Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ada Dyas, Comedienne

Ada Dyas, comedienne, must have taken the train from Norwalk, Connecticut to reach her stage work in New York. This ad in the Byrnes’ Dramatic Times from the 1880s is ambiguous for its very simplicity. Was she looking for work? Was she merely announcing she had arrived? Maybe both.

Ada Dyas, born in 1843, was an Irish actress who played in “Henry IV” in London in 1861, and would later become famous for her featured or starring roles in comedies. One of these most famous plays was Dion Boucicault’s “The Shaugraun.” We mentioned in this previous post that playwright/actor Mr. Boucicault played at Boston’s Hollis Theater in the late 1880s.

Here is link to a photo of Ada Dyas in “The Shaugraun.” We have another portrait of her as described by novelist Edith Wharton in “The Age of Innocence” (D. Appleton & Co., NY, 1920). In the book, the character Newland Archer is captivated by the scene in the play where Dyas and the hero part in romantic silence.

“The actress, who was standing near the mantlepiece and looking down into the fire, wore a gray cashmere dress, without fashionable loopings or trimmings, moulded to her tall figure and flowing in long lines down her back….” Wharton goes on to describe the famous scene where the actor in silent parting kisses one of the ribbons.

Edith Wharton, less romantically, remarks, “Miss Dyas was a tall red-haired woman of monumental build,” with a “pale and pleasantly ugly face…”

Her ungainly appearance, even more than her talent for it, would have consigned Miss Dyas to the comedienne’s roles. But, in her obituary in the New York Times, March 13, 1908, Ada Dyas is recalled in more dignified terms.

“She belonged to a school of actresses taught to pronounce the English language with marked accuracy.” Truly, a product of a bygone era was Miss Dyas of London, New York, and Norwalk, Connecticut.

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