The History of Theater - In One Amazing City

Season 1

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.

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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...

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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 …

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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?

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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."

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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.

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Jan. 14, 2022

25. The Charlotte Cushman Club

The famous 19th Century American tragic actress - and the 2Oth Century Philadelphia women who founded an organization in her honor.

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Dec. 31, 2021

24. The Mummers Parade - An interview with Dr. Christian DuComb

A Special Episode for our listeners! Mike Lueger of "The Theatre History Podcast" interviews Dr. Christian DuComb about the history of Philadelphia Mummers Parade, the history behind the iconic annual Philadelphia event, and the 'Mummers Wench'.

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Dec. 17, 2021

23. The Academy of Music

What was Philadelphia to do, in an age when theater audiences were Running Riot? Why, of course! . . build them an Academy, and fill it with Grand Opera.

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Dec. 3, 2021

22. Theater of Cruelty

Bad behavior, bigotry and boorishness! Philadelphia's New Theatre on Chestnut Street, as well as being the premiere home for drama in America, could also be the site of riots, uproar - and cruelty.

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Nov. 19, 2021

21. "I Fear No One" - Native American Performance in 19th Century Phi…

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.

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Nov. 5, 2021

20. The Duchess of Arch Street, Part Two

"Mrs. John Drew's Arch Street Theatre" was the most famous company in Philadelphia, during the period from 1862 to 1897. We even finally bring on the Barrymores! And we see her as Mrs. Malaprop.

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Oct. 15, 2021

19. The Duchess of Arch Street, Part One

Louisa Lane Drew's rise to fame and respectability. We chronicle her early years, long before she became the grandmother of All Them Barrymores.

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Sept. 24, 2021

18. Fanny Kemble, Part Two

Fanny Kemble, trapped in her new marriage, learns the stark truth about American slavery and how she herself has become implicated in its horrors. After a long struggle, she finally works her way back to moral clarity and and financial …

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Sept. 10, 2021

17. Fanny Kemble, Part One

Fanny Kemble's performances would help to change the role of women on the American stage, and her stay in Philadelphia would have a transformative effect on her own life story, as well.

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Aug. 20, 2021

16. Forrest of Philadelphia, Part Three

Edwin Forrest returns to his home city in the final decades of his life. He keeps performing on the city's stages, and creates his long-term legacy in Philadelphia.

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Aug. 6, 2021

15. Forrest of Philadelphia, Part Two

Edwin Forrest builds the repertoire of new roles that would shape his career: Metamora, Spartacus, and Jack Cade.

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July 23, 2021

14. Special Episode: Interview by "The Theatre History Podcast"

This is an edited version of the interview with Peter Schmitz by Mike Lueger of "The Theatre History Podcast". In the interview, Peter tries to answer Mike's many excellent questions about this podcast, such as: "Why Philadel...

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July 9, 2021

13. Forrest of Philadelphia, Part One

We follow Philadelphia's own great tragedian Edwin Forrest from birth, through his early years, to his initial success.

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June 25, 2021

12. Stages of Fire

How Philadelphia'a many theater fires in the 1800s affect the physical environment of plays, even today.

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June 11, 2021

11. The Theatrical Commonwealth

Wars, fires, melodramas, circuses, balloons, and ice cream . . . as we complete our multi-episode exploration of Philadelphia Theater History in the period from 1793-1820.

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May 28, 2021

10. George Frederick Cooke Heads to Philadelphia

George Frederick Cooke, one of the greatest actors of the English stage, came to Philadelphia in 1811. In a very real way, he's still here . . .

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May 14, 2021

9. Chaos Comes to Walnut Street

The hurricanes of World History blow a French equestrian circus company all the way to Philadelphia, and the Walnut Street Theatre is born.

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April 30, 2021

8. New Year's Day at the New Theatre, 1800

Philadelphians ring in the New Year of 1800 with a spectacular staging of "Blue Beard, or Female Curiosity". Meanwhile, in the audience, other dramatic events are taking place!

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April 16, 2021

7. Two Paintings at The Met

How two paintings - of a Black oyster-seller and a group of Native Americans - give us insights in the early theater of Philadelphia.

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April 2, 2021

6. Ricketts' Circus in the Capital City, Part Four

A Triumph, an International Tour, a Fire, and a Final Exit.

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March 26, 2021

5. Ricketts' Circus in the Capital City, Part Three

John Bill Ricketts completes his 1793 season of shows in Philadelphia - just in time to avoid the Yellow Fever epidemic. But when Ricketts finally returns to the city, much later, he builds a new Circus and Art Pantheon

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March 26, 2021

4. Ricketts' Circus in the Capital City, Part Two

The influence of the English equestrian Phillip Astley, and how the equestrian circus was developing into an international form of popular entertainment in the late 18th Century.

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March 26, 2021

3. Ricketts' Circus in the Capital City, Part One

How Philadelphia became the site of the First American Circus.

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March 26, 2021

2. Early Philadelphia Theater in the 18th Century

A broad overview of Philadelphia theater and its contribution to American drama - from the founding of Pennsylvania to the end of the 18th Century. William Penn's antipathy to all things theatrical is discussed, as well as th...

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March 23, 2021

1. Welcome to Adventures in Theater History

Why we're here, and what we're trying to do with our podcast. Peter tells the story of his own personal history, and how he started on the task of researching, exploring, and teaching the history of the theater in Philadelph...

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