Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.
Well it seems incredible, one of the paintings I creating during this series of Colour In Your Life will be auctioned on Saturday at the Australian Theatre Company’s second annual Gala Event.
Watch the show and see an artists dreams come true!
MY FAMILY HISTORY IN THEATRE
My great grandmother and her sisters were involved in the London theatre scene when their eldest sister Lilian Langdon was a dresser at the Bedford Theatre in London. Charlotte (Lotte) and her two sisters Maude and May were small, beautiful and very strong and quickly picked up by Fred Karno – the British theatre impresario who popularised the custard pie-in-the-face gag in the late 19th century and represented Charlie Chaplin.
They became some of the greatest acrobats that toured America. Called The Onetti Sisters and sometimes The Pattersons they were joined by two other women. It was the turn of the 20th century and theatre producers and agents were incredibly active and organised. Between 1900 and 1910 Vaudeville was king. Signing with a Vaudeville producer meant guaranteed bookings and intense travel times.
Everything was live. it was also the time of the big state fair and epic stadium performances. It was the setting described years later in Meet Me in St Lois as they prepare for the World’s Fair. Films like The Greatest Show on Earth and many musical films were directly influenced by the theatre, inventive performances and elaborate shows of the early 1900s. Fairs, circus, ‘parks’ and theatres of all sizes were all intertwined. Some of the most beautiful Vaudeville theatres later became cinemas.
Between 1906 and 1917 the girls toured the USA extensively from state fairs to Vaudeville in Toronto, New York, Seattle, Boston, Chicago etc. They were often sold as the greatest specialist gymnasts of their time.
Variety reviews talk of their ‘classy aerial work’ holding the audience right to the end. They would be placed last on the bill for this reason. Everyone went to live theatre and shows were long and full of a variety of acts, including burlesque opera, songstresses, comedians, acrobatics, ‘wooden shoe’ dancing, wire and talk.
It was tough to keep the audiences awake and their showy tricks had the audiences spellbound. Live theatre gave actors and performers a place to experiment and later it fed great film. It would have been tough work. Actors unions were newly formed and only represented white men.
Awareness of that hardship fuels the passion of many actors and performers today. To think of those young girls being pushed to their limits and touring non stop at such a time is astonishing to me. The films that sprung from that time inspire us and the theatre is the place where we can play. The ‘play’ has evolved into many things, not just entertainment but thought provoking drama, psychological exploration, high art and more.
And so I donated my painting Palm Trees, Long Beach California to the #buildATC.
There must always be live theatre!