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Stage-Struck Settlers in the Sun-Kissed Land -- Thomas P. Collins

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Stage-Struck Settlers in the Sun-Kissed Land: The Amateur Theatre in Territorial Prescott, 1868–1903

Thomas P. Collins

Paperback, 6x9 in, 128 pages, Illustrated, Bibliography
Wheatmark, September 2007
ISBN: 9781587367830


The rise of the amateur theatre in nineteenth-century Prescott, the territorial capital of Arizona, is told here in vivid and loving detail, with fifty-two illustrations that include portraits of amateur actors and theatre builders, maps of the town, and photos of the theatres. The talented and dedicated actor-settlers—including Fort Whipple’s Fannie Kautz, wife of the Civil War hero General August V. Kautz; and attorney Thomas Fitch, “The Silver Tongued Orator of the Pacific” who founded the Prescott Amateur Dramatic Club—lived lives that were almost as dramatic as the comedies and melodramas that thrilled the local audiences.

With a scholar’s eye for the relationship between people and events and a dramatist’s sense of a good plot, Collins has put together a valuable history of the actors, “opera houses,” and the tastes and culture of Arizona’s Wild West mining town between 1868 and 1903. Of special value for those interested in territorial history but unfamiliar with the post-Civil War theatrical repertoire are the author’s concise but entertaining plot summaries of plays like Led Astray, Lady Audley’s Secret, Damon and Pythias, East Lynne, Richelieu, and the outrageously funny one-act farces in which Fort Whipple’s military officers and Prescott’s lawyers, businessmen, mining magnates, and their talented wives and daughters took time out from the rigors of frontier life to strut and fret their hour upon the stage.

About the Author

A retired Professor Emeritus of Theatre, Tom Collins lives with his wife in Prescott, Arizona, where he works as a volunteer with the Sharlot Hall Museum and conducts research on the theatre in the Arizona Territory. He has published four articles about the theatre in Territorial Prescott in the Sharlot Hall Museum’s “Days Past” series in the Prescott Daily Courier. He taught speech and theatre at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for thirty-one years and co-founded the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival, for which he served as artistic director for twenty-three years.