Broadway in New York City is not just the name of a street; it is the theatrical arts itself. Humble beginnings initiated by hopeful immigrants evolved into the thriving art that it is today. It overcame fires, natural disasters, and economic hardships, refusing to go out with a whimper. There are happenings ranging from horrific to positively scandalous, and rules that are just strange. New York City Broadway is an American tradition that has held on for centuries, but these years have a story behind them.
In the beginning, there was the King’s Arms building, a group of tourists, and an idea. In 1696, these components led to the first small, amateur productions in New York City. Over the next century, many other performances like the first were shown, eventually replacing the prior form of entertainment, which was alcohol. Then, in September of 1732, a group of actors from London begin doing many shows in a vacant building that held, which led to the first documented professional performance on December 6th of that same year. 18 years later, the first formal performance space was opened on Nassau Street and on December 3rd, the first musical in Ney York was performed. Finally, Broadway had been born into New York City.
After its establishment, Broadway was greatly affected by historical events that occurred in its lifetime. During the Revolutionary War, there were no professional performances hosted in New York, so British soldiers to compensate for the absence. During the Civil War, Broadway flourished due to an abundant number of railways, which made travel easier for tours and tourists. Also, a touring troupe of actors from New York was performing Our American Cousin at the Ford Theatre when President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, brother of famed actor Edwin Booth. Additionally, theatres of New York were desegregated in 1912. Furthermore, electricity greatly heightened New York’s theatrical standing. After the installation of electricity at the Lyceum Theatre in 1885, personally supervised by Thomas Edison himself, electrical energy quickly took off. Years later, a great many theatres ran completely on electricity and lighted billboards began to appear. Originally, the billboards used bright white lights that dazzled any passerby. The beauty of the lights earned the area where they were in the nickname The Great White Way and even stopped traffic completely. In 1927, the first neon lighting was introduced, furthering the advertisement of current productions.
Without theatres, what would Broadway be? To even be considered a Broadway theatre, the building must hold at least 500 people. In contrast, off-Broadway has a limit of 101 to 400 people and off-off-Broadway has a maximum capacity of 100. With this in mind, the first world-class theatre in New York, called the Park Theatre, was opened in 1798 on Catham Street and held 2,000 people. Sadly, one-fourth of the theatres burned during the 1870s, in which most very few,...