This document was written by Arthur Hornblow and originally published in A History of the Theatre in America, Vol. 1. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1919. pp. 66-87.

Meantime the eyes of shrewd English theatre managers and actors turned longingly in the direction of America. Glowing, if not altogether truthful, accounts of the success of John Moody's company of players in the West Indies had circulated along London's Rialto. The Colonies were well populated, highly prosperous, and growing rapidly in importance. Such a country might well become the players' Eldorado!

William Hallam, a London actor-manager, conceived the bold idea of organizing a completely equipped company of players and sending it across the Atlantic. With a view of preparing the way he entrusted one Robert Upton with the mission of proceeding to America to find what could be done about securing or erecting theatres, and advanced him a considerable sum of money for that purpose. Upton may be regarded, therefore, as the first of that long line of genial press gentry who have added, and continue to add, to the gaiety of theatricals in these parts. But Upton did not prove a faithful ambassador. Instead of working in Hallam's interests, he sought only to serve himself. "On his arrival," complains Hallam in an open letter of protest, "Upton found here that set of pretenders with whom he joined and, unhappily for us, quite neglected the business he was sent about from England. For we never heard of him after."

This "set of pretenders" was undoubtedly the Murray and Kean company which Upton found acting here on his arrival. There had been dissensions in the ranks of the organization, and Upton, evidently none too scrupulous in the matter of business ethics, easily prevailed on some of the Kean players to join forces with him, among them being the widow Osborne, Mr. Leigh or Lee and Mr. Tremain.

Upton went to New York at the head of the company thus organized and opened at the Nassau Street Theatre December 26, 1751, with "Othello," Upton himself appearing in the title role. The tragedy was followed by Garrick's farce "Lethe." [1] Later bills included "The Fair Penitent," [2] "The Honest Yorkshireman," "Tunbridge Walks," "Venice Preserved," "Richard III," "The Lying Valet," and "The Provoked Husband."

But the engagement did not prove a success and after the third week Upton came out with a card, announcing that the owing to lack of public support he would bring the season to a close by giving a few benefits, beginning with his own. At that period, it was usual for the actor taking a benefit to make a personal call on the leading citizens and solicit their patronage. To encourage a good attendance, Upton begged the public to remember that he was an absolute stranger and "if in his application he should have omitted any Gentleman or Lady's House or Lodging, he humbly hopes they'll impute it to want of information, not of respect."

On February 20 what was announced as "absolutely the last performance" took place, the bill being "Venice Preserved," but on March 2 and 4 the theatre was again opened, the last bill consisting of "The Fair Penitent" and "Honest Yorkshireman," followed by a farewell epilogue by Mr. Upton. A few days later, Mr. and Mrs. Upton sailed for England.

We must now go back twelve months and return to William Hallam who was still in London awaiting word from Upton. None being forthcoming, Hallam determined, nevertheless, to go on with his proposed venture and made his final preparations to cross the Atlantic with a dramatic company.

The historian Dunlap, wedded to the erroneous notion that the Hallams were the first professional players to act in the Colonies, has conferred upon William Hallam the title "Father of the American Stage." To that honor William Hallam is not entitled, for, as we have seen, he did not introduce the drama in this country. But his name deserves to be perpetuated in American theatrical annals as the first theatrical manager who had the courage and ability to organize and equip a company and send it all the way from England to America, an undertaking which in those days was of no mean proportions.

The players that we have seen already acting here were either recruited in this country or came from the West Indies, a comparitively short journey. To come all the way from England in those days of precarious shipping facilities, of a venture of the success of which was problematical, was a very different matter. It needed the courage of a gambler. But Hallam saw or thought he saw an opportunity not to be neglected and he seized it.

