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This is an adaptation of an original 1890s Criterion Theatre programme in my collection. I confess to being potty about it. The original image is the central strip which I copied, pasted and extended to form a background so that it was a classic card-shaped design. The Art Nouveau shapes and swirls are a treat and enable one to breathe in the theatrical atmosphere of late 19th century London.

The Criterion Theatre in September 2007 [Wikipedia]

The Criterion Theatre in September 2007 [Wikipedia]

This small, Grade II* listed theatre in Piccadilly Circus — it has an official capacity of 588 — opened on the site of an old hunting inn, the White Bear, in 1874. It has played host to some notable performances and productions, not least Charles Wyndham as David Garrick (1888),  John Gielgud in Musical Chairs (1932), Terence Rattigan’s French Without Tears (1936-1939), Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1955), which transferred from the Arts Theatre with Peter Woodthorpe, Hugh Burden, Timothy Bateson, and Peter Bull, and Joe Orton’s Loot (1966) with Michael Bates and Kenneth Cranham.

Did you know that one has been able to hear the underground rumble of Piccadilly Line trains since 1906 when the station and line originally opened? It gives productions a certain something! To read more about the Criterion’s history, click here.

I’ve just discovered that John Gielgud’s performance in the above-mentioned Musical Chairs was criticised by Noël Coward. Gielgud wrote to him thus:

To Noël Coward

May 1932, London

Thank you very much for writing as you did. I was very upset at the time, because as you know I had always admired you and your work so very much and also because in a way I have always thought my success in the theatre only began after the Vortex time – this play was my own discovery and I had much to do with the casting and getting it produced, so naturally I was very anxious you of all people should like it. But you are quite right, of course. I act very badly in it sometimes, more especially I think when I know people who matter are in front. And such a small theatre as the Criterion is difficult for me, who am used to the wastes of the Old Vic and His Majesty’s. If I play down, they write and say I’m inaudible and if I act too much, the effect is dire. Now and again one can strike the happy mien and give a good performance. But then, it is no use trying to excuse oneself. I played ever so much better today after reading your letter, and I am really glad when I get honest criticism, though sometimes it’s a bit hard to decide whom to listen to and whom to ignore…
[Daily Telegraph – Gielgud’s Letters, introduced and edited by Richard Mangan, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson]

And here are Sir Charles Wyndham (1837-1919) as Garrick and Miss Mary Moore aka Lady Wyndham (1861-1931) as Ada Ingot in David Garrick at the Criterion Theatre in 1886, which is available as a greeting card.

Available at the following galleries:
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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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Just imagine you’re living in the 19th century and want the perfect entertainment for Halloween. You could try The Haunting at the Theatre Royal. But beware the black cat!

Having just sold this Halloween card on Greeting Card Universe, it’s clear that people are already thinking about 31st October and being spooked out by kids trick or treating!

Just in case you were wondering, there was never — to my knowledge — a Victorian play called The Haunting. The image was created with various bits of family ephemera and Photoshop’s design tools, except for the black cat, which came (I think) from The Graphics Fairy.

The Haunting 4x9.25 Paper Invitation Card
The Haunting 4×9.25 Paper Invitation Cards at Zazzle

The Haunting Courier Bags
The Haunting Courier Bags at Zazzle

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


My starting point for this piece was a divine original book-plate from 1899 of the British actress Miss Dorothea Baird (1875-1933), which I bought from collectors Vintage Views, along with a few other goodies which will be revealed in the weeks to come.

I will be posting the original on First Night Vintage at some point but here I have superimposed a vintage theatre programme from my archive for a production at the Lyric Theatre onto the curtains of the original. If I were to tell you the number of other images and textures I used, including Island in the Storm, you probably wouldn’t believe me!

Dorothea Baird first appeared on stage  in 1894 for the Oxford University Dramatic Society or OUDS as Iris in The Tempest. She performed in several Shakespeare productions in the following years, often with her husband, H. B. Irving, Sir Henry’s son. She also originated the part of Mrs Darling in Peter Pan (1904). It was a short but notable career, ending in 1913 when she retired and concentrated her energies on charitable causes.

Mr H B Irving Greeting Card

Mr. H. B. Irving (1870 – 1919) as Hamlet at the Adelphi Theatre 1904.

Mr H B Irving Greeting Card

The text below is an extract from what is printed on the reverse side of the book-plate and is an effusive, to say the least, appraisal of Miss Baird and her trumpeted performance in the title role of George du Maurier’s Trilby, produced at the Haymarket Theatre in 1895. You will not have read the like in the 20th or 21st century!

‘MISS DOROTHEA BAIRD made her first appearance on the stage in 1894, when she played Iris in “The Tempest,” and Galatea in “Pygmalion and Galatea,” at the performances of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. After that, Miss Baird went a-touring with Mr. Ben Greet’s company—whence we have derived so many stage recruits—and in her time played many parts. But to Londoners, Miss Dorothea Baird is Trilby; Trilby, in spite of her appearance as the heroine of Mr. Louis Parker’s play, The Happy Life,” at the Duke of York’s Theatre; in spite of her Phoebe in As You Like It,” at the St. James’s; in spite of her charming Diane in A Court Scandal,” at the Court Theatre. And, whatever may be the success in store for her, it is probable that it is of her Trilby we shall tell our grandchildren when we inform them in the usual way that acting was acting in our young days [….] From the above will be learned the impressions of the moment of a remarkable “first night.”‘

Available at the following galleries:
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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


Actress Maude Fealy Postcard
Actress Maude Fealy [1883-1971] Postcards

The American actress Maude Fealy was an exquisite beauty whose career encompassed everything from stage performances in the US, Canada and Britain, as well as silent movies and talking pictures.

She was born in 1883 in Tennessee and died in Los Angeles in 1971. Her mother, Margaret, was an actress and drama teacher so it comes as no surprise to learn that Maude made her stage debut at the age of three in her mother’s production of Faust.

She married an English drama critic in 1907, Louis Sherwin, who wrote for a newspaper in Denver. Her parents were not fans of their daughter’s husband and did everything they could to ruin the marriage; the result was successful and the pair divorced in 1909.

Her second marriage to actor James Durkin sparked the formation of a travelling theatre troupe called the Fealy-Durkin Stock Company. This marriage did not last the course and in 1920 she wed John Cort Jr but this marriage was annulled in 1923.

She continued to divide her time between stage and screen. Her work in Hollywood was helped immeasurably by her friendship with Cecil B DeMille with whom she had appeared on stage. She appeared in almost every one of DeMille’s films, among them The Buccaneer [1958] and The Ten Commandments [1956].

Returning to Denver in the 1940s, she founded a drama school, later going back to Hollywood to do the same.

It is a measure of her friendship with DeMille, who died in 1959, that it was he who left money in his will to pay her funeral expenses when she died in 1971.
Adapted from the mini-biography on IMDb.

See my other film and theatre-related products here.

Maude Fealy on IMDb
Blogging Maude

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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