May 19, 2008
Sister Carrie in "Under the Gaslight"
"And you want me to get some woman to take a part?" questioned Drouet . . . "What are you going to play?"
"Under the Gaslight,'" said Mr. Quincel, mentioning Augustin Daly's famous production, which had worn from a great public success down to an amateur theatrical favourite, with many of the troublesome accessories cut out and the dramatis personae reduced to the smallest possible number. --From Chapter XVI of Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
I've always been curious about the play, "Under the Gaslight," that launches Carrie's acting career, so I was happy to find it listed on the Internet Archive. Theodore Dreiser, a naturalistic writer, used real people, events and even plays as historical context in the novel. For example, "Under the Gaslight" was written in 1867 by Augustin Daly, a playwright, producer and New York theater owner.(Carrie herself was based on his sister Emma who signed her letters to her brother, "Sister Emma.")
Perhaps it is simply my interest in theater, but lately I have begun to explore turn of the century theaters in Chicago and actors/actresses of the period. For others who may be interested in this aspect of the novel, I recommend: The Uses of Theater in Dreiser's Sister Carrie, the Dreiser Web Source and City Sites: Multimedia Essays on New York and Chicago, 1870s to 1930s
Photo Credit: Joseph Culliton from his outstanding website, The Life and Times of Joseph Haworth , a noted actor of the nineteenth century. For more information on Augustin Daly, click here.
For an in depth examination of an actress of this period, see the extensive website devoted to the Life and Times of Actress EJ Phillips.
Both Haworth and Phillips performed in Chicago and at Augustin Daly's theater in New York...just like Carrie.