Entertainment in the Guilded Age

The Theater- the antebellum theaters were large and crowded by all classes. With seats as cheap as 12 cents and rarely more than 50 cents, the typical theater audience included lawyers and merchants, and their wives, artisans and clerks, sailors and noisy boys, and a sizeable body of prostitutes. The prostitutes usually sat in the top balcony seats, called the third tier, “…that dark, horrible, guilty place…” The prostitutes in attendance were not the only factor that made the antebellum theater vaguely disreputable. Theatrical audiences were notoriously rowdy. Edwin Forrest and the popular British actor William Macready’s feud ended with a riot at New York City’s Astor Place that left twenty people dead. The Astor Place riot demonstrated the broad popularity of the antebellum theater. The plays themselves were as diverse as the audiences. Most often performed were melodramas, whose plots resembled those of sentimental novels. Vise was punished, virtue rewarded, and the heroine finally married the hero. The producers of the plays arranged for short performances or demonstrations between the acts of the most famous play write, William Shakespeare. During such an interlude, the audience would have observed perhaps a brief impersonation of Tecumseh or Aaron Burr, jugglers and acrobats, and drummer beating 12 drums at once, or a three-year old weighing a hundred pounds.
The Minstrel Shows- Minstrel shows arose in northern cities in the 1840s, as blackfaced white men took to the stage to present an evening of songs, dances, and humorous sketches. Minstrelsy borrowed some authentic elements of African-American culture, especially dances characterized by the sliding, shuffling step of southern blacks, but most of the songs had origins in white culture.
P. T. Barnum- after moving to New York City in 18, Barnum started a new career as an entrepreneur of popular entertainment His first venture exhibited a black woman, whom Barnu

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