< Theatre Notebook
Vol. 66, No. 2
"Books of the Songs to be had at the Theatre": Some Notes on Fruit Women and their Contribution to Theatre Finances
Arthur Scouten, discussing the sale by fruit women of playbills in his critical introduction to the London Stage, 1729-1747, expresses surprise that account books of the patent theatres of the time showed no records of receipts for such sales by the women despite the theatre recording expenditure on printing the bills: “It seems incredible that Rich [theatre manager of Covent Garden] permitted these girls a clear profit” (lxxvii). But playbills and fruit were not the only items sold to theatre audiences by the fruit women also known as orange girls or book women. Playbills and newspaper advertisements of the day occasionally noted “Books of the Drama”, “Books of the Performance” or most commonly “Books of the songs to be had at the Theatre” and these sales were a potential source of income for the playhouses and the women who sold them. While references to the sale of food, drink and printed material in theatres can be found in some studies of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theatre, particularly those dealing with the sale of libretti in the opera houses, I have found very little material on the financial implications of these sales for the theatre, the fruit office or its fruit women.
Christopher Rich From Puritan to Theatre Manager
On 2 September 1642, the Puritan-dominated Parliament issued an order closing the theatres.1 Performances of public stage-plays were considered inappropriate at a time when the country was threatened with “a Cloud of Blood by a Civil War”. The ordinance described them as “Spectacles of Pleasure, too commonly expressing lascivious Mirth and Levity”, and recommended to the people “the profitable and seasonal considerations of Repentance, Reconciliation, and Peace with God” (House of Lords Journal 5.336). Despite these precautions, by the end of the month, the country was embroiled in the opening skirmishes of the Civil War.
Paternity of the Siblings of Charles and Thomas Dibdin
Keith Drummond Sharp
Harriet Elizabeth Pitt, daughter of Ann Pitt of Covent Garden, had four illegitimate children. The two younger boys, Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin and Thomas John Dibdin are well recorded; they were the sons of Charles Dibdin (1745-1814). Reference books tell us that Harriet’s other two children, Cecil and Harriet, were the children of George Mattocks, and this statement has become so much part of the canon that its source is obscure and no references are given when it is repeated. In the decade since anything has been written about the Pitt family a mass of genealogical research material has become available on-line which is fully searchable, and it is now clear that Mattocks was not the father of either Cecil or Harriet.
Going at the Theatre: Toilet Facilities in the Early Playhouses
John H. Astington
Lectures and talks on the physical conditions of early English theatres and their audiences unfailingly give rise, sooner or later, to questions about the need for audiences of any period to relieve themselves: where were the toilets at the Globe, and what were they like? The best information currently available suggests that the answer should be that there were none, and hence that attending the theatre in Elizabethan and Stuart London involved forethought about how one was to cope with that circumstance. The recently published survey of the archaeological excavations at the sites of the Rose and the Globe between 1988 and 1990 found no evidence of privies or other permanent toilet facilities at either playhouse (Bowsher and Miller 132). Much excitement had arisen in 1989 surrounding the timber drain that was discovered running across the yard of the Rose, and in a facetious sketch Walter Hodges drew it as what the contemporary records of the royal Office of the Works call a “pissing trough” (Bowsher and Miller 133); it does not appear to have had such a purpose, and even if it had it would have served only the male spectators. And one could add that urination in the centre of a playhouse yard might itself have been regarded as the subject of spectatorship.
The Proscenium Doors in The Duke's Theatre Lincoln's Inn Fields
For many years the number of doors on English stages during the Restoration period has been the subject of debate among theatre historians, both in Theatre Notebook and elsewhere. The basic problem is the lack of pictorial evidence, which has caused historians to look for evidence from other sources: play texts, stage directions, prompters’ notes etc. These however, are contradictory.
The latest contribution to the debate is Tim Keenan’s article in Theatre Notebook 65. He discusses the number of doors on English stages during the early Restoration period and focuses on the first Duke’s Theatre, Lincoln’s Inn Fields (LIF), a tennis court that had been converted to a theatre for the Duke’s Company and which they used between 1661 and 1671, the year their new purpose-built theatre in Dorset Garden was completed. However, in defence of his theory that the theatre in LIF had no more than two doors, Keenan cuts too many corners.
Collaborations: Ninette de Valois and William Butler Yeats
Richard Allen Cave
Automata and Mimesis on the Stage of Theatre History
The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol 2: 1941-1956
George Craig, Martha Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, Lois Overbeck (eds.)
Old Time Variety: An Illustrated History
R. A. Baker
Music and Musicians on the London Stage, 1695-1705
Joan Littlewood's Theatre
“Books of the Songs to be had at the Theatre”: Some Notes on Fruit Women and their Contribution to Theatre Finances –§– Christopher Rich From Puritan to Theatre Manager –§– Paternity of the Siblings of Charles and Thomas Dibdin –§– Going at the Theatre: Toilet Facilities in the Early Playhouses –§– The Proscenium Doors in The Duke’s Theatre Lincoln’s Inn Fields