The coming of the Hallams is an episode of great importance in the history of the American theatre, not because they were the first professional players to appear in this country (which they were not) but because the manner of their organization, the extent and quality of their repertoire, the general excellence of the company marked the first attempt to put the drama in this country on a dignified and permanent footing. In this sense the Hallams may be said to have been "the first to introduce the drama in America." Lewis and Mrs. Hallam were players of ability and standing in London, each individual member of the troupe was a capable, well-disciplined player, and the organization formed a homogeneous whole. The plays presented included practically everything that London was applauding at the time, from the stately tragedies of Shakespeare, Addison and Rowe, to the brilliant comedies of Congreve, Farquhar and Steele. The repertoire, which might well put that of any modern stock company to shame, comprised "not only the best works in a dramatic sense," says Seilhamer, "but the purest plays the English stage had produced up to that time. The dramatists were men with a few exceptions whose fame will form a part of the glory of English dramatic literature until the world ceases to prize English letters." [3]

It is indisputable that no matter how well other players had previously filled the bill, it was not until the advent of the Hallams that the drama received that impetus and public recognition which allowed of its fullest and best development in new and almost virgin territory.

Hallam's company was far superior to any that had preceded it. "Mrs. Hallam," says Judge Daly, "was not only a beautiful woman but an actress of no ordinary merit." He continues:

"Hallam was himself an excellent comedian, and two other members of the company, Rigby and Malone, were actors of established reputation upon the London boards. The arrival of a complete company like this, who were not only practised in their art, but amply provided before their departure with dresses and all that was necessary for effective dramatic representation, was something too formidable to contend against. They seem, therefore, to have entirely supplanted the early pioneers of whom nothing further is known except that some of their number, Murray, Tremain, Scott and Miss Osborne played in Hallam's original company afterward when it was under the management of Douglass." [4]

Who were the Hallams? There name does not loom large in the annals of the English theatre. Genest, in his very complete "History of the London Stage," makes only casual reference to them, and H. Barton Baker, a more recent historian, does not mention them at all, which might indicate that they were players of only second or even third-rate importance.

Adam Hallam, the father of William, was an actor at Covent Garden. His second wife, Anne Hallam, was a relative of Rich, the manager of Covent Garden, and it is hinted Adam Hallam obtained his engagement at that house only through his wife's influence. He never attained any particular prominence as an actor, but played acceptably such rôles as Worthy in "The Recruiting Officer," Malcolm in "Macbeth," Laertes in "Hamlet," etc. Finally, he became a pensioner on the managers, taking a benefit in 1746. He had five sons, William, Lewis, George and Thomas, all actors, and another son, a naval officer. Thomas Hallam was accidentally killed by the celebrated Charles Macklin. The two actors were friends, but had a dispute one night over a wig which Macklin had worn the previous evening. In his excitement Macklin ran a stick into Hallam's eye and the actor died the next day. Macklin was convicted of manslaughter, but evidently escaped with light punishment for shortly afterward, in 1741, he made himself famous by playing Shylock for the first time as a serious character.

While it is on the record that William Hallam acted occasionally, he was known as a manager rather than as an actor. The story told regarding him by Dunlap has been discredited by more recent investigators, but it is worth giving here not only because is sounds plausible, but because Dunlap is supposed to have obtained his information from Lewis Hallam the second, a nephew of William Hallam, who was living in Dunlap's lifetime (1766-1839) and known to many as "old Mr. Hallam." The story, in Dunlap's own words, is as follows:

"Garrick reached the summit of his fame about 1745. He had been rejected by Fleetwood and Rich, managers of Drury Lane and Covent Garden, in 1741, and after a probation at Ipswich he was received and fostered at the theatre of Goodmans' Fields by his friend Giffard, the predecessor, as proprietor and manager of that place of entertainment, of William Hallam. In consequence of Garrick's success, Goodmans' Fields theatre became the centre of attraction. Drury Lane and Covent Garden were deserted. At the end of the season of 1742, Fleetwood was glad to engage both manager and actor. Giffard, now befriended by Garrick, was invited to Drury Lane, and William Hallam succeeded Giffard at Goodmans' Fields, becoming the proprietor of Garrick's cradle, rendered famous but unprofitable from the circumstance of having had such a nursling. Drury Lane flourished, but the successor of Giffard and Garrick became bankrupt in 1750. This event led to the voyage (to America) planned by the Manager (William Hallam) and executed by his brother Lewis, the father of that Lewis Hallam who is remembered still as "Old Mr. Hallam."

Seilhamer, a later historian than Dunlap, and one who has shown himself more reliable than his predecessor in the matter of dates, insists that there is no foundation for the story. He says: "After Giffard's retirement in 1742 the Goodman's Fields Theatre was closed and there is no record in Genest's remarkably full 'History of the London Stage' of Hallam's management between that time and 1750." He continues:

It is not unlikely, however, that Mr. Hallam was in some sense the manager of another theatre in Goodman's Fields, described as "at the Wells" in Lemon Street. Giffards was in Ayliffe Street. Adam Hallam, father of William and Lewis Hallam, had a benefit at the Wells Theatre in March, 1746. A Mrs. Hallam played there in legitimate roles in the autumn and winter of 1746-- Genest notes that at this time there were three Hallams engaged at the theatre in Goodman's Fields (which was not the Goodman's Fields theatre), Hallam, Sr., L. Hallam, and G. Hallam. There is no mention of W. Hallam, but he may have been the manager then, as he certainly was ten years later, as appears from a scrap record of the old Sadler's Wells Theatre. This is all the more probable since on the 5th of September, 1751, exactly one year before the first appearance of the Hallam company in America, Mrs. Hallam had a benefit at the Lemon Street house, appearing as Desdemona, while Lewis Hallam played Roderigo. This is clearly the Lewis Hallam who was soon to sail for America, and the Desdemona, it may be assumed with safety, was his wife." [5]

After sifting all the evidence available, one is inclined to conclude that the Hallams were players of experience and ability, but of no very conspicuous talent, who had not succeeded in making any great headway on the London stage and so eagerly welcomed the suggestion made by William Hallam, the shrewd backer of the enterprise, that they pool their interests and try their fortunes in America. Dunlap tells us how the company was organized, and, as he got his information from one of the Hallams, we can count on its being fairly accurate:

Lewis and his wife having consented to cross the Atlantic and seek their fortunes in what might then not improperly be called the western wilderness, the ex-manager's next step was to find suitable persons to fill up the corps dramatique and to induce them to join his brother and sister in this theatrical forlorn hope. He succeeded in enlisting a good and efficient company willing to leave their country (and perhaps their creditors) and fitted to ensure success to the perilous adventure. The emigrants were next assembled at the house of William Hallam; a list of stock plays produced by him, with attendant farces and the cast of the whole agreed upon in full assembly by the body politic, which appears to have been a well-organized republic, every member of which had his part assigned to him both private and public, behind and before the curtain. Lewis Hallam was appointed manager, chief magistrate or king, and William, who stayed at home, was to be "Viceroy over him." The brothers were to divide profits equally after deducting the expenses and shares. Thus William was entitled to half of such profits as projector and proprietor, and Lewis the other half as manager.

The company consisted of twelve adult members and three children of Lewis Hallam--Lewis the second, Adam and a daughter. Lewis Hallam, who was a low comedian, headed the company. Mrs. Hallam was leading lady. Mr. Rigby played leading rôles in tragedy and comedy. Mrs. Rigby was of no great prominence in the company. Mr. and Mrs. Clarkeson played utility. Miss Palmer, Mr. Singleton, Mr. Herbert, Mr. Wynell, Mr. Adcock and Mr. Malone completed the organization.

The playes chosen for the repertoire were the most popular pieces on the London stage at the time. They included "Hamlet," "The Merchant of Venice," "Richard III," by Shakespeare; "The Beaux Stratagem," "The Constant Couple," "Inconstant," "The Recruiting Officer" and "Twin Rivals" by Farquhar; "The Careless Husband," by Cibber; "Committee," by Howard; "The Conscious Lovers," by Steele; "The Fair Penitent," "Tamerlane" and "Jane Shore" by Rowe; "George Barnwell," by Lillo; "The Provoked Husband," [6] by Vanbrugh; "Suspicious Husband," by Hoadly; "Theodosius," by Lee; "Woman's a Riddle," by Bullock; together with a number of farces including "Lethe," "Lying Valet," "Miss in Her Teens," by Garrick; "The Mock Doctor," by Fielding; "Damon and Phillida," by Cibber.

