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

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

Dennis Neilson-Terry

(1895-1932) Younger brother of Phyllis Neilson-Terry. Nephew of Dame Ellen Terry. Son of Julia Neilson and Fred Terry. Dennis was born into the legendary acting family and had big shoes to fill from day one. He made his stage debut in the 1906 jubilee celebrations for his aunt, Ellen, as a page in Much Ado About Nothing. Under the stage name “Derrick Dennis,” he made his next appearance as Silvius in As You Like It (1911). After this, he spent time withRead more

E. H. Sothern

(1859-1933) Edward Hugh Sothern was born in New Orleans. His first American stage appearance was at the Park Theatre, New York, in 1879. His first London appearance was at the Royalty Theatre in 1881, two years before returning to the United States. In 1900, he appeared in Hamlet, his first Shakespeare performance at the Garden Theatre in New York City. In 1904, Sothern first played with Julia Marlowe in Romeo & Juliet at the Illinois Theatre in Chicago. That same year,Read more

Sir Francis Benson

(1858-1939) While at New College, Oxford, Benson produced Agamemnon, the first play to be performed there in the original Greek. In 1882, he made his first professional appearance at the Lyceum Theatre, London—then under the management of Sir Henry Irving—playing the role of Paris in Romeo & Juliet. The next year, he formed a company of his own. In 1886 he married Gertrude Constance Featherstonhaugh (1860–1946), who acted in his company and played leading parts with him. Benson continued toRead more

Henry Ainley

(1879-1945) Henry Ainley was born in Leeds on August 21, 1879. He acted in literally hundreds of productions, but he began his career as an amateur. He joined Frank Benson‘s company and made his debut as a messenger in Macbeth. He later played with Herbert Beerbohm Tree‘s company as well. He played major parts in many Shakespeare plays, beginning with Henry V in 1900 and ending with As You Like it in 1936. He played Hamlet in 1930 at the Haymarket Theatre,Read more

Robert B. Mantell

(1854-1928) Mantell was born in Scotland and first appeared on stage in Belfast, Northern Ireland; for a time he used the stage name Robert Hudson, but he reassumed his name Mantell after he joined the company of Helena Modjeska in 1878 and came to the United States. His first professional appearance was at the Theatre Royal in Rockdale in 1876. His first role with Dame Modjeska was as Tybalt in Hamlet at the Leyland Opera House in Albany, New York. HeRead more

Ernest Harcourt Williams

(1880-1957) Ernest George Harcourt Williams began his career, like so many other Shakespearean actors, with Sir Frank Benson and first appeared in London in 1900 with Benson’s company. He married another player, Jean Sterling Mackinlay in 1908, and although his professional life was interrupted by World War I, he was associated with a number of fine actors and successful managers, among them George Alexander, H. B. Irving, Dame Ellen Terry, and, of course, Frank Benson. From 1929 until 1934 heRead more