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May IrwinSinging, Shouting, and the Shadow of Minstrelsy$
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Sharon Ammen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040658

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040658.001.0001

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Never Were There Such Devoted Sisters

Never Were There Such Devoted Sisters

(p.13) 1 Never Were There Such Devoted Sisters
May Irwin

Sharon Ammen

University of Illinois Press

This chapter traces May Irwin’s life from her early move from Canada to America in a vaudeville act with her sister, Flo Irwin. Her apprenticeship with Tony Pastor is reviewed in detail, as is her subsequent split with Flo to work with Augustin Daly. Daly represented a new kind of manager-director in American theatre who used nineteenth century notions of realism on the stage. Irwin’s combined natural ability and technical training assisted her rise to stardom when she left Daly’s company for financial reasons. The chapter considers factors contributing to 1890s theatre growth, the emergence of new theatre audiences, and the success of the Keith-Albee Circuit. The chapter concludes with Irwin’s success in The Widow Jones as she becomes America’s “reigning Queen of Comedy.”

Keywords:   Flo Irwin, Tony Pastor, Augustin Daly, realism, theatre audiences, Keith-Albee Circuit, 1890s theatre growth

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