With this repertoire and one pantomime "Harlequin Collector or the Miller Deceived," the adventurers set sail in the good ship Charming Sally, Captain Lee, master, early in May, 1752.

We must leave the Hallam company en-route for the New World and return to the Murray-Kean troupe which, it will be remembered, closed their New York season on June 17, 1751.

On leaving New York, the company immediately made its way South, no doubt by pre-arrangement with Kean, who, as we have seen, had taken a benefit two months previously when he publicly announced his intention to leave the boards for good. In view of this formal adieu to the stage, and the fact that Kean was still with the company when it reached Virginia, we are perhaps justified in inferring that his "adieu" was not intended to be taken any more seriously than many of the "farewells" of our present day, and that the two months which intervened between the time the tragedian left his colleagues in New York and the appearance of the company in Williamsburg, Va., were spent by him in planning and promoting the Virginia tour.

Mr. Woodham, an actor of the company who, it will be recalled, sang an ode entitled Britain's Charter at Kean's benefit in New York, probably invested some money in the Virginia venture, for, directly the company reached Williamsburg, we find his name heading the managerial firm of Woodham, Murray and Kean.

In the Virginia Gazette for August 29, 1751, appeared the following announcement:

By permission of His Honour the President (of the Council, who was acting Governor), Whereas the Company of Comedians that are in New York intend performing in this City, but there being no Room suitable for a Play-House, tis propos'd that a Theatre shall be built by way of Subscription, each Subscriber advancing a Pistole [7] to be entitled to a Box Ticket for the first Night's Diversion.

Those Gentlemen and Ladies who are kind enough to favour this undertaking are desired to send their Subscription Money to Mr. Finnie's, at the Raleigh, where Tickets may be had.

N.B. The House to be completed by October Court.

The Finnie mentioned in the advertisement was probably Kean's backer, because when a year later the Hallams came to Williamsburg and secured the theatre it was one Alexander Finnie who transferred the property to them. The plot selected by Kean for his theatre was on "two lots on the Eastern side of the Eastern Street (Waller Street) just back of the Capitol. On this the new playhouse was erected, the deed being dated September 2, 1751," [8] the promoters promising to have the house ready by the October Court when the town would be crowded with visitors and generous patronage was assured.

On October 21, 1751, the Gazette contained this brief account of the opening of the new playhouse:

On Monday a Company of Comedians opened at the New Theatre near the Capitol in Williamsburg with "King Richard III" and a tragic dance composed by Monsieur Denoier called "The Royal Captive."

This is all we know of that engagement. The company's stay in Williamsburg, like that of the Hallams a year later, was exceedingly brief. Although the capital of the Province, Williamsburg in those times was little bigger than a good sized village of our own day. The theatregoing population was nowhere large enough to warrant a prolonged stay.

After a few additional performances, the company announced its departure as follows:

The Company of Comedians intend to be at Petersburg by the middle of next month and hope that the Gentlemen and Ladies who are Lovers of Theatrical Entertainment will favour them with their company.

Meantime dissension had arisen in the company which resulted in three members, the widow Osborne, Mr. Leigh and Mr. Tremain, leaving the organization to join Mr. Upton.

Later the Woodham, Murray, Kean company went to Norfolk, Va., and in the spring were back in Williamsburg, as may be seen from the following advertisement in the Gazette of April 17, 1752:

By Permission of his Honour the Governor
At the New Theatre in Williamsburg
For the Benefit of Mrs. Beccely.
On Friday being the 24th of this Inst
Will be performed a comedy called the
"Constant Couple"
or a
"Trip to the Jubilee"
The part of Sir Harry Wildair will be Performed
by Mr. Kean
Colonel Standard
by Mr. Murray
and the part of Angelica to be performed
by Mrs. Becceley
With Entertainment of Singing between the Acts.

The company played at Hobb's Hole, as Tappahannock was then called, from May 10 to 24, and in Fredericksburg during the "June Fair." This was their final appearance in the Colony.

