Child acts and family acts appealed to audiences because they could relate to the entertainment under the lights.Traveling acts had to adjust their shows to each night’s venue. Theater managers, of course, had a lot to say about how a performer should do his act, but they adjusted on the fly in response to audience response. Vaudeville performers had to be flexible and have a broad range of styles, jokes, and songs available to them in order to satisfy sometimes fickle audiences. Vaudevillians had to be ready to adjust at a moment’s notice. In fact, the “breadth of vaudeville’s audience and the substance of its entertainment made it the comprehensive entertainment of its time” (DiMeglio 195). Talent was necessary, but flexibility even more important.Audience participation was a must in almost all vaudeville acts. and vaudevillians used audiences to their comedic advantage. Hecklers were common for these traveling entertainers, and it was the astute actor who could turn a heckler into an ally, or turn the tables on a heckler to make the rest of the audience laugh at him. The most important aspect of entertaining these audiences was keeping them laughing until they couldn’t breathe.It’s common today for comedians to call someone up on stage to lend a hand with a magic trick or skit, just as it was in the heyday of vaudeville. Vaudeville is enjoying a revival in modern-day America, with all the charm and appeal of the variety act turned up a few notches. Martin quotes a modern-day vaudevillian as saying, “The audience doesn’t know whether to cry, laugh, or throw up.” This was the aim of all past vaudevillians,. Entertainment At Its Peak: Vaudeville.
DiMeglio, John. Vaudeville U.S.A. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University, 1973.
Easton, Rick. 2002. “Vaudeville! A Dazzling Display of Heterogeneous Splendor.” University of Virginia. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://xroads.Virginia.edu/%7Ema02/Easton/vaudeville/ vaudevillemain.html>.
Ewen, David. The Story of America’s Musical Theater. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1968.
Guthrie, Tyrone. In Various Directions. New York: Macmillan, 1963.
Kanfer, Stefan. “Vaudeville’s Brief, Shining Moment.” City Journal, Spring 2005. The Manhattan Institute. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_2_urbanitites-vaudeville.html>.
Library of Congress. “The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920.” Oct. 1996. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/vshtml/ vsintro.html>.
Martin, Douglas. November 24, 2002. “Old-Time Vaudeville Looks Young Again.” New York Times. 5 Nov, 2008. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res= 9901E1D91F937A15752C1A9649C8B63>.
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