What Is Vaudeville?

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Vaudeville was a form of entertainment in bars and theaters that included singers, juggling, magicians, actors and even escape artists. Find out how what famous people came out of vaudeville with help from a professional actor in this free video on theater acting.

Part of the Video Series: Theater Acting
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Richard Rifkin and we're here in Budapest Hungary at the Merlin Theater. Today we're going to talk about what is Vaudeville? Well even me and I'm a little older than a lot of you out there I sure don't remember Vaudeville first hand. It was before my time. Vaudeville was a form of entertainment in bars, theaters, different places where you could have this particular form of entertainment which was really a wide range of things. It started around the 1880's and it went through till the 1930's. In a Vaudeville show you could see singers, jugglers, actors, magicians, even escape artists. Harry Houdini, the famous Harry Houdini was there in Vaudeville. Famous comedians came out of Vaudeville that later made films in Hollywood like W.C. Fields and Bob Hope. Lot's of people. Really interesting. Even Drew Barrymore's family, the famous Barrymore's. John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore. They were in Vaudeville. Around 1930's unfortunately something came in to existence and it really killed the whole thing and that was the motion pictures. The silent films it didn't really kill the Vaudeville act because they still weren't talking so people wanted to go out and see people actually on stage doing things, and being able to hear them. But once the talkies came Vaudeville slowly was pushed out, never to return. Some of the famous people that came right out of Vaudeville were people like Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin, George M. Cohen, the great showman. And many many others. The singers, the Andrew sisters. And Lon Chaney Senior, The man of a thousand faces who made the silent Films Hunchback of Notre Dame. Lots of famous people. The three stooges, Abbott and Costello. Lots of comedians, singers, Sarah Bernhardt. The list goes on and on. Juggling, they did it in Vaudeville. Also things like "speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you. Trippingly on the tongue, but if you mouth it like many of our players do you had us leaf the town crier, spoke out lines. Be not to tame neither..." Oh, enough. There was drama in Vaudeville and there was a lot of funny comedy. Oops, prat falls and silly things. People like the Marks brothers. Abbott and Costello, all these guys, they started out in Vaudeville. And they juggled better than me, ah.

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