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Edward Kilanyi and American Tableaux Vivants

Abstract

On Wednesday, 4 December 1895, Edward Kilanyi died in New York without ever having witnessed the stage presentation which was to crown his short but spectacular career in America. That presentation, known as the “Glyptorama,” was a grandiose exhibition of tableaux vivants staged at Koster and Bial's famous music hall.

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1 Rimels Lusien, “Quardo Vivente,” Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo (Rome, 1961) VIII, 612614.

2 Holmström Kirsten Gram, Monodrama, Attitudes, Tableaux Vivants (Stockholm, 1967), p. 218. Holmström provides a history of tableaux vivants for the period, 17701815.

4 Letter from MrsGeorge St., quoted in Meynell E. Hallam Morehouse, Nelson's Lady Hamilton (London, 1906), p. 264.

5 Holmström, p. 222.

6 Holmström, p. 228.

7 Holmström, p. 236; von Goethe Johann Wolfgang, Elective Affinities, tr. Froude James Anthony and Boylan R. Dylan (New York, 1962), pp. 164167. In this incident the character, Luciana, engages in tableaux vivants as a means to show off her rather shallow charm. The pictures represented are: Van Dyke's Belisarius, Poussion's Ahasuerus and Ester, Terburg's Father's Admonition, and several scenes of Flemish public houses and fair and market days. Holmström contends, p. 216, “It is generally considered that tableaux vivants first became fashionable after Goethe published Die Wahlverwandtshaften [Elective affinities] in 1809.”

8 Odell George C. D., Annals of the New York Stage, 15 vols. (New York, 19271949) III, 545.

9 Odell, III, 548.

10 Saxon A. H., Enter Foot and Horse: A History of Hippodrama in England and France (New Haven, 1968), p. 35.

11 An unidentified newspaper clipping in a scrapbook in the New York Public Library, Theatre Collection (Classmark: MWEZ+n.c.703), p. 51, gives some biographical data about William Barrymore and his wife. Brief corroborating references may be found in Ireland Joseph N., Records of the New York Stage: 1750–1860, 2 vols. (New York, 18661867), and in Saxon. Incidentally, William Barrymore was not related to the famous theatrical family of Barrymores, according to The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, ed. Hartnoll Phyllis, 3rd ed. (London, 1967), p. 86.

12 Odell, III–VI, passim.

13 Odell, XV, 530.

14 Playbill, Metropolitan Opera House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 4 September 1898, New York Public Library, Theatre Collection.

15 Zeidman Irving, The American Burlesque Show, (New York, 1967), p. 39.

16 Odell, VIII, 267, 531, 670; XIV, 203.

17 Tableaux, Charades and Conundrums, Metropolitan Pamphlet Series, IV, 4 (London and New York, 1893), p. 11. Similar manuals include Pollard Josephine, Artistic Tableaux with Picturesque Diagrams and Descriptions of Costumes (New York, 1884), and Sarah Annie Frost, The Book of Tableaux and Shadow Pantomimes (New York, 1869).

18 Occasionally other subject matter was also employed, especially scenes from well known works of literature, historical events, or scenes representing sentimental subjects such as “Fond Mother,” or “Faith, Hope, and Charity.” However, the great appeal for the audience was in their ability to recognize the tableau's likeness to its source, and the graphic arts provided the most precisely identifiable sources.

19 The biographical data here presented about Kilanyi's early life are drawn from two obituary notices, both of which contain essentially the same information: “Death of Edward Kilanyi,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 14 December 1895, p. 15; and “Deaths in the Profession,” New York Clipper, 14 December 1895, p. 653.

20 “London Variety Stage,” The Stage (London), 26 10 1893, p. 13.

21 “Palace,” The Stage (London), 2 10 1893, p. 16.

22 “Empire Theatre,” The Stage (London), 8 02 1894, p. 8.

23 The Stage (London), 1 03 1894, p. 15. A Palace playbill for 17 June 1894 in the New York Public Library, Theatre Collection lists fifteen tableaux by Dando. Two of these titles, “Ariadne” and “Will o' the Wisp,” also appear in the earlier Kilanyi production.

24 The Stage (London), 22 02 1894, p. 15; 1 03 1894, p. 15. The Brighton run apparently lasted about two weeks, for there are no notices of Kilanyi in issues of 15 February or 8 March.

25 Odell, XV, 572.

26 “Queen Isabella's Art Gallery,” New York Times, 22 March 1894, p. 5.

