British Military Theatre in New York in 1780-81

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From October 20, 1774, when the Continental Congress passed a resolution outlawing theatrical activities in America, until the formation of the Lindsay-Wall troupe that began performing illegally in Maryland in 1781 and, under the management of Dennis Ryan, shifted its base of operations to New York in 1783, the theatre in America was in a near-dormant state. The only significant exceptions to this condition were the productions of the occupying British military in various American localities, and a few productions by American military officers given in response. According to the strategy devised by the British high command in America, when British soldiers captured a city, the soldiers' winters were to be spent in comfort in order that they might fight more effectively with the return of warm weather. Thus, secure against American attack and sorely in need of a recreational outlet, British and Hessian officers in Boston, Philadelphia, Savannah, and Staunton, Virginia, began as early as 1775 to take over theatres - and buildings that had been erected for other purposes but could be converted into theatres -and to offer a series of theatrical entertainments for their own amusement. The audiences for these productions were composed of British military personnel and their Tory friends.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalTheatre Survey
StatePublished - Nov 1982


  • Theater and Performance Studies
  • Theater History

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