American Theatre Companies, 1888-1930

By Weldon B. Durham | Go to book overview

G

[GRACE] GEORGE'S PLAYHOUSE COMPANY. Grace George's Playhouse Company ( New York, New York) opened with Langdon Mitchell social comedy, The New York Idea, at the proscenium-equipped Playhouse Theatre (built in 1911 at 137 West Forty-eighth Street) on September 8, 1915. William Brady, who owned the theatre, functioned as producer; his wife, comedienne Grace George, managed the company and played female leads. George, in her own words, "had to select the actors, oversee the staging, direct the rehearsals, consider the arrangement of the repertory, and advertising policies, . . . not to mention the development and costuming of [her] own parts" ( Theatre Magazine, June 16, p. 339).

George's company represents one of the many noble attempts to establish a high-quality repertory company in New York City. George, who had garnered popular success in light comedies, sought to produce more thoughtful works, especially those of George Bernard Shaw. While she undoubtedly hoped to grow as a serious artist, she also complained that New York's commercial theatres staged scripts of little literary merit. She believed an audience existed for these plays, that society contained many intelligent, learned people who would respond favorably to sophisticated, complex scripts. While William Brady did not often subsidize this kind of theatre, he was willing to do so for his wife, so long as his losses were minimal or, preferably, nonexistent.

Unfortunately, Grace George's Playhouse Company did not draw enough customers. Soon after the Playhouse's opening, George lowered the ticket prices for the first three nights of the week plus Wednesday matinees. The regular rate, $2.00-$1.50-$.75, was fairly high at that time. The revised rate, $1.50-$.75- $.50-$.25, did not have the effect of increasing audience size, however, and the theatre rarely showed a profit.

Although audiences did not flock to the theatre, critics generally praised George's venture. They found the technical effects satisfactory and gave special

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