>
CHINATOWN


THE GAIETY THEATRE

by Noriko Kitano

 

- Historic theater awaits wrecking crane in neighborhood ambivalent about its loss

- Rich history on the stage

- The Gaiety today

 

Unless otherwise stated, photos appear courtesy of Friends of the Gaiety

Rich History on the Stage

The architect Clarence Howard Blackall

The Gaiety was built by Clarence Howard Blackall, a prominent Boston architect who designed 22 theaters, including the Colonial, the Wilbur and the Wang Theatres.

Blackall also designed hotels: the Copley Plaza Hotel and Hotel Kenmore as well as temples: Tremont Temple and Temple Israel.

Established in 1908 as a medium-sized theater, the Gaiety hosted burlesque productions such as vaudeville, musical revues, silent movies, striptease and Chinese movies.

Performers at the Gaiety

It had all kinds of stage entertainment, ranging from acrobats, comedians and magicians to song-and-dance men and blackface minstrels.

"The success of the Irish step dance, the Chinese magician, the Jewish comedian, the German acrobat and the Italian singer was a signal to everyone in the audience that they had a chance," said Frank Cullen of the American Vaudeville Museum in Boston.

The Gaiety was the only theater in Boston for burlesque. It was the first theater built by Boston's 1907 Fire Code, according to studies by Lee Eiseman.

It was the home to African-American musicians, dancers and other performers when minorities had little opportunities to perform on the stage by racial intolerance.

It featured an unobstructed view from each seat, a 30-foot-deep stage, 14 dressing rooms, 20 private boxes and 40 exits.

The early 20th-century was the heyday of theaters in Boston. The population grew with the influx of immigrants and the city became urbanized. People enjoyed their leisure time and the arts. All of these elements helped increased the prosperity of the theaters, according to a report by the Boston Landmark Commission.

NORIKO KITANO

GO...

SEE IT

- Lower Washington Street in 1925

-Lower Washington Street in the 1990's

- LaGrange Street in 1907

-The Gaiety Theatre in 1941

- The Gaiety now

- Back view of the Gaiety today

-Inside view of the Gaiety today

- The only one remaining plaster bust of the Gaiety Girl

- Kesington Place

- The Kesington Place proposal

- The architect Clarence Howard Blackall

- Performers at the Gaiety

- Butterbeans and Susie: a legendary couple in life and on stage

Top of page

City in Transition: About - Links - Site Map - Emerson College
Neighborhoods covered: Back Bay - Beacon Hill - Brookline - Chinatown - Dorchester - East Boston - Jamaica Plain -Mission Hill -
North End - Roxbury - South Boston - South End - West Roxbury

Information about this project See the contents of the site Go to Emerson's web site