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theatre-broad, high, handsomely decorated and beautifully lighted— meeting in a roomy hall, from which radiate entrances into all parts of the house, affording easy access, and quick and ready egress in case of fire. On one occasion when the house was very full it was tried how long the audience would be in getting away, without any alarm of fire being given, or other reason for expedition, and it was found that in four minutes and a half the theatre was empty. It would be exceedingly difficult for a lady occupying a centre stall in a London house, to make her way out of the place in anything like that time; and although Mr. Boucicault, Mr. Oxenford, and other writers, have more than once called attention to this subject, still, in the majority of English theatres the audience are so "cribbed, cabined, and confined," that were a fire of any consequence to break out, many people would inevitably be suffocated or crushed to death in the rush and consequent block that must ensue in the present limited means of egress.
Passing the check-gate in the hall at Wallack's, the visitor either enters the parquet by one of three large doors that stand open at the back, or turns to the right or left to the stairs that lead to the balcony or family-circle. The auditorium is here divided into three pricesspeaking in theatrical parlance-from which there is no reduction for late arrivals - herein, by the way, like the Adelphi-and of these prices the highest is charged for the "orchestra-chairs" (stalls), while the "balcony" (dress-circle), and parquet are a little cheaper, and the family-circle the lowest price of all. The parquet, which corresponds in position with the English pit, is as comfortable as any part of the theatre; the seats are lined and backed with velvet, so that the most fastidious can sit and watch the performance in ease and comfort. No visitor here need be afraid of finding himself between two old women, one of whom comments on the play by sympathizing with the heroine, and abusing the villain of the piece, while the other regales herself with oranges and ginger-beer, as if there was no hereafter. Neither need he dread the advent of sharp-boned females vending their unwholesome wares, who pertinaciously demand room to pass, and use the knees of the unwary as tables for their baskets. There is no necessity for this most objectionable custom in New York, inasmuch as a lady and gentleman can leave their seats, although unnumbered and unreserved, and adjourn whither they will for refreshment, knowing that when they return, should they find their places occupied, an intimation that they The have been already appropriated will be at once attended to. orchestra-chairs which divide the area with the parquet, though the
best, or, at least, the most expensive seats in the house, claim no social superiority for their occupants, as in England. Between the English pit and stalls yawns a social gulf that money alone will hardly bridge; and while members of the upper strata of society repose in the stalls in happy consciousness of their own superiority, a stray mortal whose customary place is in the pit, but who, from a plethora of cash, may have wandered into the regions of the great, has but a sorry time of it. Surrounded by those whose dress and appearance differ widely from his own, his neighbours talking over him, round him, and across him, on subjects of which he knows nothing, the unhappy intruder soon wishes himself back in the pit or other less aristocratic quarter, and pines for those localities where liberty is unshackled by fashion. In New York all is different; a man selects the orchestra-chairs or parquet as he feels inclined, and more with reference to his own powers of vision or the acoustic properties of the house than to any social considerations. The occupants of the chairs on one evening, may be in the parquet the next; and if the bonnets are a little brighter, the dresses more resplendent, that is probably the only difference that exists between the two places. A visitor to one of the first-class theatres of New York, is on an equality with those around him. He admits no superiority to himself, infers no inferiority; he has paid his money and does exactly as he pleases, and sits precisely where he fancies, always provided that he is not annoying other people, for nowhere are men nore considerate towards the convenience or requests of their fellows than in a New York theatre, and the cheerful alacrity with which they yield their seats to ladies on the slightest hint, would teach a wholesome lesson to those at home who fall short of that combination which we call an English gentleman. Above and around the area comprising orchestra-chairs and parquet, runs the balcony or dress-circle, admission to which is the same price as to the parquet, and therefore open to all who choose to exchange their places in the lower for others in the higher range of seats. Over this again is the family-circle, the cheapest part of the house, but, withal, as clean, orderly, and well-arranged as other higher-priced locali ties. These two circles carry their sweep round the house, almost unbroken by private boxes, which in these theatres are generally very limited in number. Gallery and pit, in the English sense of the word, there is none; their places are occupied as before described, and the roughs, male and female, either array themselves in decent clothes and manners, and take their seats in the family-circle, or, manners and clothing failing them, wing their flight to the Bowery Theatre or some
other place where shirt sleeves and "Plug" are looked upon with less objection.
"Wallack's" Theatre was built by the late James Wallack, an Englishman, and the famous Don Cæsar de Bazan, who established himself in America some years ago, passing from actor to manager in New York, where he died in 1864. Lester Wallack, the present proprietor, succeeded his father both as an actor and a manager, and in the latter capacity has established a reputation for his theatre which has placed it at the head of all similar establishments in America. His house is the prettiest in New York, his company is generally considered to be the best, no pains are ever spared, neither is expense calculated in the production of the pieces brought out at this theatre; and an Englishman sees, with some slight feelings of wounded pride, that dramas, comedies, and burlesques, English in their birth and origin, treating of English homes and scenes, are more carefully mounted and more perfectly put upon the stage in a New York theatre than in those houses where they were originally produced. These causes have had the effect of making Wallack's Theatre the fashionable house, though the habitués in no way neglect other places that may have attractions to offer. As a rule, the fact of a new artist being engaged, or a new piece being produced at this theatre, is tantamount to a public acknowledgment of merit, and although " Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit," and the audience occasionally decline to endorse the managerial opinion, yet such instances are rare: for the public, trusting the judgment of “Wallack's” management, usually acknowledge and support the selections made by their friend and impresario. This feeling has its drawbacks as well as its advantages, and compels the manager to weigh carefully the merits of any new artist or piece that he may propose to bring out. A striking example of this occurred a few months since, when Mr. Wallack, returning from London, brought with him the two pieces which together had been the great success of the year, and which had been running for many months to crowded houses in one of the Metropolitan theatres. The fashion of New York decided that there was no merit in either of the works, and declared that one of them, a burlesque, was unworthy of Wallack's Theatre. They had no doubt it was funny and clever, and in its proper place might be attractive, but they wonld none of it, so after a run of three weeks the bill was changed.
