The Birth of Modern Theatre: Rivalry, Riots, and Romance in the Age of Garrick is a vivid description of the eighteenth-century London theatre scene—a time when the theatre took on many of the features of our modern stage. A natural and psychologically based acting style replaced the declamatory style of an earlier age. The theatres were mainly supported by paying audiences, no longer by royal or noble patrons. The press determined the success or failure of a play or a performance. Actors were no longer shunned by polite society, some becoming celebrities in the modern sense.
The dominant figure for thirty years was David Garrick, actor, theatre manager and playwright, who, off the stage, charmed London with his energy, playfulness, and social graces. No less important in defining eighteenth-century theatre were its audiences, who considered themselves full-scale participants in theatrical performances; if they did not care for a play, an actor, or ticket prices, they would loudly make their wishes known, sometimes starting a riot.
This book recounts the lives—and occasionally the scandals—of the actors and theatre managers and weaves them into the larger story of the theatre in this exuberant age, setting the London stage and its leading personalities against the background of the important social, cultural, and economic changes that shaped eighteenth-century Britain.
The Birth of Modern Theatre brings all of this together to describe a moment in history that sowed the seeds of today’s stage.
Table of Contents
List of figures
Chapter 1: Dawn of an Era
Chapter 2: Garrick in love
Chapter 3: The cultural context
Chapter 4: The Licensing Act
Chapter 5: The actors’ strike
Chapter 6: An Irish interlude
Chapter 7: A visit to the theatre
Chapter 8: A community of friends and rivals
Chapter 9: Garrick onstage
Chapter 10: The actor as celebrity
Chapter 11: Garrick rules at Drury Lane
Chapter 12: Shakespeare mania
Chapter 13: The English Aristophanes
Chapter 14: Foote and the dangerous duchess
Chapter 15: A turbulent spirit
Chapter 16: The Macbeth riots
Chapter 17: End of an era
Norman S. Poser is Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School. His previous books include Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason and Escape: A Jewish Scandinavian Family in the Second World War.
"This book vividly reconstructs their (the actors) lives, careers and occasional scandals." Times Higher Education
"The Birth of Modern Theatre is a vivid and easy to read account of eighteenth-century London and how this era marked the beginning of theater as we know it today." Broadway World
"The Birth of Modern Theatre is frequently an engaging read, as one would expect from a compendium of juicy thespian lore, including the flooding of Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee and the amputation of Foote’s foot: these, truly, are anecdotes not of an age, but for all time." James Horowitz, Sarah Lawrence College