Magazine article American Theatre

Schtick to It

Magazine article American Theatre

Schtick to It

Article excerpt

Cyberspace: "Always something for everybody"--E.F. Albee's motto for vaudeville, the variety-rules art form that loomed large in American entertainment from the 1880s to around 1930, holds truer than ever now that cyber-adepts can tour the crannies of Virtual Vaudeville. Two-and-a-half years in the making, the project is an interactive computer-game-style simulation of the vaudeville experience circa 1895, painstakingly recreated by a team of theatre historians and computer technologists, led by the University of Georgia's David Saltz.

Visitors to Virtual Vaudeville (www.virtualvaudeville.com) can tour the 1,200-seat Union Square Theatre, based on a now-demolished New York City venue; view performances from different angles, representing the various seating galleries; and even monitor the differing reactions of 800 spectators.

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The initiative was launched last month with a sample of a skit by Frank Bush (c. 1856-c. 1927), a comedian who worked the vein of ethnic comedy (in his case, an Irish and a Jewish act) that was a vaudeville staple. Twenty-first-century political correctness notwithstanding, Saltz explains, "We knew that we had to represent ethnic humor--that's absolutely essential to vaudeville." Bush's shtick, "The Hebrew Glazier," won't be the only offering, ultimately; Virtual Vaudeville will eventually showcase recreated performances by singer Maggie Cline (1857-1934), strongman Eugene Sandow (1867-1925) and the Four Cohans. …

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