Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ABC Wednesday

V is for Vaudeville

Imagine a world without radio - without television, - without talking pictures - without DVD's - with the piano in the parlour as the lure of home entertainment.

You would be living in the world of VAUDEVILLE, - the most popular form of entertainment between 1875 and 1932 where there was a vaudeville house in every town, filled night after night with traveling entertainers skilled in comedy, magic, juggling singing, music and mime, and dancing.

Here is the Vaudeville Theatre in Paris, France.

But not all Vaudeville Houses were so elegant. The word 'Vaudeville' originates from two French phrases 'Val de Vire' which meant valley of the river Vire, and 'voix de ville' which meant voices of the town. "The valley was a place where people would entertain each other in the evenings with ballads, folk songs, and general merry making. In the city streets popular theatre gave rise to the Theatre de Vaudeville in Paris in 1792".

Vaudeville was for everyone, - you didn't have to be rich to buy a ticket, - you only needed the desire to be entertained, and to laugh and be merry.

In the last stages of vaudeville, during the Great Depression when people could no longer afford the luxury of going to a vaudeville show, it was cheaper to listen to the radio, or to go to a movie for fifty-cents and see such vaudeville actors as Jack Benny, Bing Crosby and George Burns performing in a more modern venue.

But I wonder if the magic of participation was gone, - the magic of being part of a vivacious audience indulging in a night of merry entertainment? Alas, we will probably never know. We live in in an age of such sophistication (and I use the word loosely, as The Simpsons spring to mind)!!!!!!

There are many more interpretations of the letter V at ABC Wednesday.


Sylvia K said...

Ah, how right you are! Great post and a great V word for the day!



Reader Wil said...

This is a very interesting post! I didn't know much about Vaudeville, but I think people could entertain themselves better when radio, video and computer were not yet invented.

Rose said...

Vaudeville was way before my time, but I do remember seeing so many of the old vaudeville entertainers on television shows like "The Ed Sullivan Show." Also, watching performers like Jimmy Durante on TV as well. I doubt younger people today are even familiar with this era. Thanks for such an interesting post today!

Tumblewords: said...

Great V. Interesting and enjoyable. I'm old enough to remember not having TV and living in an area where 'entertainment' didn't exist. Nice post!

Mara said...

I think the Muppet Show is probably the best known Vaudeville troupe of recent times. A great V!

Joy said...

An interesting history post. I supose the coming of the cinema meant people turned elsewhere for entertainment. I would love to go back in time to see what it was really like.

Roger Owen Green said...

There's a great old vaudeville house in Schenectady, NY, Proctors which has been restored. 90% sure George Burns played there.

Jay said...

Oh, what a great post! I remember vaudeville, just ... but only because when I was a child there was a TV show based on Vaudeville called 'The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club'. It was literally a modern vaudeville show, and the audience was required to dress in 19th century dress to attend. They had a compere, in the old style, and the cameras would roll over the audience between acts to show us the costumes.

I think you're right. Something is lost when we abandon theatre for TV. Maybe one day vaudeville will be revived!