Violet Vanbrugh

(1867-1942) Violet Vanbrugh began her long, illustrious stage career in 1886. She first played Shakespeare in 1888 as Ophelia, Helena (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Rosalind, and Portia (The Merchant of Venice), a part she repeated in 1905; that same year she played Portia by Royal Command of King Edward V at Windsor Castle. After a brief tour in America, she returned to England in 1892 to join Sir Henry Irving‘s company where she played Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII. The nextRead more

Fred Terry

Benjamin and Sarah Ballard Terry lost two children in infancy, but the nine surviving children all were connected in some way with the stage; the most famous of these children was, of course, Ellen Terry. Her youngest brother Fred made his stage debut in 1880 at the Lyceum Theatre as Sebastian (Ellen played Viola) in Twelfth Night. His youth and his physical likeness to his sister gave, the critics said, some verisimilitude to Sebastian and Viola as brother and sister in theRead more

Ellen Terry

(1847-1928) Dame Ellen Terry, a part of a large and famous family of actors and actor-managers, was one of the most famous actresses in the world in the nineteenth century. Many of her most famous roles were alongside Sir Henry Irving, one of the most famous male actors in the world at the time. She joined his company in 1878, becoming his leading lady, touring both America and Britain in her famous roles in The Merchant of Venice and MuchRead more

Basil Sydney

(1894-1968) Basil Sydney is an actor most teachers of Shakespeare immediately recognize; he played Claudius in Laurence Olivier’s benchmark 1948 film of Hamlet. His first stage appearance was in 1911 and his first part in Shakespeare was as Claudius in 1914 at the Old Vic. Over the years he played Romeo, Mercutio, Hamlet, Prince Hal, and in 1914 appeared in productions of six of Shakespeare’s plays at Stratford-upon-Avon.  He spent over a decade in New York playing the title roles inRead more

Lyall Swete

(1865-1930) Edward Lyall Swete was born in 1865 in Cheshire, England. He played in productions of Shakespeare on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing as Polonius in H.B. Irving‘s 1904 Hamlet (shown here), and earlier in at least two productions of Richard II (1896 and 1901) at Sir Frank Benson‘s Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. Swete served as set designer for one of them. He played the Duke of York in the first and John of Gaunt in the second.Read more

Vernon Steel

(1882-1955) Vernon Steel’s first appearance on the stage was in 1899; in 1906, he joined the company of Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson and toured the United Kingdom and the United States. He played Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice (1906), Orlando in As You Like It (1908), and Romeo (shown here) in 1911 at the New Theatre, London opposite Phyllis Neilson-Terry. He moved to Hollywood in the 1930s where he produced a number of plays for Los Angeles theaters.  Read more