27 New York Clipper, 31 March 1894, p. 31.

28 Spirit of the Times, 7 April 1894, p. 424.

29 New York Clipper, 7 April 1894, p. 70.

30 Playbill, Columbia Theatre, Chicago, 24 04 1894, New York Public Library, Theatre Collection.

31 Koster and Bial's 34th Street theatre was originally built by Oscar Hammerstein as the Manhattan Theatre. Even after the name of the theatre was changed, Hammerstein continued active management, though in partnership with John Koster and Adam Bial. It is interesting that, at the time Kilanyi opened at the Garden, Hammerstein was building his fourth New York theatre, the fabulous Olympia, which was to open in 1895. At the same time, he was also managing the Columbus Theatre and the Harlem Opera House, a total of four major ventures at one time.

32 New York Times, 31 03 1894, p. 8. The “announcement” referred to in the article did not appear in the preceding day's Times.

33 New York Clipper, 31 March 1894, p. 31. The sentiment is echoed in “The Usher,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 31 March 1894, p. 4: “The same spirit that put tin fig leaves on the Vatican statues; that rejected St. Gaudens classic medal; that blushed when Diana was put on the Madison Garden tower; …” The direction the reviewer takes is obvious.

34 “A New Series of Living Pictures,” New York Times, 11 May 1894, p. 4.

35 “First Nights of Variety,” New York Times, 21 August 1894, p. 5.

36 “Living Pictures by Flashlight,” The Standard (New York) X, 278 (22 12 1894), p. 3. Page 10 of the same issue carries an unsympathetic account of Lady Henry Somerset's efforts. It concludes that the attention she has focused on tableaux has made them more popular, rather than less so.

37 New York Times, 30 September; 1, 2, 3, 4, 11 October; 28 November 1894.

38 “Here and There,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 25 May 1895, p. 2.

39 “A Real Artist Awaited,” New York Times, 2 September 1894, p. 10.

40 New York Clipper, 1 September 1894, p. 405. See also the New York Dramatic Mirror review, 1 September 1894, p. 6.

41 “Notes on the Stage,” New York Times, 7 October 1894, p. 10.

42 “Little Christopher Columbus,” New York Times, 16 October 1894, p. 5.

43 “At Other Houses,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 3 November 1894, p. 3.

44 “Notes on the Stage,” New York Times, 11 November 1894, p. 10; 18 November 1894, p. 10.

45 New York Dramatic Chronicle, 8 April 1895, pp. 62–63; 13 May, p. 123; 20 May, p. 135; 27 May, p. 146; and 3 June 1895, p. 162.

46 New York Times, 2 December 1894, p. 10; New York Dramatic Mirror, 8 December 1894, p. 6.

47 “Kilanyi's Glyptorama,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 23 November 1895, p. 19. A similar but briefer announcement appeared the same day in the Spirit of the Times, p. 629.

48 “Immensity in Living Pictures,” New York Times, 25 November 1895, p. 9. A similar description appeared in the New York Dramatic Chronicle, 2 December 1895, p. 422.

49 “Kilanyi's Glyptorama,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 7 December 1895, p. 19.

50 “Kilanyi's New Living Pictures,” New York Times, 3 December 1895, p. 6. Other less detailed but equally laudatory reviews appeared on 7 December 1895 in the Spirit of the Times (p. 684), the New York Clipper (p. 632), and the New York Dramatic Mirror (p. 19).

51 “Vaudeville Jottings,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 30 November 1895, p. 20; 21 December 1895, p. 20.

52 “Last Week's Bills,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 15 December 1895, p. 19.

53 New York Dramatic Chronicle, 2 December 1895, p. 422; New York Dramatic Mirror, 7 December 1895, p. 19.

54 “Vaudeville Jottings,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 7 December 1895, p. 20.

55 Ibid., 4 January 1896, p. 17.

56 Ibid., 21 December 1895, p. 20.

57 New York Clipper, 7 December 1895, p. 632.

58 “Kilanyi's Glyptorama,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 7 December 1895, p. 19.

59 “Some Shake and Some Shiver,” New York Times, 8 December 1895, p. 20.

60 Spirit of the Times, 14 December 1895, p. 712; New York Dramatic Mirror, 11 January 1896, p. 17; New York Clipper, 14 December 1895, p. 648.

61 “Death of Edward Kilanyi,” New York Dramatic Mirror, 14 December 1895, p. 19.

62 “Kilanyi's Death Not Suspicious,” New York Times, 16 December 1895, p. 3.

63 The New York Dramatic Chronicle announced the opening of Edison's Vitascope at Koster and Bial's on 27 April 1896.

* Jack W. McCullough is Assistant Professor of Speech Communication and Theatre at Trenton State College in Trenton, New Jersey.

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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
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