"The American crew all wore 'silk shirts and square-toed shoes', while the actors went about in 'untidy flannels, sports coats, old hats', and they were paid more than the actors... when the British Stage Manager tried to get rid of one of the superfluous property men, the entire crew walked out."
By Gregory Doran:
The company celebrated the new year in Louisville, Kentucky.
For some reason, on the next leg of their tour, the company skipped New York, moving straight from Buffalo to Baltimore. I had read that they had boycotted the city, that New York was considered by the Stratford governors to be a "show town", suggesting perhaps that there would not be an audience for Shakespeare. But at the opening night of Matilda, I discovered by chance the real reason that the Stratford company avoided the Big Apple.
In the Playbill programme for Matilda, as in many West End programmes, there was a history of the theatre. Apparently the Shubert opened its doors the very same month that the Stratford Company crossed the Atlantic. In October 1913, the opening production was Hamlet starring the great British actor, Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson. It is perhaps no wonder that The Stratford company lead by the athletic Benson, would not place themselves in direct competition with one of the greatest actors if the nineteenth century.
After Baltimore the Stratford company moved on to Virginia and the Southern States. They played Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and even Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee.
The British company travelled with a nine strong American stage crew. According to Darby Foster, a young actor playing supporting roles, the American crew all wore "silk shirts and square-toed shoes", while the actors went about in "untidy flannels, sports coats, old hats", and they were paid more than the actors. They were members of a strong trade union, and when the British Stage Manager tried to get rid of one of the superfluous property men, the entire crew walked out.
After a week in New Orleans, the company headed across to the Pacific Coast, via Texas and New Mexico on a journey of over a thousand miles to San Diego.
They reached Los Angeles for Easter which came early that year, on March 23rd, and played there for a week, with a two week stop over in San Francisco. By now the company had been away from home for six months, and they still had nearly another two months to go.
Next: Portland to Quebec