Monday, December 8, 2014

Theatrical and Circus Life

John Joseph Jennings - Theatrical and Circus Life; or, Secrets of the Stage, Green-Room and Sawdust Arena (1882)

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Maybe it's "circus" in the title but this overview ("history" doesn't seem quite appropriate for something so loosely structured) of theatrical performance from the Elizabethans forward is quite broad in its view and filled with gossip.  (And advice on how to avoid being scammed by can-can dancers if that's any help.)  Sections include "Actors Who Memorize Whole Newspapers", "How to Eat Fire", "Minnie Palmer's Artless Display of Underwear" and "The Big Hat Nuisance".  Where else will you find opera singer salaries alongside discussion of interviewing actors, how to train ballet dancers alongside the dangers of "mashers", John Wilkes Booth, acrobats, scenery painters, Asian theatre, David Garrick, advertising, what circuses do during the winter, tattooed twins and on and on.