Popular Entertainment: 19th Century (OL80)

In the reading, McNamara describes the period after the Civil War and before radio and film as a period of variety entertainment. For each of the three forms I asked you to read about (burlesque, minstrelsy, vaudeville), find a passage that discusses the “multi-form” character of each. Cite the passages below (3). Once you are done with that, go to this website slideshow and look at the images. Which images might be used as evidence that would describe theater architecture or stages? Find one songbook image that you believe can help us understand how minstrel acts were actually performed and then describe in words what you see in the image that could explain a historical performance.

27 thoughts on “Popular Entertainment: 19th Century (OL80)”

  1. Minstrel

    “minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridiculing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways” – page 389

    Vaudeville

    “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety”- page 391

    Burlesque

    ” three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima donna, who was a singer; the soubrette, who was a dancer; and the ingenue, who played wide-eyed innocent roles” – page 394

    Image #7 Jim Brown (1836)
    This image shows how the Minstrel was performed because it looks like one person is dressed in a uniform playing music while a kid to the right is playing with a broom. This should represent a skit or a joke.

  2. Burlesque
    “In the early years of the twentieth century, the comic was the center of the show. Ultimately, burlesque came in two basic forms. First, there was so-called “wheel” burlesque in which shows were sent out on the road, rotating from one theatre to another like spokes on a wheel. Unlike vaudeville circuits, shows usually traveled together as units, typically carrying a dozen or more girls, a comic and straightman, sometimes with a second comic and-straightman team or a singing, dancing juvenile.
    The three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima donna, who was a singer; the soubrette, who was a dancer; and the ingenue, who played wide-eyed innocent roles. Wheel burlesque was the starting place for young male performers like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, some of whom would later go on to fame in vaudeville, musical theatre, motion pictures, radio, and early television.”

    (Brooks McNamara pg. 394, 395)

    Minstrel Show
    “After the middle of the nineteenth century a growing number of foreign immigrants had begun to come to the United States, among them Germans and Irish, and, in later years, settlers from Eastern Europe and Italy. Many became laborers or servants, starting their lives in America at the bottom of the socio- economic ladder. Seizing on the presence of these new and somehow frightening immigrants, minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridiculing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways. At the time, many people accepted as appropriate and amusing both the old stereotypes about African Americans and the newer comic generalizations about the Irish, the Jews, and the Chinese. For instance, a parody of Uncle Tom’s Cabin that probably appeared in late minstrelsy.”

    (Brooks McNamara pg. 389)

    Vaudeville
    “Although its material was obviously similar to, or borrowed from, earlier entertainments, a large difference marked the way the new form, vaudeville, was organized. The last years of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth century made up a period of large-scale commercialization of entertainment in America. Legitimate theatre, for example, was being revolutionized by the Theatrical Syndicate, which, among other things, systematized booking. Now vaudeville performers – sometimes teams or whole families – typically began to tour on “circuits,” moving from theatre to theatre, in chains of houses that were managed by such important figures in the field as E. F. Albee, B. F. Keith, Marcus Loew, F. F. Procter, and Alexander Pantages. It was an age of trusts and other shady business alliances, and the theatrical managers had formed conglomerates to protect their interests, as had legitimate theatre owners. The performers countered with a union, the White Rats, modeled on the one created by English music-hall performers.”

    (Brooks McNamara pg. 392)

    Images
    I consider that the images #11 and #14 more than others, could be used the most as evidence that could describe the architecture of theater and stages.

    Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels”, (1843) Image #11:
    We can clearly see the performers on a stage with that has a backdrop with props and minimal set pieces. Even the picture itself looks like a proscenium arch when looking at it.

    Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846), Image #14:
    In this picture, we are clearly inside a theater. It clearly shows a proscenium stage, its backdrop, actors with props, and some of its stage lights. We have the Prince’s perspective when looking at this picture, full view of the set, and any set design disappears to a single point. The frame of the stage is allowing us to see the whole stage clearly giving us depth.

  3. Vaudeville, burlesque, and minstrels all had multi form characters within them. In a passage of McNamara’s reading “orientation”, its stated that entertainers at that time borrowed different roles and many of them were anonymous.

    The image I chose was the Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels” (1843) , the image shows about 12 different actors in costume on a stage. They’re all on a stage that looks like a more circular proscenium arch with some props in the back. The top row of six actors is illustrating “dandyism of the North” and the bottom row shows “the Ethiopians of the Southern states.” All the actors are playing various instruments. The cover of the image is supposed to be used for different songs within the performance.

