American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2011 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 2

For 50 years vaudeville was America’s most important and popular entertainment. It was also a major industry and an acculturating experience for millions of new citizens. At its peak, on any weekend in the early 20th Century, 50,000 comics, dancers, singers, magicians, quick-change artists, ventriloquists, tumblers, jugglers and a variety of other acts entertained millions of people. This program offers an overview of the social and artistic forces which gave rise to vaudeville and vaudeville’s role in the development of American show business. Through the use of film clips on videotape we recreate a stellar vaudeville bill with some of the great headliners performing their most famous acts.

Minimum: two hours

Women Who Sang the Great American Songbook

From the Ragtime Era through Tin Pan Alley to musical comedy, composers like Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Sissle & Blake, Andy Razaf, Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael were blessed by singers who could interpret their songs in the blues, popular and jazz idioms. The singers, in turn, were favored by the smartly crafted, sophisticated music written for sheet music, sound recordings, Broadway revues, musical comedies, cabaret, radio and motion pictures. Through sound recordings and film clips we revisit some well-known and some obscure female practitioners of blues, jazz, torch songs, ballads and jump tunes that provided, between 1920 and 1970, the sound track for American life.

Minimum: two hours

Apart from mainstream vaudeville a chain of theatres developed that catered to African American audiences in the Southern and Border states.  By the mid 1920s, there were nearly 100 theatres presenting black vaudeville. Most of these theatres were owned by white men whose attitude toward Negro entertainers varied from courteous to contemptuous, but several black women and a black man also owned theatres in this chain. We’ll explore this phenomenon and the racial and business forces that sustained “Toby Time,” making it both loved and hated. Enjoy again, through film clips on videotape, some of the great black comedians, dancers and singers who found fame in both black and mainstream vaudeville.

Minimum: two hours

T.O.B.A. & Black Vaudevillians

Dance has been part of every civilization, each celebrating their gods, work and cultures. Dance devised purely for the stage, for a theatre audience, is nearly as universal. In the modern era the work of individual choreographers and dancers have grown more personal, and skill and imagination became paramount, but the inspiration for dance remains the same—the exploration of outer and inner landscapes. Dance in the USA has produced at least six generations of great artists in ballet, concert and theatre dance. Through film clips on videotape we explore some of the experiments by great exponents of classical, interpretive, modern, tap, acrobatic and contemporary dance.

Minimum: two hours

Dancers in America

Vaudeville, On the Road Again

Vaudeville, silent film, musical comedy and sound motion pictures provided the antic imagination with a vast arena in which to create. From the late 19th Century through the mid-20th Century, comedians could employ mime, slapstick, monologue and cross-talk to delight audiences; they were commentators, clowns, pantomimists and fast talkers. They appeared solo or in teams: male teams, female teams or male/female teams. Usually it wasn’t enough to stand still and tell jokes; people expected a characterization and the ability to clown, sing and dance—perhaps perform magic, tumble or juggle as well. In this program we show film clips on videotape of the great clowns and comics of the Broadway stage and movies, and discuss their place in public affection and the history of comedy.

Minimum: two hours

The Golden Age of Clowns & Comics

Please email Frank Cullen for more information: