KNICKERBOCKER PLAYERS. In the fall of 1915, West Philadelphia's Knickerbocker Theatre became the home of a newly formed resident stock company, the Knickerbocker Players. The Knickerbocker Theatre was located at Fortieth and Market streets in a commercial and shopping district bordering on the University of Pennsylvania campus, the elite Powelton Village area, and the middle-class residential sprawl to the west. Built in 1913, the Knickerbocker Theatre had been a vaudeville house. Because the theatre was located along the city's new "elevated" subway line, it was in a position to draw audiences from many areas of Philadelphia. From the outset, the company advertised their convenient location: "only seven minutes from Broad Street" and "eight minutes from Eighth and Market Streets."
The Knickerbocker Players opened on September 6, 1915, in Victorien Sardou Diplomacy. The company was under the management of William W. Miller, the former manager of Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre, Forepaugh Theatre, and the American Theatre Stock Company*. Many of the actors, too, were alumni of this company, including Bessie Heitman, George W. Barbier, and Carrie Thatcher. Barbier, a noted Philadelphia actor who had one time been coproprietor of his own company, the Middleton-Barbier Stock Company*, was also the company's stage director.
From its inception, the company had difficulty securing suitable leading actors. Richard LaSalle, a known Philadelphia actor who was considered the "perfect matinee lover," and Eva Marsh were the original "stars." However, by October Marsh had been replaced by Frances Shannon. By November, Shannon had been replaced by Ruth Robinson. A major company upheaval occurred in December when several of the Knickerbocker performers, including leading actors LaSalle and Robinson, left the company to join the George Arvine Stock Company* opening at Philadelphia's American Theatre. Apparently, the company was plagued by internal difficulties and personality conflicts. The roster of leading