Beatrice Herford (1868-1952) was one of the very first women monologists, i.e., comical storytellers of the modern stage. The daughter of a minister, she was born in England and spent her youth equally divided between that country and the U.S. depending on which churches her father was assigned to. As a young woman she began writing and performing comic monologues for private performance, much as Ruth Draper would later do. She became professional in 1895, debuting in London and touring major U.S. cities as well. She became a regular on the Keith circuit, prized for her wide variety of recognizable characters such as shop girls, seamstresses, etc. In 1897 she married and made her home at her husband’s estate in Wayland, Massachusetts. In 1904 she built a small private theatre on the property in the style of an English music hall, naming it the Vokes Theatre in honor of a family of major British pantomime comedians. Over the next 33 years she would present her own private shows there for the cream of the theatre world. All the while she continued to star in American vaudeville and, from 1918 to 1938, several Broadway shows. A number of her monologues were published in book form. In 1937 she donated her theatre to a local group; Beatrice Herford’s Vokes Theatre operates in Wayland, Mass. to this day.
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.
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