Richard III has a particularly fascinating history at BAM. Its first performance was in BAM’s third season, in October 1863, back when theaters in New York and Brooklyn were the battlegrounds for class warfare (read more about these early controversies at BAM here). And who starred in this first Richard III production at BAM? John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin.
It seems, however, that the show didn’t go over so well. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle offered a single-sentence review of his performance: “On Saturday, to a poor house, Wilkes Booth gave a wretchedly appointed though well acted representation of Richard the Third.” It’s a nuanced, brusque critique—and Wilkes Booth must have felt the slap by this anonymous critic. He left Brooklyn shortly after, ostensibly never to return (though here is an interesting article conjecturing that Booth was in Brooklyn shortly before Lincoln’s assassination).
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|Edwin (left), John Wilkes (right)|