Tony Pastor, a vaudeville performer and manager, was known as the Dean of Vaudeville. He is credited with cleaning up the bawdy variety shows of the mid 1800s, resulting in their appeal to women and the middle classes. He opened his first vaudeville house in 1865 and continued to present shows at a series of New York houses until shortly before his death in 1908. He achieved his greatest hits with parodies of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, but he also presented parodies, or burlesques, of Shakespearean productions and those of contemporary authors, as well as melodramatic works in the popular style of the day. The plays, or afterpieces, and the function they served for both the audience and the theatre, are examined within the context of the culture and conditions under which the plays were written. Thirteen plays are included, each preceded by a production history. Issues addressed in each play are analyzed, such as prevailing societal attitudes, including those toward class and gender. Discourse on the parodies includes an examination of the original play, detailing the reasons why particular sections were chosen to parody.
This examination of Tony Pastor's scripts will appeal to theatre scholars, especially those interested in vaudeville, since until recently the plays were mostly kept in private collections. Students of American culture, particularly culture at the turn of the century, will find valuable material in the plays as they shed light on the daily life of the lower and middle classes, and subsequently on the issues that concerned them. Since the plays were formerly not widely available, this study, including the texts of the original scripts, provides a valuable resource to scholars as well as to those with a general interest in the theatre and vaudeville.