Check out #6 on this 1908 vaudeville program: Fatima Miris.
If the wording is too faint to read, it says, “The Female Fregoli, The world’s greatest protean actress, In a selection of numbers from her repertoire of forty pantomimes, musical comedies and dramas and more than 200 imitations.” What on earth . . . ???
Leopoldo Fregoli was the first protean performer, sometimes called a transfigurator. Today we would call him a quick-change artist.
He performed all over Europe and America from 1890 into the 1920s before retiring home to Italy. Fregoli could exit stage left as a man and enter stage right seconds later as a women. Skeptics found his frequent, rapid changes of costume and characters totally impossible and accused him of being twins or having several look-alikes, but all controversy ceased when he allowed doubters backstage to watch him perform. He had no tricks, only skill. He could change clothes in the blink of an eye.
Fregoli inspired many imitators, male and female, one of whom is performing at the Orpheum and using Fregoli’s name—probably without permission—to boost her own reputation. Fatima Miris, the Female Fregoli.
I’m so intrigued by what I’ve read about transfigurators that I’m thinking of writing a murder mystery based on such a character. The transfigurator did it. Don’t tell.