Music & Theater
During her years at Simmons College in Boston, Daisie went to many plays and musicals in the surrounding Boston theaters. Theater in Boston was considered a “fashionable but not entirely legal pursuit” (Athenaeum). In fact, the term “Banned in Boston” was derived from theater in this era.
“From the late 19th century until the mid-20th century, the phrase ‘Banned in Boston’ was used to describe a literary work, motion picture, or play prohibited from distribution or exhibition. During this time, Boston city officials took it upon themselves to “ban” anything that they found to be salacious, immoral or offensive.” (Wikipedia)
Daisie kept a multitude of theater programs and booklets from 1906 to 1910 in her scrapbook. She attended a variety of productions, ranging from comedic operas to the Boston “Pops.”
Here is a list of some of the theaters that Daisie most likely attended during her years at Simmons.
Boston Opera House (1909 – 1958): The Boston Opera House, which was first built solely for the use of opera, opened in 1909 on Huntington Ave. Since Daisie was very involved in the arts, it is likely that she attended, or at least knew of its existence. However, there is no program in the scrapbook for the Boston Opera House. The building eventually fell into disrepair during the Great Depression and World War II and was demolished in 1958.
Boston Pops (1885 – present): The Boston Pops were founded as a subsection of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1885. The group is generally described as “The Boston Symphony minus the first-chair players.” The Boston Pops tend to play light classical music mixed with tunes from the current theatrical hits. The conductors for the Boston Pops that Daisie may have seen were Arthur Kautzenbach (1908 – 1909) and André Marquarre (1909 – 1917). According to the programs in the scrapbook, Daisie may have attended a concert in the 22nd season in 1907 and in the 25th season in 1910.
Boston Symphony Orchestra (1881 – present): Although not a theater, Daisie attended several performances of the BSO while living in Boston. The BSO was founded in 1881 and is often referred to as one of the “Big Five” of the five American orchestras. In Daisie’s time, the two conductors at the BSO were Karl Muck (1906 – 1908) and Max Fiedler (1908 – 1912). According to the program in the scrapbook, Daisie may have attended a production in the symphony’s 29th season, 1909 – 1910 under conductor Max Fiedler.
Boston Theatre (1794 – 1852 and 1854 – 1925): The Boston Theatre had a tumultuous history. It went through two different structures, changed into a lecture hall and even burned down. The first structure was built in 1794 but it burned down four years after it was first built. It was rebuilt as the Federal Street Theatre and even spent some time as a lecture hall called “Odeon” before reverting back to its old name and idea of the Boston Theatre. The building was destroyed in 1852 and this made way for the second, more “lavish” structure built on Washington Street in 1854.
This building that Daisie was familiar with would last until it was demolished in 1925. During Daisie’s time, this theater could seat 3000 and attracted such big names such as Sarah Bernhardt and Maurice Barrymore. The Boston Theatre also hosted opera shows until the building of the Boston Opera House in 1909.
Colonial Theatre (1900 – present): Located on 106 Boylston Street, this is the oldest Boston theatre to survive in its entirety. The theater is one of the first playhouses in the Boston theater district. The first show at the Colonial Theatre was a production of Ben Hur, starring William Farnum and W.S. Hart, who would later become silent film stars, in the roles. In the early and mid-20th century, this theater would often receive sneak peaks of Broadway productions before they hit New York. According to the programs in the scrapbook, Daisie may have seen George M. Cohan’s latest musical play, “The Yankee Prince,” the comic opera, “The Prima Donna,” and “Where the Trail Divides” by Robert Edeson.
Hollis Street Theatre (1885 – 1935): Around the turn of the century, this was the most fashionable theater in Boston. It opened with the operetta “The Mikado.” Hollis Street Theatre also featured popular actors such as Maurice Barrymore, Sarah Bernhardt and Maude Adams. The theater was decorated in neo-Baroque style. According to the programs in the scrapbook, Daisie may have seen Miss. Maxine Elliot in “Her Great Match” by Clyde Fitch, Francis Wilson in “When Knights Were Bold,” and the J.M. Barrie comedy “What Every Woman Knows” starring Maude Adams.
Keith’s Theatre (1894 – 1952): This theater was founded by the showman Benjamin Franklin Keith – who was the first to dub the term “vaudeville.” Eventually, Keith would have over 400 theaters built around the country. Keith’s playhouse featured a variety of vaudeville acts every day.
Park Theatre (1879 – 1990): This theater was founded by the successful actress Lotta Crabtree. The theater opened with a production of “La Cigale.” According to the programs in the scrapbook, Daisie may have attended a production of “A Gentleman from Mississippi.”
Tremont Theatre (1889 – 1949): During the nineteenth century, there were several theaters built with the name Tremont Theatre. The one that Daisie most likely attended was “extremely successful and fashionable in the 1890’s … [and] famous for hosting the great Sarah Bernhardt, who enraptured Bostonians with her performance of La Tosca.” According to the programs in the scrapbook, Daisie may have attended the Viennese opera “The Merry Widow,” the production of “The Servant in the House,” “The Candy Shop: A Musical Comedy of Two Acts,” and “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.”
Some of the other productions Daisie may have seen while in Boston include: “Carmen” at the Lynn Oratorio Society, “When Hearts are Broken” at the Lynn Theatre, “The Witching Hour” with John Mason at the Majestic Theatre, and “Travelogues” delivered by Mr. Wright Kramer at the Tremont Temple.
Boston Athenæum. (2009). Boston Athenæum Theater History. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://www.bostonathenaeum.org/node/224
Boston Colonial Theater. (2009). Boston Colonial Theater. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://www.bostonscolonialtheatre.com/
Boston Symphony Orchestra. (2009). BSO Milestones. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://www.bso.org/bso/mods/toc_01_gen_images.jsp;jsessionid=03VRAKJ1TDZD4CTFQMGSFEQ?id=bcat11630071
Boston Theatre. (2009). Boston Theatre (Wash. St., Boston, Mass.). Boston . Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hou01949
Wikipedia. (2009). Boston Opera House. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Opera_House
Wikipedia. (2009). Boston Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Symphony_Orchestra
Wikipedia. (2009). History of Boston (19th century section). Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Boston#19th_century