Monday, May 14, 2012

A Cheat-Sheet for the Theatre

One of the best places for celebrity spotting in eighteenth-century London was the theatre, where one could see royalty, peers, and famous actors all together in one room.  But how did one know which box a scandalous duchess or naughty count that were frequently talked about in the press would be sitting in?  The papers would publish diagrams of the box subscribers so you could pick out who was sitting where.


One amazing article from the V&A's collection shows that people took this plan one step further.  On one side of this fan is your usual fan decoration.  But on the other side is a theatre layout with a list of subscribers.  That way the owner of the fan could attend the theatre and do their usual people-watching with a cheat sheet of just who they were spying on- in case they forgot.  What a handy tool for gossiping!

7 comments:

  1. That's an amazing piece. Love this post! I wonder what the modern equivalent of that would be?

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  2. Funny! Just like the cheat fan of Comtesse de Blayac in "Ridicule" with hidden rhymes

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  3. Wow, how fascinating. Why do you think all the boxes were in the names of the ladies except for a couple?

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  4. Although men were at the theatre it seems that aside from royalty it was common for the lady's name to put down as a subscriber. Also, husbands and wives would be seen listed separately on the lists...but that didn't necessarily mean they never attended plays together. To adopt my colleague's most excellent phrasing to explain this, boxes were like "timeshares."

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  5. I have read that perhaps in earlier times boxes were actually on the stage, any pictures of that?

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  6. Loved this story. Wish it still happened today.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Suzi Love

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