Plays and Players at Pillot's Opera House
formance many seat-holders from the gallery rushed to the doors
and noticeably lessened the effect of the last act. Apparently even
the Houston Telegram "local reporter," present to review the
drama, had had to pay his $1.50 and perhaps find a seat in the
rear. The absence of a write-up of Mary Stuart, the next night's
bill, lends color to the suspicion.
While of course the unwarrantable action of the gallery "gods"
in leaving their seats at the Janauschek performance before the
last curtain could have happened under more wholesome circum-
stances, the chilly atmosphere of the place, the dirty floor and
the hard benches were enough to make even lovers of fine drama
wish they had remained at home by a warm fireside. One can
easily understand how the prospects of soft chairs, adequate
heating, and a larger stage with a fresh curtain and scenery would
excite the hopes of theatre patrons who had had to tolerate so
Pillot's Opera House opened in November, 1879, looking as
attractive on the inside as its owner had promised; and during
the next ten years the managers of this little bandbox of a theatre
were to play host to many of the finest players who ever graced
the American stage.
Most interesting of the stars of the first season was perhaps
Fanny Davenport-"Divine Fanny," as this daughter of the well-
known Shakesperian actor Edward L. Davenport was called.
Fanny Davenport came at the end of December and was seen in
As You Like It, The School for Scandal, and the modern drama,
Pique. The lady's Rosalind was found graceful and neat and espe-
cially pleasing in the "Cuckoo Song." E. K. Collier's "Seven
Ages," the wrestling match, and Touchstone's wise disquisitions
on love all found favor both with the gallery and the supposedly
more critical members of the audience. The School for Scandal
and Pique showed the actress in faithful delineations of Lady
Teazle and Mabel Renfrew. The player's Lady Teazle the Houston
Telegraph3 called a sparkling and polished portrayal. Pique, with
Miss Davenport as Mabel Renfrew, a part she had created, had
enjoyed an unbroken run of 238 performances at Daly's Theatre
in New York in 1876-1877.
3For a year or more this journal called itself The Telegram.
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 12, 2013.