  4. Vaudeville, burlesque, and minstrels all had multi form characters within them. In a passage of McNamara’s reading “orientation”, its stated that entertainers at that time borrowed different roles and many of them were anonymous.

    The image I chose was the Cudjos Wild Hunt “Boston Minstrels” (1843) , the image shows about 12 different actors in costume on a stage. They’re all on a stage that looks like a more circular proscenium arch with some props in the back. The top row of six actors is illustrating “dandyism of the North” and the bottom row shows “the Ethiopians of the Southern states.” All the actors are playing various instruments. The cover of the image is supposed to be used for different songs within the performance.

  5. Burlesque had the following different elements that made up the “Multi-Form”:
    -Scantily clad
    -Stranded ballet
    -Male audience
    -Comic sketches
    -Singing, dancing juvenile.
    -Primadonna, who was a singer; the Soubrette, who was a dancer; and the Ingenue,who played wide-eyed innocent roles.

    Minstrel shows had the following different elements that made up the “Multi-Form”:
    -White men in blackface
    -Jokes, skits, and comic songs ridiculing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways.

    Vaudeville shows had the following different elements that made up the “Multi-Form”:
    -Comedy
    -Song
    -Dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.
    -two-act runs as follow

  6. Burlesque
    “Ultimately, burlesque came in two basic forms. First, there was socalled “wheel” burlesque in which shows were sent out on the road, rotating from one theatre to another like spokes on a wheel. Unlike vaudeville circuits, shows usually traveled together as units, typically carrying a dozen or more girls, a comic and straightman, sometimes with a second comic-and-straightman team or a singing, dancing juvenile” (p.394-395)

    Minstrelsy
    “Seizing on the presence of these new and somehow frightening immigrants, minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridiculing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways.” (p.389)

    Vaudeville
    ” Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.” (p.379)

    I believe the image “Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846)” is most fit to describe the theatre and architect properties since it depicts a useful view of the stage. The image conveys the exact scene that an audience member would be viewing at the theatre. The image can also be used to analyze the minstrel acts since it expresses both the background scenery and characters acting and singing.

  7. Popular Entertainment: 19th Century

    Burlesque: “Unlike vaudeville circuits, [burlesque] shows usually traveled together as units, typically carrying a dozen or more girls, a comic and straightman, sometimes with a second comic-and-straightman team or a singing, dancing juvenile.” (McNamara 395)

    Minstrelsy: “Seizing on the presence of these new and somehow frightening immigrants, minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridiculing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways.” (McNamara 389)

    Vaudeville: “Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety” (McNamara 391)

    Of the many songbooks in the slide, “Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846)” gives us a great image of the stage and performers. In the image the show is on a theater stage, it appears to be a proscenium stage, with curtains and a backdrop. The image also has two performers (in blackface) on the stage; one playing music while the other is dancing (and maybe singing).

  8. Burlesque
    Concert Saloon, Mostly targeted towards the male audience. female performers originated from Minstrelsy in hopes to gain public interest again. it included short comic sketches/bits. The characters that made up the burlesque had talents for each of their roles that included singing, dancing, and the ingenue.

    Minstrelsy
    This was mostly centered around making fun of immigrants by adding jokes skits and comic songs making fun of stereotypes of both African Americans and Irish people. Even the African Americans were apart of these performances that degraded their culture due to the factor it was the only available one that would take in African American entertainers.

    Vaudeville
    Included shows that had aspects of comedy, song, and dance. One of the specialties of the show was the 2 act where a male and female would do a small comedy skit. Vaudeville eventually replaced Minstrelsy.

    The images that can be used to describe theatre architecture are Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846) you can see how the stage is a proscenium with a frame around the stage. One songbook image that aids in understanding minstrel acts performed is Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846) where people dressed up as black people and made fun of their culture whether it was the language dressing and facial features in this they are seen playing the banjo

  9. For Minstrel, I would use the passage:
    “After the Civil War some African Americans also turned to the minstrel
    stage. In a sense, it seems ironic that men who may have been former slaves
    would have chosen to perform songs and sketches that ridiculed their lives
    and culture and upheld the values of their former masters. But times were
    hard for black entertainers and, as one old African American performer
    phrased it, the minstrel stage was the only door open to blacks in the American theatre. Ironically, the black minstrel show was indeed to stand behind a
    whole series of African American-based popular entertainments and to serve
    as introduction to the field for many talented black performers who moved
    into other areas of entertainment.”

    I chose this because it shows the multi-form of minstrelry as being a ridicule and humiliation of Black Culture, but at the same time, it was a stepping stone for many black performers early on. This shows that something so denigrating is often the path towards fame for many black folk at the time.

