Geneviève Ward

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Geneviève Ward (1837-1922)[1] was an American born musician, opera singer, actress and manager.


She was born Lucy Geneviève Teresa Ward in New York City on 27 March 1837, and at age 19, she married a Russian count, Constantine de Guerbel, becoming a Russian citizen. Initially Ward specialized in the piano and singing, becoming an opera singer, but when her voice failed in 1862, she turned to the theatre, becoming a competent actress and manager, with her own company, with which she undertook a number of international tours.

On 3 May, 1896, she played "Mrs Borkmann" in the first English production of Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkmann in the Strand Theatre, London, for a company called New Century Theatre, with W.H. Vernon as "Borkmann".

She died of heart disease at her home in Hampstead on 18 August 1922

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

She and W.H. Vernon toured South Africa with what was billed as the Geneviève Ward Company for nine months in 1891-2, under the auspices of Luscombe Searelle. The other players included in the company were E. Story Gofton, among others. (The company is also referred to as the Vernon-Ward Company in some sources.)

The company opened in the Exhibition Theatre, Cape Town, on 10 December, 1891 with Forget-me-Not (Merivale and Grove), the play which had established Miss Ward's reputation. They went on to present an astounding 26 plays during their tour, sixteen in Johannesburg alone. The tour encompassed all the major towns, but en route two of the company died and the tour was cut short.

The rest of the plays performed by the company in this season included Bess (Beringer), Mammon (Grundy), Still Waters Run Deep (Taylor), The Queen's Favourite (Grundy), Guy Mannering (Terry and Bishop), Married Life (Buckstone), A Scrap of Paper (Sardou/Simpson), Nance Oldfield (Reade), Cool as a Cucumber (Jerrold), O'Callaghan on His Legs (Bernard), Macbeth (Shakespeare) and Othello (Shakespeare).

The Cape Town critic D.C. Boonzaier (1923) was particularly impressed with her renditions of "Lady Heriott" in Mammon, "Meg Merrilees" in Guy Mannering and "Mrs Milday" in Still Waters Run Deep.

Awards, etc

The first actress to be made an Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1921).


Martin Banham. 1996. The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Theatre Cambridge University Press: p.402 By Martin Banham[2]

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 392-3,

Michael Meyer. 2014. "Introduction to John Gabriel Borkman". In: Ibsen Plays: 4: John Gabriel Borkman; Pillars of Society; When We Dead Awaken, A&C Black[3]

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