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

Plays and Players at Pillot's Opera House

wore her clothes with more grace. George C. D. Odell the year
before her visit to Texas had found her radiantly beautiful in the
old-time dresses of Lord Lytton's Pauline (in The Lady of Lyons)
and splendid in the part. The New York Herald, in speaking of
the same performance, called Mrs. Langtry "the best Pauline
it had ever seen."18
A form of aquatic spectacle popularly known as the "tank
drama" flourished during the ten years the Pillot Opera House
was in existence. Earlier in the century aquatic effects-mists,
rivers, lakes and such like-were produced by the skillful use
of lights and gauze; but later the actual element supplanted the
imitation. The World-which found the Pillot mechanical facil-
ities limited but adequate for presentation-is a good example
of the spectacular tank drama. Besides a host of melodramatic
devices common at the time, the play has the striking formula of
a mutinous crew blowing up a ship in mid-ocean. The scene fol-
lowing the explosion shows a raft adrift with four survivors
aboard: a villain, a virtuous man, and an unfortunate gentleman
with his young son. The unfortunate gentleman presently dies of
thirst, and the villain and the virtuous man engage in a mortal
combat over a jug containing a drop of cold water. This death
struggle takes place on a craft ten feet square afloat in a canvas
tank of 30,000 gallons of real water. To use George M. Cohan's
renowned phrase, "it goes without saying" that the hero ends the
combat victoriously, and marries the heroine in the end.
Kit, The Arkansas Traveller, had for its "sensation" scene a
Mississippi steamboat explosion, a device which theatre craftsman
Dion Boucicault had first used in The Octoroon. In Kit, which
Pillot patrons last saw on January 6, 1886,'4 a steamboat explo-
sion put Kit Redding, the hero, in close proximity with the villain
and his two henchmen, a couple of "beats," on the well-known
Island No. io. In this circumscribed area, Kit shuffles off the re-
straint that somehow has held him in check for four acts of the
drama and metes out due punishment to the guilty. Kit was Frank
szGeorge C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage (15 vols.; New York, 9ga7-
1949), XIII, 240.
14Kit, an adaptation, was prepared for Chanfrau by the playwright Thomas
Blaides De Walden.

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 May 4, 2015.