    For Burlesque I would use:
    “In the twenties stock burlesque began to emphasize the famous striptease that
    would shock and outrage so many church groups and city officials.”

    I chose this because it showed the multi-form of Burlesque as wanting to call attention to certain public concerns that city officials neglected by using obscene imagery.

    For Vaudeville:
    “Although its material was obviously similar to, or borrowed from, earlier
    entertainments, a large difference marked the way the new form, vaudeville,
    was organized. ”

    This is because Vaudeville was comedy which was largely misorganized. However, Vaudeville happened to be Organized, showing the multi-form of Vaudeville

    SOURCE:
    McNamara, Popular Entertainment. Pages 389, 394, 392

  10. Part 1:
    In burlesque, ‘Within a short
    time, most of the shows had taken their standard form: variety acts; short comic sketches, or “bits”; and musical numbers with the ever-present scant- ily clad dancers.’
    In minstrelsy, ‘But now several new forms of popular entertainment that were more interesting to American audiences began to appear around the country.’
    In vaudeville, ‘1930s. Vaudeville continued to feature shows made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance, and other specialties, impossible to illustrate in all their variety.’

    Part 2:
    picture 11: this picture shows the stage and the instrucments, and the backhround of the stage using intermezzo.

  11. Minstrel
    “The most important masquerades are those through which the spirits enter the human world. In these, the human performer is not simply hidden from view, but is the embodied spirit, through stomping, clapping, and the percussive striking of the body. ”

    Image: Jim crow 1831

  12. Burlesque: This is the error of using multiple things to display and showcase one type of art. “singer; the soubrette, who was a dancer; and the ingenue”

    Minstrelsy: This is a multiform entertainment due to the fact that it’s inherited forms from the past to incorporate in his development. “The American minstrelsy borrows from opera, English farce, Shakespeare’s plays, and Irish jigs.” This quote shows that it has taken different skills from previous arts to incorporate and the performance of minstrelsy. Minstrelsy takes acting, 4 play, and the art of music to showcases a story or image.

    Vaudeville: This type of performance will be considered multiform due to the fact that incorporated many different arts. The arts are they included were like comedy music poetry and dramatic scenes.

    The image I chose from the slide show is Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846). When looking at the image it clearly shows a background of a stage. It shows 2 main characters performing a skit to the audience. In the image you see a young man and black face playing banjo and another individual beside him dancing to the music he’s playing. in the background you see a small little house in a dead zone similar to a forest or farmland. Going off the image alone I can say this stage is similar to a proscenium stage. After reading the description of the image we find out that the banjo player is most likely Frank or John a performer. We also find out that this stage is located in New York and that the coloring of the stage is to give a more realistic look of location for a black face. Another image in the slideshow that shows how the stage design can be and the performance behind it is Close Dem Windows (1879). In this image, it clearly shows the way that they depict the man of color. It also shows that on stage they’ll be the pick to certain type away either like hooligans, a black man on banjo or violin and or a young man dancing for money. The reason this can be shown on how they will design the stage is that if you look beyond the images of the individuals. You can see clearly see the background of a house and a farmland area.

  13. Minstrel
    “attractions, including con-
    certs, menageries, sideshows (traveling versions of the ubiquitous dime-
    museum freak show), and elaborate street parades.”
    pg385

    Vaudeville
    “made up of independent acts, or compartments, that were assembled into a show.”
    pg380

    Burlesque
    in which shows were sent out on the road, rotating
    from one theatre to another like spokes on a wheel. Unlike vaudeville circuits,
    pg394

  14. Minstrelsy- Minstrel shows were a very popular form of entertainment in the 19 century. Williams, “American minstrelsy”, highlights the variety style of entertainment that was depicted in these performances. For example, “the latest popular dances as well as tap dance, soft-shoe, and sand dance; the popular songs of the period; and comedy sketches and farcical skits performed by a troupe of 12 men including a master of ceremonies called Mr. Interlocuter and two clowns named Tambo and Bones.” Not only was various dance forms used through out the show, but there was an incorporation of comedy throughout the show.

    Burlesque- “The three chief women performers in the shows were typically the prima donna, who was a singer; the soubrette, who was a dancer; and the ingenue, who played wide-eyed innocent roles.” This depicts a multiform in that not only was the roles performed by women rather than men but also that there was an incorporation of singing, dancing and comedy. All of these elements were broadcasted through a “strip tease” as a form of entertainment. During this time burlesque was one of the first forms of theatre were women were sexualized for entertainment.McNamara, Popular Entertainment, 394-395.

