1870 TO 1900
Realism and the Régisseur
Significantly, the event of the 1869-1870 season was the unexpected success of a new company under a new manager in the Meilhac and Halévy melodrama Frou-Frou, which opened February 12, 1870, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, with an unknown actress in the leading role. Augustin Daly, hitherto known as a press agent, dramatic critic, and playwright, thus served notice that his enterprise, which had opened in the fall without attracting much attention, was no flash in the pan. As manager, Daly's career was to span nearly thirty years and to carry American actors and plays to London, Berlin, and Paris. Equally important, it was to mold a new pattern for our theatre marked by a shift in power from the actor to the producer-director. An early sign of this shift was the abandonment in the seventies of the time-honored actor's benefit.
Burton's and Wallack's companies had shown a revival of discipline and of care in the preparation of each production. This required an increase in the authority of the acting manager, now called the stage manager, and a greater discipline on the part of the actors. However, the actors were for the most part experienced and established each in his line of parts, and the stage manager's job was largely one of coordinating their performances and fitting them into the setting.