The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

ager to New York in the summer to engage performers for the
coming season.2
The outlook for an interesting season in the autumn of 1878-
the last season in the old Perkins'-had been as unpromising
as any the city had ever known. Sam T. Jack, the new manager
of Perkins', like so many others who had been in control of the
destinies of the Houston stage, was not especially well informed
in ways theatrical. Neither Jack nor his predecessors ever made
the effort Galveston managers did to book the great artists. As a
result, Houston missed many attractions that with inducement
might have visited the city. In addition, the Perkins' stage had
become definitely outmoded. It was so low and shallow that many
players refused to act on it. The old benches of the parquet were
stiff-backed and hard bottomed; and the entire house was poorly
lighted and ventilated and generally unkept, if not positively dirty.
"We have only a barn," said the Houston Telegram; "that's the
English for it."
Even so important an event as the appearance of the celebrated
Czech actress, Fanny Janauschek, in her production of Mother
and Son on January 20o, 1879, proved a disappointment. To begin
with, playgoers were annoyed with the $1.50 charged for admis-
sion. The play was absorbing, but heavy and tedious; the
Madame's pronunciation was unpleasant; the support was not
what the audience felt it had a right to expect for the price
charged-most of the players were inclined to corpulency, as was
the star herself; moreover, their voices were indistinct. The
scenery was scant, and stage accessories were few; the house was
improperly heated-in fact, it was not heated at all-and because
of poorly arranged seats, patrons in the rear could hardly see the
players. To add to the discomfort of the audience, voices off stage
during the play distracted the actors; and at the close of the per-
20n May 9, 1879, Captain Sam S. Ashe, who had served in the Confederate States
Army and later had been sheriff of Harris County, announced that he would convert
Gray's Hall into a theatre. The stage was to be thirty-five feet deep, and com-
pletely equipped with flies, wings, flats and machinery. The renovated building
would have an auditorium fifty by ninety feet, a parquette, dress circles and a
gallery. Improved opera chairs of a first class pattern would be installed. The
seating capacity would be eight hundred. George E. Dickey was the architect. The
Houston Weekly Telegram, which carried the notice, said that this reconditioned
hall (on the west side of Fannin Street, opposite the court house) would be ready
in the fall.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101196/. Accessed December 20, 2014.