Touring Theater vs. Vaudeville

Touring theater is not vaudeville. I originally thought they were the same thing, but as I’ve learned more about the two, I realize they are very different forms of entertainment.










Vaudeville performances were variety shows consisting of about nine acts, almost always including music, singing, dancing, comedy, animal acts, and juggling or acrobatic acts. Vaudeville shows generally lasted one week, then the performers moved on to the next town to a different lineup.

Touring theater consisted of full-length plays, sometimes musicals, but they were often one-night stands. During the first part of the twentieth century, there were hundreds of touring theater companies working in the United States, most pretty poor quality. The height of success for an actor was to get a role in a Broadway play. That provided some stability and a stationary lifestyle, at least for a few months or as long as the play lasted.  

Silent film producers got their actors and actresses from vaudeville and the theater. Making films was originally considered a big step down from the theater stage, even for those touring in second-rate companies, like Mary Pickford. Little Mary, a teenager, was so mortified that her mother made her work for a New York film studio that she would sneak in and out of the studio so no one would see her. But the family needed money desperately and Little Mary, or Our Mary, as she would later be known, was the breadwinner. So she went slumming in the silent pictures, never imagining that they would bring her international fame and immense fortune.

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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