Neil Burgess (1846-1910) was a comic drag performer in the early days of vaudeville who specialized in playing elderly widows. Originally from Boston, his first such turn came when he had to replace a sick actress in an 1865 production of The Quiet Family in Providence. By the 1870s he had made it to New York, where he performed at Tony Pastor’s and Harrigan and Hart’s Theatre Comique. In the 1880s and ’90s he performed largely with stock companies, undertaking roles with names like Betsey Bobbett, Auntie Abigail Prue, and the Widow Bedott. It was claimed that offstage he comported himself in a manner most masculine. Here is how he looked out of costume.
Don’t miss my talk on The History of Drag in Dixon Place’s Hot! Festival, coming your way July 30!
To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.