Kate and Ellen Bateman: Child Thespians

Today is the birthday of Kate Bateman (1842-1917) She and her sister Ellen were child prodigies of the stage, the daughters of the performing couple Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman and Sidney Frances Bateman. The Bateman children were unique in not playing age appropriate roles — they did such material as the tragedies of Shakespeare in ADULT (usually male) roles. For example, Richard III was in their repertoire. They were hits in P.T. Barnum’s theatre, although audiences were as likely to find them “absurd” or “adorable” as to be impressed with their histrionic genius. After their success in New York, Barnum sent them on a tour on Europe. They retired as an act in 1856, and both married, although Kate returned to a significant career as a thespian in her adult years.

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

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