Wednesday, April 29, 2009


To make matters worse, [Alfred] Bunn shortly became the manager of Covent Garden as well as of Drury Lane -- the first and last time anyone was foolhardy enough to try this experiment -- and thus master of the whole realm of the legitimate drama in London.

His first act was to slash his performers' salaries.  Not uniquely among managers, Bunn hated actors with a passion, but there was reason as well as vindictiveness behind his move, because the payroll at the two great theatres had soared out of control.  During one week, six hundred and eighty-four employees were counted at Covent Garden alone. Aside from the actors there was an acting manager, a stage manager, a pantomime director, a property man, and a callboy, an assortment of prompters and copyists, a corps de ballet, a chorus, and a full orchestra.  Up in the scenery room in the eaves there were various chief scene painters, assistant scene painters, and color grinders; down in the workshop, a property maker, a machinist, and a master carpenter, together with half a dozen assistant carpenters and two dozen scenery men and stagehands.  Backstage were the master and mistress of the wardrobe, with their army of dressers; front of house, a treasurer and an under treasurer, a housekeeper, an assistant, ten money takers, ten check takers, and a box keeper; and, stationed all around, dozens of attendants, lamplighters, firemen, porters, and watchmen. The official theatres had become monsters that chewed through fortunes and spat out bankruptcy, and something had to give.

"The Shakespeare Riots" by Nigel Cliff, an historical account of the Astor Place riot of 1849, which began as a grudge between the British actor William Charles Macready and American actor Edwin Forrest