The "Fritz" plays

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The "Fritz" plays is a collective title used to refer to a 19th century series of skits, songs, plays and musicals featuring a German immigrant character, originally created by the vaudeville performer and actor Joseph Kline Emmet (1841–1891)[1], .

Joseph Kline Emmet and the origin of "Fritz"

Emmet had developed the "Fritz" character in minstrel variety shows, and went on to perform a character called "Fritz van Vonderblinkenstoffen" in The Adventures of Fritz, Our Cousin German by Charles Gayler, which led to a number of subsequent plays using this name and character. These were collectively referred to as The "Fritz" plays and generally associated with Emmet.

The original "Fritz" play by Charles Gayler

The original text

Fritz, Our Cousin German was written by Charles Gayler (1820–92)[], and was first performed in on July 11, 1870, in Wallack's Theatre, New York. More music was added later. It contains the character "Fritz van Vonderblinkenstoffen", based on and often performed by Joseph Kline Emmett, who had developed the "Fritz" character in minstrel variety shows, and a character that would become the source of a range of "Fritz" plays.

Also found as The Adventures of Fritz, Our Cousin German or Fritz, Our Cousin-German

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

The Fritz series of plays

While the character and early skits and songs were created by Emmet, the later plays and musicals were written by various authors, though often having Emmet (or an imitator of his style) as performer. Besides the original, the series includes plays such as Fritz in Ireland, Fritz Among the Gypsies, Fritz in Bohemia, Fritz in a Madhouse, Fritz in Posterity, and so on, as well as a purported musical called Captain Fritz. Not all were performed in South Africa of course.

Other "Fritz" plays performed in South Africa

Captain Fritz, a musical by Henry Hamilton

The original text

Possibly a British musical performed in Cape Town Joseph Kline Emmet in 1895, referred to as Captain Fritz by Boonzaier (1923) and said by Bosman (1980), to be a musical play by Henry Hamilton (1854– 1918)[2] - though no such work by Hamilton has yet been traced.

However, Joseph Kline Emmet not only developed the "Fritz" character in minstrel variety shows, but created and sang a number of songs to be sung in character, including "Captain Schmidt", which it appears was included in The Adventures of Fritz, Our Cousin German by Charles Gayler.

Boonzaier (writing in 1923, and recalling his theatre-goings days in the late 19th century) refers to a performance of something he calls Captain Fritz, and in the version published by theatre historian Bosman (1980:p. 402, footnote 7) he attributes the work to Henry Hamilton. Boonzaier's piece actually occurs in his discussion of the roles played by visiting actor Charles Arnold, so the notion that this was indeed a play may in fact be an error, and he may actually be referring to a performance by the actor of the song called "Captain Schmidt", of which there is a record.

Performance history in South Africa

1895: A performance of something (a musical?) called Captain Fritz was performed in Cape Town by Charles Arnold - and the work is then attributed to Henry Hamilton by theatre historian Bosman (1980).

Sources

http://american_theatre.enacademic.com/408/Emmet%2C_J._K.

John Koegel. , 2009. Music in German Immigrant Theater: New York City, 1840-1940. University Rochester Press[3]

Julian Mates. 1987. America's Musical Stage: Two Hundred Years of Musical Theatre ABC-CLIO.[4]

D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 402, 407

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