Roles Played by Anna Cora Mowatt
A History of Her Decade on Stage
The tables below chronicle Anna Cora Mowatt's career as an actress from her debut at the Park Theatre in 1845 to her retirement in the spring of 1854. Some peculiarities of this time to be aware of as you read -- At this time, the U.S. theatre world was not Broadway-centered. Leading performers toured playhouses scattered up and down the Eastern seaboard. Neither was an evening at the theater necessarily limited to only one production as is standard today. In the U.S., a night at a venue like the Park might feature a full-length play and a short comedy to finish off the night. At Niblo's Garden, there might be only one show, but with a concert or fireworks before or after and a 40 minute intermission to allow visitors to enjoy refreshments at the on-site beer-garden or ice-cream parlor. In London, Victorian playbills usually featured three shows - a five-act main feature, a one-act, and a farce to round out the night.
Mowatt's Debut Year
This was an
incredible period of study and productivity for Mowatt. After a
sensational debut, she spent her first year on-stage performing almost
constantly. She rehearsed, mastered, and performed at least
twenty-three roles in her first year. She performed dramatic
monologues from several other plays as well.
U.S. Tour (E.L. Davenport Joins Mowatt)
an unsatisfactory experience with her first acting partner, William
Crisp, Mowatt hired E.L. Davenport. Together, they toured the
U.S. to mounting public acclaim and critical success. During this
period, Mowatt wrote her second play, "Armand." This romantic
drama was designed especially to feature her and her new leading man's
European Tour (1847-1851)
Anna Cora Mowatt and E.L. Davenport sailed for England in November of 1848. They played the Theatre Royal in Manchester before being engaged by the manager of the Princess Theatre in London. Their next major appearance was at Henry Spicer's Olympic Theatre. Mowatt and Davenport would debut roles in original scripts by Spicer. By far the bulk of their work in London was at the Marylebone Theatre. They worked their from the fall of 1848 until Walter Watts' arrest in March of 1850. Mowatt would not work again for almost a year. She toured briefly with G.V. Brooke in Ireland before returning to the U.S. in 1851.
Return to the U.S. (1851-1854)
Davenport, now married, was able to remain in England and continue his
career there, Anna Cora Mowatt returned to the U.S. in 1851, touring
alone. She experienced great success with in the role of Pathenia
in the show "Ingomar: the Barbarian." Her career was on an
upswing in 1852 when she suddenly announced that she was going to leave
the stage to marry William F. Ritchie, editor of the Richmond Enquirer.
She toured to sold-out playhouses across the eastern seaboard for five
months. Mowatt tearfully ended her career as an actress at a gala
benefit show at Niblo's Garden in New York on June 3rd, 1854.
Links have been provided throughout to audio recordings available at Librivox of full cast dramatic readings of plays in which Mowatt played leading roles.
Further Reading on Mowatt's Acting Career
Anna Cora Mowatt and "The Lady of Lyons" -- This is part one of a twenty part series that traces Mowatt's history with the role that took her from her debut in 1845 to her retirement in 1854.
Anna Cora Mowatt, Juanna, and the London Critics -- a discussion of Mowatt's performance in G.H. Lewes' "Noble Heart" in January of 1850.
Anna Cora Mowatt, Gertrude, and Blanche - a comparison between the two roles Mowatt wrote that she herself portrayed on stage during her career as an actress.
Anna Cora Mowatt in the Forest of Arden - discussion of Mowatt's portrayl of Shakespeare's Rosalind from "As You Like It."
For more in-depth
information and analysis