    Vaudeville-“ comedy scenes known as “two acts,” sometimes featuring a male-female comedy team, often appeared.” Although vaudeville featured “made up of a wide range of comedy, song and dance”, it also “presented star attractions. The most famous was New York’s Palace, which offered such stars as the magician Harry Houdini, and W. C. Fields, the renowned juggler and comedian.”McNamara, Popular Entertainment, 391-393.

    Song book Image- “Oh! Wake Up In De Morning (1846)”- I feel like this song book image depicts a proscenium theatre with a set in the background as well as box seating for audience members.

  15. Minstrel show: “After the middle of the nineteenth century a growing number of foreign
    immigrants had begun to come to the United States, among them Germans and
    Irish, and, in later years, settlers from Eastern Europe and Italy. Many became

    laborers or servants, starting their lives in America at the bottom of the socio-
    economic ladder. Seizing on the presence of these new and somehow frighten-
    ing immigrants, minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridi-
    culing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways. At the time, many

    people accepted as appropriate and amusing both the old stereotypes about
    African Americans and the newer comic generalizations about the Irish, the
    Jews, and the Chinese.( pg 12)

    Vaudeville: Vaudeville circuits were of two kinds: big time, which played first-class the-
    atres and offered relatively good salaries and working conditions, and small-
    time, which was concentrated in minor theatres, frequently in out-of-the-way

    towns, and often with backbreaking schedules and underpaid performers and
    staff. Because vaudeville people often came from poor backgrounds and
    lacked money and education, and because of the avowedly popular nature of
    their calling, those involved with the so-called “legitimate” theatre often
    looked down on all vaudevillians and their craft. (pg 15)

    Burlesque: ” burlesque, seen by many people inside and outside the theatre

    world as a more plebian form than vaudeville, catered primarily to a male audi-
    ence and came to trade on risque jokes and sketches and scantily clad female

    performers. Besides other influences, burlesque, like vaudeville, however,
    probably had its origins largely in minstrelsy.” (pg 17)

    minstrel show images: the coal black house (1987) this was a pre-minstrelsy image where performers put on blackface and sang and played the banjo.

  16. Minstrel show: “After the middle of the nineteenth century a growing number of foreign
    immigrants had begun to come to the United States, among them Germans and
    Irish, and, in later years, settlers from Eastern Europe and Italy. Many became

    laborers or servants, starting their lives in America at the bottom of the socio-
    economic ladder. Seizing on the presence of these new and somehow frighten-
    ing immigrants, minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridi-
    culing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways. At the time, many

    people accepted as appropriate and amusing both the old stereotypes about
    African Americans and the newer comic generalizations about the Irish, the
    Jews, and the Chinese.( pg 12)

    Vaudeville: Vaudeville circuits were of two kinds: big time, which played first-class the-
    atres and offered relatively good salaries and working conditions, and small-
    time, which was concentrated in minor theatres, frequently in out-of-the-way

    towns, and often with backbreaking schedules and underpaid performers and
    staff. Because vaudeville people often came from poor backgrounds and
    lacked money and education, and because of the avowedly popular nature of
    their calling, those involved with the so-called “legitimate” theatre often
    looked down on all vaudevillians and their craft. (pg 15)

    Burlesque: ” burlesque, seen by many people inside and outside the theatre

    world as a more plebian form than vaudeville, catered primarily to a male audi-
    ence and came to trade on risque jokes and sketches and scantily clad female

    performers. Besides other influences, burlesque, like vaudeville, however,
    probably had its origins largely in minstrelsy.” (pg 17)

    minstrel show images: the coal black house (1987) this was a pre-minstrelsy image where performers put on blackface and sang and played the banjo.

  17. Burlesque-
    Workers in burlesque might know words and expressions that were, for example, slightly different from those used by workers in a circus. But a number of words were the same and were understood – or were at least comprehensible to most show people. (Page 384)
    Minstrelsy-
    Seizing on the presence of these new and somehow frightening immigrants, minstrel shows began to add jokes, skits, and comic songs ridiculing their incomprehensible languages and alien ways. (Page 389)
    Vaudeville-
    Vaudeville circuits were of two kinds: big time, which played first-class theatres and offered relatively good salaries and working conditions, and smalltime, which was concentrated in minor theatres, frequently in out-of-the-way towns, and often with backbreaking schedules and underpaid performers and staff.

    Image 7 of Jim Brown
    I would use this image to represent Minstrelsy because of the fact that it portrays a joke/skit in the play

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