IRA Aldridge: Negro Tragedian

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9780882581507: IRA Aldridge: Negro Tragedian
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On March 25, 1833, celebrated English actor Edmund Kean collapsed on stage at Covent Garden while playing the role of Othello and died shortly thereafter. Sixteen days later, young Ira Aldridge, an American-born black actor, replaced Edmund Kean in the role of the Moor. "Suddenly, members of the press were up in arms," and a real-life drama escalated, with all of London the stage.
The late biographers Herbert Marshall and Mildred Stock recreate this drama, which included a huge cast of characters: An adoring following among the common folk in the English provinces. The manager of Covent Garden, one Pierre Francois Laporte, a Frenchman who mixed business with liberal ideas about race. Theatre critics who relished calling Aldridge a "black servant" even as they idealized Shakespeare's peasant background. The proslavery lobby, at that very moment fighting its last battle.
Aldridge had come to London from New York City at age seventeen and for eight years had performed in the English provinces. In April 1833, he stood at the very heart of the Empire, beloved Covent Garden. Thrust out after only two performances, he was catapulted, in a wonderfully ironic twist, onto a world stage that included all of Europe and Russia. He would eventually return to conquer London, decked with medals of distinction.

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About the Author:

Errol Hill is Willard Professor of Drama and Oratory, Emeritus, at Dartmouth College.

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Marshall, Herbert
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Herbert Marshall
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