Moreau de Saint-Méry's Account of the Theatre

In Moreau de Saint-Méry's Voyage aux Étas-Unis de l'Amérique, 1793-1798.
Saint-Méry visited the theatre shortly after it opened.

The Exterior

"The new theatre on the northwest corner of Chestnut and Fourth Streets has nothing in its brick facade to suggest the public building. The entrance is mean and does not differ from that of an ordinary house.* The interior is handsome.

Capacity

The arrangement of the boxes is in an agreeable semi-ellipse. The boxes are in three tiers, one above the other, fifteen boxes in each. Of these fifteen, each of the five facing the stage has seven rows of benches and will thus seat thirty-five people. . . . Each of the ten side boxes in each tier has two rows of benches and will seat four people in each row. Each row of boxes will seat 255, a total of 755 seats in the boxes. The pit is raked from the first tier of boxes to the orchestra pit. It contains thirteen rows of benches each capable of seating about thirty persons, or a total of about 400."

The Auditorium

"The auditorium is painted gray with a gold design. The third row of boxes even has slender gilt railings of some elegance. The boxes, between which a small pilaster at the front almost blocks the view, are papered in tasteless red paper.

The auditorium is lighted by small four-branched chandeliers placed in every other box beginning with the middle of the second on each side, so that the upper rail of each tier of boxes has seven. Each hangs on an S-shaped gilded iron bracket."

The orchestra pit holds 30 musicians in two rows facing each other.

The Stage

"The forestage is large. The sides of the forestage represent the facades of handsome buildings but they face too much toward the stage so that they interfere with the view from the side boxes.

The stage, which is large, is lighted by oil lamps as in France which can be lowered for night scenes [footlights]. In the wings are crude lamps consisting of wicks floating in lard."

Sight and Sound

"The acoustics are adequate.

Vision is good from all points except from the rear of the second tier of the boxes where the slope of the floor of the third tier cuts off the top of the stage at the rear. And from other parts of the house one can see only with difficulty people seated in the rear of the boxes with seven rows of benches."

Admission and Accommodations

"Admission to the boxes is six francs (une gourde), to the pit four and one-half francs (3/4 gourde) and only three francs to the heaven formed by that part of the third tier above the section of the 2nd tier with the five boxes and seven rows of benches.

The corridors are large and commodious. In the upper part of the back wall of each box is a small shuttered window opening on the corridor to provide ventilation without the necessity for opening the door."

Demographics of the Auditorium

"Women as well as men sit in the pit, though not women of fashion. There are women also in the gallery and the Negroes have no other place. Between acts the pit is noisy and even indecent. One often hears "Goddamn," "bastard" and "son of a bitch." The women turn their backs on the pit during the intermission."

(The translation is taken from Bernard Hewitt's Theatre U.S.A., pp. 39-40.)