern Britain touring companieshave proliferated with the decline of repertory companies.

    Noël Coward was a veteran tourer who often squabbledwith fellow actors on the road. One of the worst incidents occurredearly in his career, when he toured with Esme Wynn Stoj and ArnoldRaynor in Charlie's Aunt. The producer, knowing that Cowardwas a homosexual, insisted that he share a room with the actress asif he shared with Raynor this might give the company a bad name. Cowardand Stoj had their first row when he used her make-up; after severalfurther disagreements, she threw a punch at him backstage, knockinghim to the floor just before his entrance in Act III. Coward staggeredon stage and afterwards cornered Stoj in her dressing room, wherethe fist fight continued, with Coward getting much the worst of it.Only when Raynor dashed in and hit Stoj on the head with a hairbrushdid they all make up.