Burlesques are not so often played at the New York theatres as in London; and the American public do not care for them at all in the same degree as do their cousins of England. There is but one house
devoted to burlesque throughout New York, and this only a converted hall a pretty little theatre, but, nevertheless, having the air of a hall hanging over it still. Here (the Fifth Avenue Theatre) burlesques form the evening's amusement, oftentimes two being played successively-a mismanagement of effect, strange, and difficult to comprehend; but though two or three of the company are talented and clever, the tout ensemble lacks that completeness and pull-all-together spirit which makes the performance of a good burlesque so attractive in London. As yet, too, there are but few burlesques, comparatively speaking, that have been written for this side, and it requires little explanation to understand that puns, jokes, and allusions, that are immensely funny in one country, may be tame and insipid when repeated in another, three thousand miles away. This law of comic literature necessitates alterations and substitutions which, as they depend on the literary ability of the actor who makes them, do not always surpass the original either in elegance of diction, refinement of ideas, or depth of humour; in other words, the fun of the play is obliged to be supplemented by impromptu gagging, a liberty that can be entrusted to very few actors without a certainty of spoiling the performance and the tempers of all those engaged in it. At the "Olympic," on the Broadway, burlesque finds a home when Mrs. John Wood is in America, but as that lady has been for some time in England, the theatre, for the nonce, has been given over to the drama and Mr. Jefferson, of whom mention will be made in another part.
One of the largest theatres in New York, and certainly one of the most admirably arranged, is that known by the name of "Niblo's Garden," a title which, to English ears, is suggestive of a second-rate theatre, used as an additional attraction to the garden in which it is placed. Such an idea, however, in this case would be utterly erroneous, as Niblo's Garden is built within the walls of the Metropolitan Hotel, and owes its existence solely to its dramatic capabilities, and nothing to its garden, which is merely a small and insignificant adjunct to the theatre. Part and parcel of the "Metropolitan," it has, from either side of its large and handsome entrance, a side-way into the hotel, which serves as a convenience and attraction to the number of visitors living round and over the theatre, and also helps to brighten the entrance and make it more attractive to passers-by. The chief peculiarity in the construction of this theatre is the arrangement or position of the lowercircle, which the visitor reaches immediately on emerging from the outer hall, and which gives the theatre an appearance more foreign to
our accustomed notions than any other in New York, at the same time excelling them in convenience. Imagine the dress-circle of a theatre lowered bodily down from its height above, placed at the upper end of a slope which falls away to the orchestra, and divided by a number of passages running longitudinally through the circle, doors corresponding to these passages, with an antechamber running all round, having sofas placed at intervals against the walls, and some idea of the novelty referred to will thus be gained. The advantage derived, playgoers can measure for themselves by reflecting whether they prefer the pit-boxes at Covent Garden to others still higher; but the facility afforded for leaving and returning to one's seat by means of the dividing alleys and easy exit, would be thoroughly appreciated by everyone in England if managers would only be good enough to arrange their theatres on this plan. However late a visitor may arrive at this house, he can reach his seat with comparative ease, and avoidance of that torture which a man inflicts upon himself by squeezing past a long row of people, whose ill-concealed looks of annoyance he is obliged to meet with a painful smile of apology, knowing that he is regarded with feelings akin to those that would be entertained for a wet dog. Once scated in London, he is more or less fixed for the evening, and is compelled to occupy his time in the intervals between the acts by studying the heads of his neighbours and wondering whether there is anyone in the house whom he knows.
In a New York theatre there may be, and often is, a stampede for refreshments; couples run a few yards along the Broadway to the nearest restaurant, or into the refreshment saloon of the theatre, and allowing themselves half a minute to get from thence into their places, are comfortably seated when the curtain rises. Perhaps this difference in the construction of the theatres in the two countries may necessitate the number of private boxes in England, and account for their paucity in America, for with the exception of the French Theatre, the proscenium boxes are usually the only ones to be seen in New York. At Niblo's the other arrangements of the theatre are similar to those at Wallack's; and indeed at all the leading houses, the front half of the arca being devoted to "orchestra-chairs," the rearmost portion to the parquet. Down the centre of both runs a passage, like the old fop's alley of Her Majesty's Theatre, a convenience that was sacrificed to the desire of utilizing, in a pecuniary point of view, the space thus left open. Above the parquet-circle are placed the balcony and family-circle, differing more in name and position than in real comfort.