Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hollis Street Theater - Boston

This ad in Byrne’s Dramatic Times is a bit cryptic about this unnamed new theater to be constructed in Boston, but evidently somebody was so confident that Harry E. Dixey in “Adonis” was going to be such a good show that people needed to mark their calendars even before the theater was completed.

“Adonis” was an operetta, one of Broadway’s most successful at the time, running 600 performances. Mr. Dixey, in the title role, was fittingly handsome and brought the popular play and his popular self on tour.

This ad likely referred to the old Hollis Street Theatre, which opened in November 1885. The ad mentions Isaac Rich was the manager, and he did own the Hollis Street Theater, which was managed by Charles J. Rich. The theater replaced an old Congregational church that had been built in 1811, and designed by Charles Bulfinch. That church had been the renowned American architect’s first building.

Today, the theater which replaced the church is also gone, replaced in turn by a parking garage. Each age has its own needs and its own priorities.

Some of the players who appeared here were actor and playwright Dion Boucicault, Augustin Daly, E. H. Sothern, the great Sarah Bernhardt, Ada Rehan, John Drew of the Barrymore-Drew theater family dynasty, Edwin Forrest, William Warren, Henry Irving, and Eva Le Gallienne. William Gillette, Sherlock Holmes to a generation, appeared in Sherlock Holmes in 1901. Maude Adams played Peter Pan, her signature role, here in 1906. Ellen Terry appeared with her company on April 15, 1907, in George Bernard Shaw’s play Captain Brassbound’s Conversion.

The final show, on June 8, 1935, featured the Abbey Theatre Players from Dublin. The theater was demolished August 21, 1935. It was the middle of the Great Depression, and 19th Century theatre took its last breath. "Theatre ghosts" are said to haunt old playhouses, but perhaps not parking garages.

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