Young Men’s Institute
- 1 The club and venue
- 2 Theatrical activities and entertainments
- 3 Sources
- 4 Return to
The club and venue
Young Men’s Institute was probably a division of the Cape Town Institute and Club (CTIC), founded in ***. In 1868 the Cape Town Institute and Club Ltd opened their own new building, the Cape Town Institute and Club in Burg Street, where the Institute Assembly Hall could be used for performances.
By 1872 the CTIC building had unfortunately proved to be a financial liability, so it was decided to convert the entire building into a "Theatre, Concert and Lecture Room", the plans drawn up by the architect Freeman in 1873. However the theatre was eventually only completed and ready for hire in 1875, initially referred to as the "New Theatre" in Burg Street, then as the New Theatre Royal.
Theatrical activities and entertainments
The Young Men’s Institute hosted a popular entertainments (mainly "Literary" and "Musical") in Cape Town from 1867 to 1870. They initially met in the Mutual Hall, but later used the Institute Assembly Hall of the Cape Town Institute and Club.
During the heyday of the minstrelsy period in South Africa (circa 1860-1870), the YMI club hosted a very active amateur dramatic society which was informally known as the Amateur Christy's, The Christy Minstrels or Young Men’s Institute Amateur Christy’s. Also on occasion referred to as the Y.M.I. Amateur Christy's, Y.M.I. Christy's, the Amateur Christy's, or the Christy Minstrels by various sources.
It was one of three Christy's companies active in the city at the time. They initially performed in the Mutual Hall, but when the Cape Town Institute and Club Limited opened their own new building in Burg Street on 15 July, 1868, they shifted their activities and used that as their normal venue.
See also Minstrels
Performances of the Amateur Christy's
In 1869 they were active once more, a highlight being their involvement in the great Juvenile Fancy Fair and Grand Fête organized in the Cape Gardens on 25 February by the Cape Town Institute and Club in support of the victims of the great fires in Uitenhage and Knysna and a performance of Music Lesson in the Garrison Theatre, in an evening of entertainment in collaboration with the Lanarkshire Glee Club.
This appears to have been founded by Mr. T. Brazier as a progression from the Young Men’s Institute Amateur Christy’s, as the interest in Christy's style performances seemed to be on the decline. It would become the major company active in the Cape in 1870, and according to Bosman (1980) the most important amateur company, besides the Garrison Players, for the entire period 1863-1873.
The origins of the new company apparently lie in a unique event where "Members of the Legislative Assembly" gave a performance on 30 March, 1870, "for the purpose of aiding in the establishment of a dramatic club in Cape Town" (Bosman, 1980: pp. 274-5). They performed As Mad as a Hatter (Anon./Marshall?) and The Irish Tutor (Butler). The Brass orchestra of the 11th Regiment also played.
It seems this occasional parliamentary group may even have done other performances in the year, including a benefit performance for the widow and children of Mr T. Brazier in July, 1871.
Performances of the YMI Dramatic Company
30 March: Founding performance of the YMI, done by "members of the Legislative Assembly". Performed were: As Mad as a Hatter (Anon./Marshall?) and The Irish Tutor (Butler), while the Brass orchestra of the 11th Regiment also played.
11 May: No mention of the plays performed.
28 May: Repeat of the same programme
5 July: All that Glitters is not Gold, along with scenes from King John (Shakespeare), in the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Cape Town, on this occasion. It was apparently a joint effort by the YMI, in association with the company of Benjamin Webster. The performers included Benjamin Webster, T. Brazier, Mrs Brazier, Mr Devere and James Leffler, who all appeared in the main play. The evening was a bit of a fiasco however, since a Mr Illford, who was make his Cape Town debut by playing the lead, had not turned up and Leffler had to take on two roles.
9 July: In another joint effort by the YMI and Webster's company, scene from Henry VIII (Shakespeare) and parts of acts 3 and 5 of Hamlet (Shakespeare) performed by the company in the St Aloysius Hall, Cape Town. The performers again included Benjamin Webster, T. Brazier, Mrs Brazier, Mr Devere and James Leffler, with Mr Yorke and Mr Davenport as guest performers.
Also planned for September was the first performance of a new, specially written "Three-Act Drama" called Lisnamoe, by "a young lady of Cape Town". It was to have been a farewell benefit for T. Brazier, but was not done because of his illness.
28 July: The "members of the Legislative Assembly" (undoubtedly in association with members of the Club) presented a benefit performance for the widow and children of Mr T. Brazier, who had died in January. The plays performed were A Charming Pair and To Paris and Back for £5. The latter play was apparently repeated in August, 1871.
W.J. Mahar. 1999. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Volume 442 of Music in American life. University of Illinois Press, 1999
P.J. du Toit, 1988. Amateurtoneel in Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Academica
Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.
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