Cover image for America's Longest Run: A History of the Walnut Street Theatre By Andrew Davis

America's Longest Run

A History of the Walnut Street Theatre

Andrew Davis

BUY

$46.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03578-9

$29.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03053-1

424 pages
7" × 10"
44 b&w illustrations
2010

Keystone Books

America's Longest Run

A History of the Walnut Street Theatre

Andrew Davis

“The book is beautifully produced with a lush, velvet cover that sits as comfortably in one’s hands as, no doubt, patrons sit in the theatre’s lush seats. Readers throughout the country will enjoy this book; although it is a case study of only one significant theatre, it is a comprehensive, fascinating introduction to American culture and society as depicted through the history of its entertainments.”

 

  • Media
  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects

Winner of the 2010 Best Book on Theatre and/or Performance prize as sponsored by the American Theatre and Drama Society.

America’s Longest Run: A History of the Walnut Street Theatre traces the history of America’s oldest theater. The Philadelphia landmark has been at or near the center of theatrical activity since it opened, as a circus, on February 2, 1809. This book documents the players and productions that appeared at this venerable house and the challenges the Walnut has faced from economic crises, changing tastes, technological advances, and competition from new media.

The Walnut’s history is a classic American success story. Built in the early years of the nineteenth century, the Walnut responded to the ever-changing tastes and desires of the theatergoing public. Originally operated as a stock company, the Walnut has offered up every conceivable form of entertainment—pageantry and spectacle, opera, melodrama, musical theater, and Shakespeare. It escaped the wrecking ball during the Depression by operating as a burlesque house, a combination film and vaudeville house, and a Yiddish theater, before becoming the Philadelphia headquarters for the Federal Theatre Project. Because Philadelphia is located so close to New York City, the Walnut has served as a tryout house for many Broadway-bound shows, including A Streetcar Named Desire, The Diary of Anne Frank, and A Raisin in the Sun. Today, the Walnut operates as a nonprofit performing arts center. It is one of the most successful producing theaters in the country, with more than 350,000 attending performances each year.

“The book is beautifully produced with a lush, velvet cover that sits as comfortably in one’s hands as, no doubt, patrons sit in the theatre’s lush seats. Readers throughout the country will enjoy this book; although it is a case study of only one significant theatre, it is a comprehensive, fascinating introduction to American culture and society as depicted through the history of its entertainments.”
“Davis describes the remarkable growth and development of the Walnut over the past several decades. This narrative is among the book’s most useful contributions to the institution’s history. Another important feature of Davis’s chronicle may be found in the way that it documents the central role of the nondramatic in the various activities that took place in and around nineteenth-century American playhouses.
“America’s Longest Run provides a rare opportunity to survey the development of an important American institution that has borne witness to much of the nation’s history.
“Davis’s work will be a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in the history of Philadelphia or the American theatre.”

Andrew Davis is a specialist in the American popular theatre. He holds a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University and teaches at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

Contents

List of Illustrations

Prologue: America’s Oldest Theatre

1 The Beginnings of Theatre in Philadelphia, 1682–1809

2 Circus and Spectacle at the Walnut Street Theatre, 1809–1820

3 The Era of the English Star, 1820–1829

4 The Walnut in the Age of Jackson, 1829–1840

5 The Marshall Era, 1840–1849

6 Respectability, 1849–1860

7 The Civil War Years, 1860–1867

8 The Last Years of Stock, 1867–1879

9 A Combination House, 1879–1895

10 The Syndicate Years, 1896–1920

11 Boom and Bust, 1920–1940

12 A Tryout House, 1941–1954

13 The Shuberts in Decline, 1954–1969

14 Performing Arts Center, 1969–1982

15 A Subscription House, 1982–1999

16 The State Theatre of Pennsylvania, 2000 and Beyond

Notes

Bibliography

Index

?