The American culture developed and modernized dynamically after the Civil War up until the 1920s. It had a large population growth due from incoming immigrants from European nations. American citizens moved from their rural homesteads to live in the booming cities. According to The Historical Archive, “City populations exploded during this time. In fact, during this fifty year period, the nation’s city dwelling population increased from less than ten million to more than fifty million people – a remarkable 500%” (Administrator). The city lifestyle allowed American civilians to have their job wages increased as well as afford more leisure time within their daily schedules. City-dwelling Americans sought to make the most of their newly founded free-time by touring the country, taking vacations or attending inexpensive amusements such as the cinema or theater (Administrator).
Popularity for live performances heightened exponentially during the late nineteenth century. The United States flourished with circuses, ballparks for sporting events, night clubs, world and state fairs, as well as theatrical road shows. Growing amusement parks, such as Coney Island, attracted customer attendance not just by supplying thrillingly-fun rides, but by also providing an array of the newly emerging vaudeville theatrical shows. Vaudeville was gaining much popularity because it strived to appeal to people of all socioeconomic classes and cultural background as well as offered low admission prices. It consisted of a diversity of individual performances which could range from comical skits, singing, acrobatic stunts to magic shows. “Variety theatre drew larger audiences than the ‘legitimate’ theater which presented classical performances” (Administrator). For this reason, vaudeville theatre was gaining much attraction because it was able to enthrall the population with a wide range of performances. This paper will explore the origins of vaudeville theatre, some of the key influential elements that help define this type of theatre, as well as its past and present history to determine how vaudeville theatre continues to thrive, especially in the United States of America.
Vaudeville’s roots come from the European “variety”, shows produced by traveling performing troupes that toured from towns and villages offering various types of acts. This type of theatre would incorporate numerous theatrical genres, music, stage and circus arts to entertain audience members. The performers would be well-skilled in comedy, acting, singing, reciting, dancing, playing musical instruments, acrobatics, juggling and conjuring or illusion making. Variety made its debut in early colonial America despite the opposition formed from Puritan dogmas. It grew in popularity during the years of the Republic; however, variety did not flourish until the 1880s under the patronage of figures such as Tony Pastor, Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward F. Albee (Stein, xi).
It was during this time the...