December 17, 1900 The Great Sarah Bernhardt Was Appearing At The Madison Square Garden Theatre
Madison Square Garden was the center of entertainment for wealthy New Yorkers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Occupying the entire block between Park and Madison Avenues from 26th to 27th Streets, the Garden Theatre was the work of architects McKim, Mead and White.
The Garden Theatre featured the most famous stars of the day and 100 years ago today, you could have seen the fabulous French star Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) during her “farewell” week. Bernahardt made over nine “farewell” tours of America between 1906 – 1918. In 1900 Bernhardt was just doing farewell weeks.
Bernhardt was appearing in a prose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The crazy part was Ms. Bernhardt was playing….Hamlet! This was considered very controversial in 1900.
The other ads on the page show what major acts were appearing at theatres around the city.
The famous Maude Adams (1872-1953), was concluding her run at the Knickerbocker Theatre in L’Ainglon. There were only 12 more performances scheduled.
The Garden Theatre was managed by Charles Frohman, the most influential and important theatre impresario of the day. Frohman also managed the Criterion, Empire and Garrick Theatre. In addition to managing theatres, Frohman was the personal manager of Maude Adams.
If you have ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, you may know that writer Richard Matheson based a good deal of Seymour’s character (Elise McKenna) on Ms. Adams. The close, svengali-like relationship with Elise McKenna’s manager William Fawcett Robinson played by Christopher Plummer, was based on Adams relationship with Charles Frohman.
Frohman managed Maude Adams until he died on the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed in 1915. After his passing, Maude Adams was shaken to the core, appearing in only three more plays retiring from the stage in 1917.
Another major star was John Drew (1853-1927) who had two more weeks remaining in his run in Richard Carvel. John Drew was the uncle to John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore and great-great uncle to actress Drew Barrymore.