American Dramatic Company
The American Dramatic Company is a theatrical touring company created to perform in South Africa in 1917-18.
E.H. Wyrley Birch initially came to South Africa in May 1916 to manage the Standard Theatre in Johannesburg, but not long afterwards the newly established International Variety & Theatrical Agency (ITVA) sent him to the United States to engage an American theatre company on behalf of the African Theatres Trust. On 10 March 1917 the American Dramatic Company set sail from New York on board the City of Lahore and arrived in Cape Town on Easter Sunday, the 8th of April.
The core company consisted of George Stillwell, Louise Holden, Richard Scott, Edward Donnelly, Florence Roberts, Anne Bradley and Jack Pendleton. Local actors were called upon as needed. Thus, for instance, Hilda Attenboro acted in a number of their plays, while Mabel Rushton appeared with them in Help Wanted .
While in South Africa the performers on occasion did film work as well, for example Richard Scott, Edward Donnelly, Hilda Attenboro and Florence Roberts all appeared in films produced by African Film Productions.
The plays performed
The company travelled by train to Johannesburg and launched their season at His Majesty’s Theatre with Kick In (Mack), followed by The Heart of Wetano, Help Wanted and The Easiest Way. This season came to an end on Saturday 30 June, after which they visited Durban (Theatre Royal), Pietermaritzburg (Scott’s Theatre), Bloemfontein (Grand Theatre), Cape Town (Opera House) and Kimberley (Theatre Royal). After that they were due to re-open at His Majesty’s Theatre on 3 September for an extended season that would run until 18 November. (FO)
Stage and Cinema, 12 May 1917 (People we know: George Stillwell)
Stage and Cinema, 14 April 1917 (The New American Dramatic Co.)
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