American Company of Players
18th Century Theater – The American Company of Players
Within the Civilian Class Membership of the Brigade is a group re-creating the theater of the late 18th century. Named The American Company of Players, the group consists of Brigade members from many different units from both the Crown and Allied Forces. As well as primarily portraying soldiers and campfollowers of the American Revolution, these individuals have the added interest in the performing arts of Colonial America, and participate additionally as actors, singers, stage hands, makeup, costume and set designers.
Entertainments of the eighteenth century were augmented by the existence of the theater. Theater was extremely popular in England, as evidenced by the busy activity at London playhouses such as at Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Lincoln Fields, etc. One of the first theaterhouses in the colonies was built on John Street in New York City. When Congress outlawed entertainments such as the theater, both in 1774 and in 1778, as being too frivolous, the British forces not only continued to support the theatre, they even formed their own acting companies. Military theatre became a popular venue for the troupes of acting companies, a sort of “USO Show” of the 18th Century. Many names in history had connections with the performing arts; General John Burgoyne had penned several plays, General Howe was a theatrical devotee, and Major John Andre not only wrote plays but designed and painted scenery for the stage. Contemporary playwrights like John Gay, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith shared the popular stage with William Shakespeare.
The American Company of Players was formed in 1992 within the Brigade of the American Revolution. It takes its inspiration from The London Company of Comedians, which changed their name to The American Company of Comedians when David Douglass brought the troupe to the American colonies from England in 1758.
Plays, scenes and styles of theatre that were popular during the Revolution are researched and studied. Those members who wish to perform are cast in a variety of roles. Individual scenes, period songs, and the occasional full play are performed as a part of several Brigade event weekends. The repertoire is drawn from many plays popular at the time, such as The Beggar’s Opera, The Beaux’s Stratagem, The Lying Valet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, She Stoops To Conquer, and Much Ado About Nothing, as well as a multitude of period songs and catches.
The American Company of Players opens a window on an important and often underappreciated dimension of 18th Century life. It also affords those with a theatrical bent an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of the theatrical troupe, while making an important contribution to the Brigade’s living history programs. For further information about the Company, please contact the Brigade.