Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Curtail Call, Arrested in Hartford

George and Sarah Bartley, players on the English stage from the late 1700s through the early 19th century, came to America on tour in 1818. It was a great success for them, but one episode in Hartford, Connecticut put a dent in their shiny newfound fame and fortune.

They took the stagecoach from New York City to Boston, and stopped in Hartford for a rest. According to Curtain Time - The Story of the American Theater by Lloyd Morris (Random House, NY, 1953), some prominent citizens in town invited them to present readings from plays and recitations. It wasn’t every day famous theater folk came to town. Probably because they had no theater. There were reasons for that, as we shall see.

The ballroom of Hartford’s “principal hotel” made do, but, this being New England, several more puritanical town fathers voiced opposition and demanded that the Attorney General of Connecticut “enforce the ‘blue law’ prohibiting theatrical performances and circuses.” Theatre, as we know, is a vice.

The Attorney General duly forbade the landlord of this establishment to hold his planned entertainment, but the landlord did not tell Mr. and Mrs. Bartley. So, on went the show in theatre tradition, and the thoroughly confused couple were immediately arrested after their bows, which the author notes was after midnight.

Bail was set at $500, more than a princely sum in the new republic, but fortunately, their hosts paid the bail. The court eventually let the Bartleys go, likely skedaddling up the Old Post Road with fresh horses. One hopes they had a better reception in Boston.

No comments:

Post a Comment