No doubt from a desire to avoid competition with the new London company, which landed at Yorktown in June, 1752, and the coming of which had already been heralded, Messrs. Murray and Kean wisely decided to leave Virginia to the Hallams and went to Annapolis, Md., where, under the high sounding name "Company of Comedians from Virginia," they opened June 18, 1752, with "The Beggar's Opera" and the farce "The Lying Valet."

The Maryland Gazette contained the following announcement:

By Permission of his Honour the President
At the New Theatre in Annapolis
By the Company of Comedians
On Monday next, being the 13th of this inst. July
1752, will be performed a comedy called,
"The Beaux Stratagem."
Likewise a farce called
"The Virgin Unmasked."
To begin Precisely at 7 o'clock
Tickets: Box 10 shillings, Pit 7 and 6 pence, gallery 5/ --

Annapolis at that time was the capital of the Colony and like Williamsburg, a busy, thriving town. The leading officials of the Province resided there and it was a popular resort with the wealthy planters. As elsewhere in the South, there was no local prejudice against the drama. The inhabitants were people of taste and culture. The theatre as a social institution became popular soon after the beginning of the century and continued to thrive there for many years.

Kean, still headed the company in Annapolis, appearing in all his principal rôles. Others who still remained were Messrs. Murray and Scott and Miss Osborne. New names on the list were Mr. Ryanson and Mssrs. Wynell and Herbert. These last two were Hallam players who joined the company later. The repertoire was practically the same as in New York, including the addition to the opening bill "The Busybody," "The Beaux' Stratagem," "The Virgin Unmasked," "The Recruiting Officer" and "The Mock Doctor." This organization remained intact for over twenty years, changing its name as it moved from place to place. Thus, in New York it was known as the "Comedians from Philadelphia"; in Willimasburg as the "Comedians from New York." Later the company visited Upper Marlborough, Piscataway and Port Tobacco, then places of wealth and consequence in Maryland, where it was known as the "Comedians from Annapolis." On one occasion, it ventured to bill itself as the "New" American Company (in competition with the Hallams who styled themselves "the American Company"). "These facts not only prove," says Seilhamer, "that the Hallam company was not the first regularly organized theatrical company in this country, but that the American Company, so called, was never without a rival south of the Chesapeake."

Lewis Hallam and his company arrived safely at Yorktown, Va., early in June, 1752, after six weeks' passage. The time spent on the water was not wasted, for the plays which had been selected, cast and put in study before embarkation were regularly rehearsed during the voyage. On reaching Yorktown, the players proceeded at once to Williamsburg where application was made to Governor Dinwiddie for permission to act. A few days before the arrival of the London thespians the Virginia planters were put on the tiptoe of expectation by the following announcement in the Gazette:

This is to inform the Public that Mr. Hallam, from the New Theatre in Goodmansfield, London, is daily expected here with a select Company of Comedians; the Scenes, Cloaths, and Decorations are entirely new, extremely rich, and finished in the highest taste; the Scenes, being painted by the best Hands in London, are excelled by none in Beauty and Elegance, so that the Ladies and Gentlemen may depend on being entertain'd in as polite a Manner as at the Theatres in London, the Company being perfect in all the best Plays, Operas, Farces and Pantomimes that have been exhibited in any of the Theatres for these ten years past.

On his arrival in Williamsburg, Hallam's first step was to secure a theatre. Dunlap tells us that he eventually found some sort of a storehouse in the suburbs and altered it to suit his purpose. But this is apparently another of the many statements from the same source for which there seems to be no foundation. The Woodham, Murray, Kean company, it will be recalled, had built a theatre in Williamsburg two years previously. It would have been strange if Hallam had overlooked this new house, ready made to his hand, or preferred to it an old storehouse involving considerable outlay for alterations. On this point we cannot ask for better testimony than that of the Gazette. Its issue of August 21, 1752, makes it quite plain that Hallam altered the existing playhouse. An announcement in the paper reads:

The Company lately from London have altered the Playhouse to a regular theatre fit for the reception of Ladies and Gentlemen and the execution of their own performance, and will open on the first Friday in September with a play called "The Merchant of Venice," written by Shakespeare. Ladies engaging seats in the boxes are advised to send their servants [9] early on the day of the performance to hold them and prevent trouble and disappointment.

