July 21st, 2009

Actresses In Victorian London

I've been researching the life of actresses in Victorian theatre (terms I've searched include "victorian theatre", "victorian theatre women", "victorian actresses", "popular victorian plays", "nineteenth century theatre", "nineteenth century actresses", and others too numerous to list), but the information I've found tends to be either limited, vague, or focusing on the lives of specific people, which doesn't really help me much. Also, it seems a lot of modern theatres have "Victorian" in their name, so it makes it a little hard to narrow things down.

How different was life for a London actress compared to your typical Victorian woman? Were they still expected to live with their father or husband, or did they live near/at the theatre (or with a theatre company, however that worked)? Did they still have to have chaperones when they went out in public? On that note, did they even have social lives outside their jobs (I know the actors were a public presence, but I'm not sure if it'd be the same for them)? Was there still a strong stigma associating actresses with prostitution, and how prevalent/valid was it? I think I've also heard before that the main theatres in London were only open a few months a year. If this is true, what did the actors do the rest of the time? Finally, was there any sort of "age limit" with actors and actresses? Were they all expected to only perform in their youth and retire when they age, or were there respectable older actors?

For the record, the time period is the mid 1870s, and I'd also be interested in information about opera performances if anyone has it. If you even know of any good websites about Victorian theatre at all (particularly about some of the popular plays, or the kinds of sets and costumes they used), I'd appreciate it! I'm sorry to ask so much, but I'm not very familiar with perfoming arts, so I feel a little lost when I'm researching such a specific topic.

Thank you so much! ♥