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FROM THE ARCHIVE 27th March 2011
On the right is one of my latest designs, There are No Small Parts, which features a couple of characters taken from an original programme for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company production of Gil…

Source: That’s Entertainment! | First Night Design


I present Miss Lily Elsie (1886-1962) and Mr Joseph Coyne (1861-1947) in The Merry Widow in 1907

This Edwardian production in which Lily Elsie made her name, was the beginning of a glittering career for the actress on the musical stage. Everyone wanted to see the show which had music by Franz Lehar and lyrics by Adrian Ross. Based on the Viennese operetta Die Lustige Witwe by Victor Leon and Leo Stein, it was adapted from Henri Meilhae’s play L’Attaché d’Ambassade. Apparently, King Edward VII saw it four times.   LilyElsie.com

Joseph Coyne was an American-born musical actor who started his career in Vaudeville. He first went to London to appear in 1901 and spent most of his career on the British stage. “It is no good their pretending to be any one else. We go to see themselves, and all we ask is that the authors and others shall give them every chance of being themselves in the most pronounced and personal fashion,” said one critic about Coyne. Wikipedia

The Merry Widow Bicycle Playing Cards
The Merry Widow Bicycle Playing Cards by FirstNightDesign

I’m particularly fond of the image because I love the damage that age has wrought and was not inclined to repair it digitally when I first added to my Zazzle store a few years ago.

The Merry Widow iPhone 5 Case
The Merry Widow iPhone 5 Case by FirstNightDesign

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


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.

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


I defy you not to be captivated by Gigi’s writing. Her short stories delight me and in an ideal world, I’d have one for breakfast every day.

Originally posted on Rethinking Life.
The Mason children weren’t like other children.  They were quiet and well-behaved, of course, but Gerald, Ethel, Pearl and William were theater kids and that put them into a different category entirely.  They wrote songs and plays, danced, sang, played instruments and put on grand productions, making their own costumes and performing their own stunts.Harold and Jean Mason were busy parents and thought that anything that amused their children and kept them busy was something to be applauded.  While they never missed show, they skipped their rehearsals and any number of other things in which their children were involved.Pearl was a beauty and boys were starting to notice her.  She shunned them unless they were interested in reading and the theater, which effectively eliminated ninety percent of the males who tried to speak to her.   Harold and Jean were happy about that and, unlike other parents, they were in no rush to…

Source: The Masons… | Rethinking Life


Take a black and white scan of actress Miss Lillah McCarthy (1875–1960) as Viola in Twelfth Night (1912) from an issue of Play Pictorial in my theatre collection. Throw on some magic in the form of textures by 2 Lil’ Owls (Owls Beguiling-18, 2LO – Crackle 11, and 2LO Confetti 6 along with a Cretan seascape photograph shot from on board a fishing boat,  plus a texture from Angie Makes (bluewatercolor), and Viola is transformed, translated. I’m thinking of Quince to Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (’Thou art translated’, Act 3, Scene 1) when I use this word in the title.

Miss Lillah McCarthy was the first wife of the playwright Harley Granville Barker, thrown over for a rich second wife. She created the role of Ann in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, among much else.


‘And let me see thee in thy women’s weeds.’
Orsino to Viola in Twelfth Night, Act 5, Scene 1


Available to buy at the following galleries!
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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


ONE FROM THE ARCHIVE. In view of my recent posts about Maude Fealy, I thought it was time to reblog this article from 2012, partly because I have nothing else prepared!

First Night Design

As I have recently said on Facebook, whenever I sell a theatre-related design on whatever product, my heart leaps. Theatre is in my blood, partly because I spent over 30 years as an actress and partly because I was, as the saying goes, ‘born in a trunk’.  This theatre term used to mean that you were born on tour of theatrical parents and that while other babies spent their days and nights in cribs and prams, you spent yours sustained by the smell of greasepaint and curled up in the theatre’s wardrobe skip, either in the wings or one of  the dressing rooms.  Now it has the more general meaning of having theatrical parentage. I am reminded of another phrase, which was coined by the playwright Tom Robertson, as revealed by Clement Scott in The Drama of Yesterday and Today [Vol. I] (pub. Macmillan & Co, 1899), and of…

View original post 335 more words


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


FROM THE ARCHIVE

Originally posted on First Night Design.

Although this engraving by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Charles Pugin is available online in the public domain, mine is actually a scan from an original print published as Plate 69 of Microcosm of London (1810) which my parents had bought from a local antique dealer in the 1960s.

I have not been able to discover what’s being performed but it looks something of a spectacular production what with the horse and carriage, the Boadicea-like figure and gigantic pillars! If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

While the following quote is not from the early 19th century, it describes what Sadler’s Wells had become by the 1840s:

‘Without, the theatre, by night, was like the worst part of the worst kind of Fair in the worst kind of town. Within, it was a bear-garden, resounding with foul language, oaths, catcalls, shrieks, yells, blasphemy, obscenity – a truly diabolical clamour. Fights took place anywhere, at any period of the performance… Sickly children in arms were squeezed…

via First Night Design | Sadler’s Wells Theatre by Rowlandson & Pugin | First Night Design.


Originally posted on First Night Design

Forget Ancient Rome, often cited as the origin of circus entertainment. A certain Englishman, Philip Astley (1742 – 1814), who had been a sergeant major in the Cavalry, was responsible for the entertainment we know today. It was Astley who found that if he galloped in circles he could produce such a centrifugal force that it enabled him to perform extraordinary stunts upon the horse and thus outdo other trick riders of the day.

Astley performed in public for the first time on 9th January, 1768. He was so successful that he gathered other equestrians to him and, later, acrobats, musicians…

via First Night Design | Interval at the Circus

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