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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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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 which I am very fond.  Robertson tells a story about a theatre child who has been “nursed on rose-pink and cradled in properties”.*  Aaah!

Imagine my delight, then, when a customer from the U.S. bought a collection of theatrical greeting cards,  which I created from my archive of vintage postcards.  Yesterday, I was thrilled anew by a slew of similar images selling to a British customer. Palace Theatre of Varieties Greeting Cards

Palace Theatre of Varieties

Varieties & Novelties Greeting Card 

Varieties & Novelties
Both the above are from original late 19th century music hall playbills for the Palace Theatre of Varieties, ‘The Handsomest Music Hall in Europe’. It 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.

Dame Gladys Cooper (1888-1971), mother of the actor Robert Morley and grandmother of the late theatre critic and writer, Sheridan Morley.
Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905), the first actor to be knighted.
Dame Ellen Terry (1847-1928) as Queen Guinevere in King Arthur at the Lyceum Theatre in 1895
Montage of several late 19th century and early 20th century British actresses.
Top row: Ellen Terry (1847-1928), Irene Vanbrugh (1872-1949), Gladys Cooper (1888-1971), Gabrielle Ray (1883-1973)
Middle Row: Ellaline Terris (1872-1971), Mary Moore (1861-1931), Ellen Terry (1847-1928), Ellen Terry (1847-1928)
Bottom Row: Pauline Chase (1885-1962), Phyllis Broughton (1862 -1926), Phyllis Neilson-Terry (1892-1977), Isabel Jay (1879 – 1927)
Julia Neilson (1863-1957) and Mr Henry Ainley (1879-1945) in Henry of Navarre (1908). Taken from Play Pictorial, an early 20th century equivalent of today’s Theatregoer.

Take care and keep laughing.

About Sarah & First Night Design

*Rose-pink is a lighting gel for the stage; properties are the ‘props’ used by the actors in a production such as a newspaper, a table lighter or a book.

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