The History of Theater - In One Amazing City


March 17, 2023

49. Bernhardt and the Playboy - or, "Immoral, Blasphemous, and Obscen…

In 1911, actress Sarah Bernhardt's production of La Samaritaine met with fervent opposition from Philadelphia clergymen. In 1912, the Irish Players' production of Playboy of the Western World caused yet another Philly audience riot!

Episode page
Feb. 24, 2023

48. Hammerstein's Opera House, Part Three

The last installment of the saga of Oscar Hammerstein in the "Opera Wars" - and the story of the grand Philadelphia theater he left behind.

Episode page
Feb. 10, 2023

47. Hammerstein's Opera House, Part Two

February 1909: The opera "Salome" at Oscar Hammerstein's new Philadelphia Opera House needed to be stopped, as a matter of public decency, declared hundreds of clergymen and civic leaders. Meanwhile, the impresario himself wa...

Episode page
Jan. 27, 2023

46. Hammerstein's Opera House, Part One

We meet Manhattan opera impresario Oscar Hammerstein, and learn how the "Opera War" with his rival, the Metropolitan Opera Company, spread all the way to Philadelphia. What remains behind is not only an amazing theater, but a great story!

Episode page
Jan. 13, 2023

45. The Fight Against The Clansman, Part Three

1906: A coalition of African American men attempt to stop Thomas Dixon Jr.'s play The Clansman from being performed in Philadelphia. After leading a public protest in front of the Walnut Street Theatre, the whole matter ends ...

Episode page
Dec. 30, 2022

44. Holiday Show - 2022

Seven short and light vignettes from the history of Philadelphia Theater - all of which took place in the city during the Holiday, from various theatrical seasons over the past 150 years. A gift to all of you listeners and …

Episode page
Dec. 16, 2022

43. The Fight Against The Clansman, Part Two

We continue our story about Thomas Dixon Jr. and his 1905 play The Clansman with an examination of the early life of this formidable man. We learn the root causes of his political obsessions - and about his need to …

Episode page
Nov. 25, 2022

42. The Fight Against The Clansman, Part One

We begin the harrowing story of The Clansman in Philadelphia. Although this play by Thomas W. Dixon is known as the progenitor to the 1915 D.W. Griffith film Birth of the Nation , few are aware of its early controversial …

Episode page
Nov. 11, 2022

41. Encore Episode: "I Fear No One" - Native American Performance in …

A re-broadcast of an episode originally released in November of 2021. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, an exploration of performances by Indigenous People in theaters of the City of Philadelphia in the 19th Century.

Episode page
Oct. 28, 2022

40. The Quaker City: The Forbidden Play of 1844, Part Three

The mob is gathering in the street outside the Chestnut Street Theatre, while inside the rehearsals for the scandalous play The Quaker City go on! Will it all end in a deadly riot? The suspense is building . .

Episode page
Oct. 14, 2022

39. The Quaker City: The Forbidden Play of 1844, Part Two

George Lippard's novel "The Quaker City, or the Monks of Monk Hall" is made into a new play. The excitement about it builds in Philadelphia, just as the national election of 1844 roils the city.

Episode page
Sept. 30, 2022

38. The Quaker City: The Forbidden Play of 1844, Part One

We set the scene for the 1844 battle over the play at Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Theater, entitled "The Quaker City, or the Monks of Monk Hall," by George Lippard. How and why this production came about will be the story …

Episode page
Sept. 23, 2022

37. Season Two Announcement: Drama is Conflict

A quick announcement about our upcoming season of new episodes . . . Spoiler Alert: There will be lots of drama. And conflict! © Podcast text copyright, Peter Schmitz. All rights reserved. ℗ All voice recordings copyright Pet...

Episode page
Sept. 16, 2022

36. Jasper Deeter and the Hedgerow Theatre

In this Special Summer Episode, Peter interviews theater historian Barry Witham about his 2013 book "A Sustainable Theatre: Jasper Deeter at Hedgerow," and then we bring listeners along on a guided tour of Hedgerow Theatre campus in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania.

Episode page
July 29, 2022

35. The Paul Robeson House

This special episode of the podcast goes on a journey to the Paul Robeson House and Museum in Philadelphia. Included is an interview with Janice Sykes-Ross of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and a recording of a live...

Episode page
July 8, 2022

34. Special Episode: "Good Night Sweet Prince: John Barrymore Comes H…

Special Episode: Peter reads a chapter about Philadelphia's most famous acting family, from Wicked Philadelphia, a book by Thomas H. Keels. Like the ghost of Hamlet's father, John Barrymore wouldn't stay still and kept showing up!

Episode page
June 17, 2022

33. Life & Death in the Theater: More 19th Century Stories

Six more stories of 19th C. Philadelphia theater: Alexander Reinagle, Joseph Jefferson III, James Murdoch, Matilda Heron, John McCullough - as well as two stagehands at the Walnut Street Theatre you likely never heard of before, but may never forget!

Episode page
June 3, 2022

32. Philadelphia's 'Negro Unit' of the Federal Theatre Project: A Con…

A Special interview with scholar Jonathan Shandell and director Jerrell Henderson.

Episode page
May 6, 2022

31. Interview: Mary B. Robinson

Special Episode. Mary Robinson sat down for a talk with Peter to discuss her 4 1/2 year tenure at the Philadelphia Drama Guild in the 1990s. We also talked about the many shows she subsequently directed at the Philadelphia Theatre …

Episode page
April 18, 2022

30. The Best of Times

From the 1876 Centennial Exposition to the end of the 19th Century, Philadelphia's experienced a boom in theater construction. New plays, musicals, operettas and vaudeville shows constantly cycled in and out of the city to fill these theaters.

Episode page
March 25, 2022

29. The Black Booth: Part Two

John A. Arneaux plays "Richard III" at the Academy of Music, then mysteriously exits the American stage. His co-star, the actor Henri Strange, remains - and strives to create a Shakespeare theater for Philadelphia's Black audiences. The second half of …

Episode page
March 4, 2022

28. The Black Booth: Part One

John A. Arneaux starred in a one-night all-Black production of "Richard III' at Philadelphia's Academy of Music in January 1887. Who was he, where had he come from, and why had he chosen Philadelphia for this audacious feat?

Episode page
Feb. 11, 2022

27. The Mischianza

Another Special Episode! Peter reads the chapter "Oh, It's a Lovely War: The Mischianza 1778" from Thomas H. Keels' 2010 book "Wicked Philadelphia: Sin in the City of Brotherly Love."

Episode page
Jan. 28, 2022

26. The Everlasting Minstrel Show

The story of one of America's most infamous - and influential - performance traditions, as it specifically relates to the history of theater in Philadelphia.

Episode page