The theatre was the same occupied by the Woodham, Murray, Kean company the previous year. This house, it will be remembered, was situated on the eastern side of the Eastern Street (Waller Street) just back of the capitol. One Benjamin Waller owned the land originally on Eastern Street. He sold two lots to Alexander Finnie. On these lots Kean and his fellow managers had erected the Playhouse in 1751. After Kean's departure, the property continued in Finnie's name till it transfers to Lewis Hallam. But it appears that neither Finnie nor Kean nor Hallam paid for the lots, for in 1754 Benjamin Waller, who "has entered for default upon the property on East Street whereon the Playhouse stands," sold the same to John Stretch, printer.

On Lewis Hallam's arrival in Williamsburg he "obtained from finnie a transfer of the lots on which the theatre stood and altered it at great expense" into a regular theatre. The building was a homely, wooden structure resembling a tobacco barn and stood on the edge of woods which, at that time, came up to Eastern or Waller Street. [10] The house was so near the woods, Dunlap tells us, that the manager could stand in the door and shoot pigeons for his dinner.

A week before the opening, the Gazette gave the complete program of the coming première, which in those days would naturally be a social event of considerable importance. It read as follows:

By permission of the Hon. Robert Dinwiddie, Esq., His
Majesty's Lieutenant Governor and Commander in
Chief of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia
By a Company of Comedians from London
At the Theatre in Williamsburg
On Friday next, being the 15th of September, will be
presented a Play Call'd
"The Merchant of Venice"
(Written by Shakespeare)
The part of Antonio (the Merchant) to be perform'd
By Mr. Clarkson.
Gratiano, by Mr. Singleton.
Lorenzo (with songs in character) by Mr. Adcock.
The Part of Bassanio to be perform'd by Mr. Rigby.
Duke, by Mr. Wynell.
Salanio, by Mr. Herbert.
The Part of Launcelot by Mr. Hallam.
And the Part of Shylock (the Jew) to be perform'd by
Mr. Malone.
The Part of Nerissa by Mrs. Adcock.
Jessica, by Mrs. Rigby.
and the Part of Portia to be perform'd by Mrs. Hallam.
With a new occasional Prologue.
To which will be added a Farce, call'd
"The Anatomist,"
"Sham Doctor."
The Part of Monsieur le Medecin by Mr. Rigby.
And the Part of Beatrice by Mrs. Adcock.
No Persons whatsoever to be admitted behind the Scenes. Boxes, 7s. 6d. Pit and Balconies, 5s. 9d. Gallery 3s. 9d. To begin at Six o'Clock. Vivat Rex!

It will be noted that the above bill, copied from the Williamsburg newspaper of the day, gives the date of the opening performance as September 15 and the title of the concluding farce as "The Anatomist." Dunlap, Seilhamer and other historians tell us that the date was September 5 and the concluding piece Garrick's "Lethe." Here we have another instance where assertions have been made without the correctness of the statements first being verified. There can be no question as to the exact date, nor as to the title of the afterpiece, since both are matters of public record. Such errors may appear trifling, but to the dramatic student, seeking only the facts regarding the early history of the theatre in this country, correctness in dates and titles is important.

The only account we have of the reception the English players received and the impression they made is the following brief mention in the Virginia Gazette of September 22, 1752:

On Friday last the company of Comedians from England opened the theatre in this City, when "The Merchant of Venice" and "The Anatomist" were performed, before a numerous and polite audience, with great Applause.

