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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:
Redbubble
Crated
Zazzle US
Zazzle UK
Fine Art America
Fine Art England
Saatchi Art

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…

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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


Miss Ellen Terry as Beatrice Throw Pillow
Miss Ellen Terry as Beatrice Throw Pillows

It is such a treat to have sold a greeting card of Ellen Terry as Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing alongside a matching cushion. I have lived with this theatrical postcard all my life. It was given to my mother by an actress friend and my mother handed it on to me.

In her memoir, The Story of My Life: Recollections and Reflections, Dame Ellen writes:

‘When Henry Irving put on “Much Ado About Nothing”—a play which he may be said to have done for me, as he never really liked the part of Benedick—I was not the same Beatrice at all. A great actor can do nothing badly, and there was so very much to admire in Henry Irving’s Benedick. But he gave me little help. Beatrice must be swift, swift, swift! Owing to Henry’s rather finicking, deliberate method as Benedick, I could never put the right pace into my part. I was also feeling unhappy about it, because I had been compelled to give way about a traditional “gag” in the church scene, with which we ended the fourth act. In my own production we had scorned this gag, and let the curtain come down on Benedick’s line: “Go, comfort your cousin; I must say she is dead, and so farewell.” When I was told that we were to descend to the buffoonery of:

Beatrice: Benedick, kill him—kill him if you can.
Benedick: As sure as I’m alive, I will!

I protested, and implored Henry not to do it. He said that it was necessary: otherwise the “curtain” would be received in dead silence. I assured him that we had often had seven and eight calls without it. I used every argument, artistic and otherwise. Henry, according to his custom, was gentle, would not discuss it much, but remained obdurate. After holding out for a week, I gave in. “It’s my duty to obey your orders, and do it,” I said, “but I do it under protest.” Then I burst into tears. It was really for his sake just as much as for mine. I thought it must bring such disgrace on him! Looking back on the incident, I find that the most humorous thing in connection with it was that the critics, never reluctant to accuse Henry of “monkeying” with Shakespeare if they could find cause, never noticed the gag at all!


Ellen Terry  drawn from photographs  by  Albert Sterner

Ellen Terry drawn from photographs by Albert Sterner and included in her memoir.


“This mutable woman, all instinct, sympathy and sensation, is as painstaking a student and as careful of the dignity of her art as Flaubert himself.” Virginia Woolf

“[Her name] rings like a chime through the last quarter of the 19th century.” George Bernard Shaw

“Blow that word charm! There is more to my acting than charm!” Ellen Terry

These three quotes are taken from a Lynne Truss article in The Guardian.


Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


First Night Design

This is the best film version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale bar none! Alastair Sim [1900–1976] was a sublime actor and farceur. I was lucky enough to see him on stage on several occasions including Peter Pan at the Scala Theatre, where he played Mr Darling and Captain Hook, and the title role in Arthur Wing Pinero’s farce, The Magistrate at the Criterion. Genius.

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Writing Credits: Charles Dickens … (adapted from A Christmas Carol)
Noel Langley: (adaptation and screenplay)

Cast (in credits order)

Alastair Sim …Ebenezer Scrooge

Kathleen Harrison …Mrs. Dilber

Mervyn Johns …Bob Cratchit

Hermione Baddeley …Mrs. Cratchit

Michael Hordern …Jacob Marley

George Cole …Young Ebenezer Scrooge

John Charlesworth …Peter Cratchit

Francis De Wolff …Spirit of Christmas Present (as Francis de Wolff)

Rona Anderson …Alice

Carol Marsh …Fan Scrooge

Brian Worth …Fred

Miles Malleson …Old Joe

Ernest Thesiger …The Undertaker

Glyn Dearman …Tiny Tim

Michael Dolan…

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One from the archive.

First Night Design

You're the Cream in my Coffee © Sarah VernonYou’re the Cream in my Coffee © Sarah Vernon

Today is a good day for I discovered that the above artworks, You’re the Cream in My Coffee Valentine and Travelling with the Buzzard, were variously featured in the Fine Art America groups Digital Touch, 3 A Day Greeting Cards and Female Artists.

Travelling with the Buzzard © Sarah VernonTravelling with the Buzzard © Sarah Vernon

My weekend delights began last night when I received notification that a customer had bought 40 postcards of Sing a Song of Sixpence on Zazzle.  A design from three or four years ago, it is a perfect card for theatre professionals, including as it does the theatrical form of good luck, ‘Break a Leg’.

