Davanh is our Online Hostess
In the early days there were the
troubadours and the singing minstrels, then came the medicine
shows to the towns of America...then the
tent Shows, rag operas, tent reps
took entertainment on the road. Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show
begins to roll, and we hear
the music "there's no business like show
business", then vaudeville, Broadway and the flickers...
In 1913, Cecil B. DeMille rents a barn in
Hollywood near the corner of Hollywood and Vine, and
makes the movie "The Squaw Man"...the wireless, the talking machine, and on to TV, and
Buddy Holly in a plane, some music dies,
and Kristofferson and Willie Nelson load up and are...
"On The Road Again"...while the Internet
streams a Wild West Digital Film Festival to the world,
from an ancient hot springs town that
Jessie James' uncle built here in cowboy wine country...
Enlarge thy tents, Strengthen thy stakes.
Tent rep theatre gave
the public access to simple, understandable entertainment...
The tent rep shows were
important to rural America for they were "...the grass
roots theatre of the
country." The shows seldom played big towns, instead
"...rough-hewn drama to the doorsteps of the rural citizens." The
tent show circuit, with
the actors and "repsters", the tent theatre troupe, these
canvas playhouses was how most of rural American were entertained in the
early part of the
Tent Repertoire theatre
as a form of American popular entertainment established
a firm base for
development in the late nineteenth century, steadily growing to
enjoy a heyday in the
1920s. At the height of tent show activity, Billboard
statistical evidence in the New York Times concluding that
"the canvas playhouses
of the country constitute a more extensive business than
Broadway and all the
rest of the legitimate theatre industry put together."
In 1823, the first steam ship travels up
the Mississippi River. It is said that the first
was performed in a tent around this time and Stephen Austin establishes
the first American
settlement in Tejas (Texas).
In 1867, P.T. Barnum formed
his first traveling circus, and later came up with the idea
of the three ring circus. He thought of
it in trying to design a way to get more people
under the big top to see
the show. He coined terms like:
"Rain or shine"
get the show on the road."
In 1872, P.T. Barnum coined the
"Greatest show on Earth,"
describing his "show.
After the 1860s, when touring circuits of entertainers used the railway
As movies replaced vaudeville, the better tent shows attracted many a
Dime Melodramas were passing...
The large cities had theatres, but the rural areas had to rely on the
small touring groups
and tents shows as the barnstormed the roads of the country. These
would even steal a play from the cities and ,pirated the script, change
the name of the play
and hit the road...
an important year in the evolution of the entertainment
Bill Cody creates his Wild
West Show and prepares
to create an entire new realm
in Omaha, NE. and on
Thomas Edison pioneers
the radio tube.
We are looking now at how the tent can be used
as a playback video and screen for movies
Traveling shows were the means by which people
in the rural areas of the country during
the 1800's were able to hear the music and
entertainment that was originating in the cities
of the Northeast. The MEDICINE SHOW is the
most common. These "physick" wagon
with its shuck and jive "medicine man" or "doctor,"
if you will, was the order of the day.
The "carnie" types were a interesting lot
themselves and became some of the first
"promoters" of the business known as Entertainment.
The doctor usually sold a bottled liniment,
which was called sometimes "snake oil." Or,
sold congo oils, liniments, home remedies and
elixirs. The shows usually had a
"blackface" entertainer to sing and draw a crowd so
that the "doc" could come out and
his deed on the rural crowd.
Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry, Buck Page, Hank
Williams, and other country singers
had their first gigs with Medicine Shows. Jimmie
Rodgers ran off with a Medicine Show
when he was only 13. Later on he would sign on as
a "blackface" singer with the medicine
show circut. Many of the singers would play a
banjo, fiddle or a guitar and paint their face
These traveling gypsy shows were cutting the
trail that would years in the future be followed
by Willie Nelson singing "On The Road Again"
in his Honeysuckle Rose.