Some idea of what house and audience looked like on the occasion of this memorable première may be had from the description given by John Esten Cooke in his novel "The Virginia Comedians." It is only fiction, but it serves as an acceptable pen picture of the actual scene and no doubt is pretty faithful to the original:

Within, the playhouse presented a somewhat more attractive appearance. There was a "box," "pit," and "gallery," as in our own day; and the relative prices were arranged in much the same manner. The common mortals--gentlemen and ladies--were forced to occupy the boxes, raised slightly above the level of the stage and hemmed in by velvet-cushioned railings--in front of a flower-decorated panel extending all around the house--and for this position they were moreover compelled to pay an admission fee of seven shillings and sixpence. The demigods--so to speak--occupied a more eligible position in the "pit," from which they could procure a highly excellent view of the actors' feet and ankles, just on a level with their noses; to conciliate the demigods this superior advantage had been offered, and the price for them was further still reduced to five shillings. But "the gods," in truth, were the real favorites of the manager. To attract them, he arranged the high upper "gallery," and left it untouched, unencumbered by railings, velvet cushions, or any other device; all was free space and liberal as the air; there were no troublesome seats for "the gods," and three shillings and ninepence all that the manager would demand. The honor of their presence was enough. . . . From the boxes a stairway led down to the stage, and some rude scenes, visible at the edges of the curtain, completed the outfit.

When Mr. Lee and his two daughters (characters in the novel) entered the box, which had been reserved for them next to the stage, the house was nearly full and the neatness of the edifice was lost sight of in the sea of brilliant ladies' faces and showy forms of cavaliers which extended, like a sea of glittering foam, around the semi-circle of the boxes. The pit was occupied by well-dressed men of the lower class as the times had it, and from the gallery proceeded hoarse murmurs and the unforgotten slang of London. Many smiles and bows were interchanged between the parties in the different boxes, and the young gallants, following the fashion of the day, gathered at each end of the stage, and often walked across to exchange some polite speech with the smiling dames in the boxes nearest. After the orchestra, "consisting of three or four foreign-looking gentlemen, bearded and moustached," had done what they could in the way of preliminary entertainment, the manager came forward in the costume of Bassanio and recommended himself and his company to the "aristocracy of the great and noble colony of Virginia." The curtain slowly rolled aloft, and the young gallants scattered to the corners of the stage, seating themselves on stools or chairs, or standing.

For this memorable première Mr. Singleton, who played Gratiano and who, in addition to being a good actor, had considerable talent as a poet [11], had written a prologue especially for the occasion, which was recited by Mr. Rigby. As the first prologue [12] spoken in America, it is worth reprinting here if only as a matter of record:

O For the tuneful Voice of Eloquence,
Whose Numbers flow with Harmony and Sense,
That I may soar above the common Wing,
In lively strains the grateful Subject sing;
To celebrate the laural'd Poet's Fame,
And thro' the world the Stage's Use Proclaim.
To charm the Fancy, and delight the Soul,
To deal Instruction, without harsh Controul,
To cultivate (by pleasing Arts) the Mind,
To win the Reason, and with Wit refin'd
To check each Error and reform Mankind.
For this the Bard, on Athen's Infant Stage,
At first produc'd the Drama's artful Page;
At once to please and Satyrize he knew,
And all his Characters from Nature drew;
Without Restriction then, as Nature taught,
The Player acted, and the Poet wrote;
The Tragic Muse did Honour to the State,
And in a Mirrour taught them to be great;
The Comick too, by gentle means reprov'd;
Lash'd every Vice, and every Vice remov'd:
For tho' the Foible, or the Crime she blam'd,
Smil'd on the Man, and with a Smile reclaim'd.
Thus was the Grecian Stage, the Romans too;
When e'er they wrote, had Virtue in their View:
In this politer age, on British ground,
The sprightly Scenes, with Wit and Sense abound,
The brilliant Stage with vast Applause is crown'd
And Shouts of Joy thro' the whole House resound;
Yet not content to bear so great a Name,
The Muse still labor'd to encrease her Fame;
Summ'd her Agents quickly to appear,
Haste to Virginia's Plains, my Sons, repair,
The Goddess said, Go, confident to find
An audience sensible, polite and kind.
We heard and strait obey'd; from Britain's shore
These unknown Climes advent'ring to explore:
For us then, and our Muse, thus low I bend,
Nor fear to find in each the warmest Friend;
Each smiling aspect dissipates our Fear,
We ne'er can fail of kind Protection here;
The Stage is ever Wisdom's fav'rite Care;
Accept our Labours then, approve our Pains,
Your smiles will please as equal to our Gains;
And as you all esteem the Darling Muse,
Then gen'rous Plaudit you will not refuse.