I hope your weekend is proving equally delightful.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

ROMANTIC FICTIONS AND CASUALTIES
Part one

artistpaintingamusiciangerardMarguerite Gérard, Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician, c. 1803. Oil on panel.
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Image source: WGA

One autumn long ago, while Britain was at war with France, and the people at home were rejoicing at the Royal Navy’s victory under Nelson at the Battle of the Nile that stopped Napoleon from conquering the Middle East as he had done mainland Europe, while Irish rebels were fighting their English oppressors with the help of the French, while Jenner’s findings on vaccination against the mass killer small-pox were newly in print, while Haydn completed Die Schöpfung, inspired by hearing Handel’s oratorio’s in England, and Beethoven, gripped by fears of deafness, composed his ‘Pathétique’ Piano Sonata, while readers were being introduced to a new kind of poetry in Coleridge and Wordsworth’s collection of Lyrical Ballads, and to a new kind of…

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Update 21-10-14: Alas, the Wilde family have very strict control of their famous forebear’s work and this wonderful image has not been allowed so is no longer for sale at my Zazzle vintage store.

Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony 1882 © First Night Vintage

Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony 1882 

New to my vintage store on Zazzle is this glorious sepia photograph of the inimitable Oscar Wilde. It was taken in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony and hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was able to use it as the image is in the public domain on Wikimedia.


“Ah, every day dear Herbert becomes de plus en plus Oscarié. It is a wonderful case of nature imitating art.” Wilde commenting on actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s unwitting acquisition of certain on-stage character traits in a Wilde play in his off-stage life.


Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


The Palace Theatre of Varieties
The Palace Theatre of Varieties

Palace Theatre of Varieties Greeting Cards
Palace Theatre of Varieties Greeting Cards

Both of these designs are adapted from my original late 19th century music hall playbills for the Palace Theatre of Varieties, ‘The Handsomest Music Hall in Europe’.

This London theatre was originally built as a venue for opera by Richard D’Oyly Carte but only one opera – Arthur Sullivan’s Ivanhoe – was ever produced.  The theatre was renamed the Palace Theatre in 1911, a name it retains to this day.

Varieties & Novelties Greeting Card
Varieties & Novelties Greeting Card


‘Without music life would be a mistake.’
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


First Night Design

This advertisement for Collinson & Lock is from a D’Oyly Carte programme for Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard at the Savoy Theatre in 1888. Collinson & Lock was a prominent furniture company, founded in the 1860s by F G Collinson and G J Lock, which concentrated on Art Nouveau and Aesthetic designs.

The company’s theatrical links are fascinating. Amongst other work, Collinson & Lock were responsible for decorating the new Savoy Theatre in 1881, while their most famous designer was the architect Edward William Godwin (1833-1886) who was inspired to design for the theatre by his affair with the actress Ellen Terry when she was still married to her first husband, the artist George Frederick Watts.

The union produced two children, the distinguished theatre designer, Edward Gordon Craig (1872–1966) and the theatre director, producer, costume designer and sometime actress Edith…

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


This piece was, to some extent, a glorious digital version of throwing paint at a canvas and swirling it around with a palette knife without any idea of what, if anything, was going to come out of it! I layered several images and textures of my making and one from Kerstin Frank. I played around for hours changing blend modes and transparency, lightening and darkening, adding and deleting, colouring and de-saturating — you name it, if there was a Photoshop tool for it, I used it!

The faint type you can see through the flowers is a vintage theatre programme from my collection. The flowers are from Vintage Art Download and wildly distorted from their original shape. Who says they have to be recognisable flower-shapes?

“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” Katharine Hepburn

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Pablo Picasso

Sell Art Online

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


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, tumblers, clowns, tightrope walkers and so forth. Ultimately, he covered the land on which he had formed his ‘ring’ in an area of London’s Waterloo to create Astley’s Amphitheatre. Circus was born, although the term would not be used until Charles Dibdin, in partnership with Charles Hughes, created the Royal Circus nearby in 1782. Astley went on to establish  circuses throughout Britain and the rest of Europe.

To create Interval at the Circus, I found a vintage black and white image from DeviantArt to which I applied textures before painting various areas. I also added a couple of circus elements from The Graphics Fairy to the outdoor panels, one pane of  the window above the door, and the ground beneath their feet.

Art Prints

“Damn everything but the circus!. . .The average ‘painter’ ‘sculptor’ ‘poet’ ‘composer’ ‘playwright’ is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown’s mouth, orchestrate twenty lions.” 
― E.E. Cummings

“The circus is a jealous wench. Indeed that is an understatement. She is a ravening hag who sucks your vitality as a vampire drinks blood – who kills the brightest stars in her crown and will allow no private life for those who serve her; wrecking their homes, ruining their bodies, and destroying the happiness of their loved ones by her insatiable demands. She is all of these things, and yet, I love her as I love nothing else on earth.” 
― Henry Ringling NorthThe Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story

Related articles

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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