Lewis Hallam, Jr. (1740-1808)Dunlap draws attention to the fact that the occasion marked the first appearance on any stage of the younger Lewis Hallam, then a boy of twelve. He played the servant to Portia and had only one line to speak but when he found himself in presence of the audience he became panic stricken. He stood motionless and speechless until, bursting into tears, he walked off the stage. This was the inglorious debut of an actor who was a great favorite in tragedy and comedy for nearly half a century.

It is not known how frequently performances were given during this first Williamsburg engagement or what the bills were. The only reference to the company, subsequent to the opening, to be found in the newspapers of the day, is in a Williamsburg letter to the Maryland Gazette of November 9, 1752. In this letter the correspondent describes the visit of a number of Indian chiefs to the theatre. He says:

The Emperor of the Cherokee nation with his Empress and their son, the young Prince, attended by several of his warriors and Great Men and their Ladies, were received at the Palace by his Honour the Governor, attended by such of the Council as were in Town, on Thursday, the 9th inst., with all the marks of Courtesy and Friendship, and were that evening entertained at the theatre with The Tragedy of "Othello" and a Pantomime Performance which gave them great surprise, as did the fighting with naked Swords on the Stage, which occasioned the Empress to order some about her to go and prevent them killing one another.

The Hallams remained in Virginia some eleven months and then went north, going directly to New York. Dunlap says that the company visited Upper Marlborough, Piscataway and Port Tobacco, but this is another of Dunlap's errors. This historian confused the Hallam company with the Woodham, Murray, Kean company which had already visited the towns mentioned and reaped such profits as were to be had. Realizing that the rival company had forestalled him, Hallam wisely decided to leave the province and make a bold bid for patronage in New York.

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1 At that time it was customary for a serious piece to be followed by a light one, reversing the more modern custom of a curtain raiser.

2 Tragedy by Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718). It was owing to the success of this piece that the name of the principal character, Lothario, became significant of the manners and morals of the fashionable rake.

3 History of the American Theatre, by George O. Seilhamer.

4 First Theatre in America, by Charles P. Daly.

5 History of the American Theatre, by George O. Seilhamer.

6 This comedy by Sir John Vanbrugh, not quite completed when the author died and finished by Colley Cibber, presents a lively picture of fashionable life in London at the end of the seventeenth century. The principal woman character Lady Townly, a spoiled and heartless woman of fashion, only awakes to her duty as a wife when her husband is about to leave her.

7 A Spanish coin then circulating in the Colony and worth about $3.80.

8 Williamsburg, the old Virginia Capital. By Lyon G. Tyler.

9 A curious custom on vogue at the time. The performance usually began at six, and ticket holders were supposed to send substitutes as early as 4 o'clock, so for two hours and longer, the front seats of the boxes were occupied by negroes waiting for their masters and mistresses. Early on the afternoon of the performance the servants could be seen making their way along the streets all bound in the direction of the playhouse, where they sat holding places for their respective masters. Not so far removed this from the telegraph boys of our own time who now stand in line before a theatre all night waiting for the opening of the box office.

10 Williamsburg, the old Colonial Capital. By L.G. Tyler.

11 In 1767 Mr. Singleton published at Barbadoes "A General Description of the West Indian Islands" in blank verse. The poem was republished in London ten years later.

12 William Dunlap, in his History of the American Theatre, presents an entirely different Prologue which he says was dictated to him by "Old Mr. Hallam" himself. Ireland, Seilhamer and other historians have reprinted this Dunlap version, assuming it to be the correct one. We know now that the Dunlap Prologue was apocryphal. The real Prologue, as given above, was printed in extenso in the Virginia Gazette of September 22, 1752, a week after its delivery in the Williamsburg Theatre.

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