astor opera house

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May 10th 1849: Astor Place Riot

On this day in 1849 a riot broke out at the Astor Opera House in New York City. The incident was initially sparked by a long-running dispute between two leading actors of the day - William Charles Macready and Edwin Forrest - over who was a better Shakespearean performer. However, tensions heightened as the two actors became proxies for the opposing classes in New York - the British Macready represented the upper class and the American Forrest the lower classes. The brewing animosity came to a head on the night of May 10th when Macready’s performance of Macbeth, which had been cancelled due to protests at the first attempt, was rescheduled for. A militia company, expecting there to be violence at the rescheduled play, was stationed nearby. As predicted, violence broke out which prompted the troops to fire into the crowd, with around 25 being killed and hundreds injured. The riot is mainly remembered today for the way it pitted immigrants against nativists, a divide which was arguably a key factor in the lead up to Civil War.

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Hooray, hooray, it’s time for Friday Reads! I’m getting my borscht on with Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking (and feeling weirdly nostalgic for the huge brown semi-sour loaves that I lived on for two years in Prague– mmmm, chleb). 

Intern Megan says Where the Bird Sings Best is “every bit as bonkers and mindblowing as I feel like Jodorowsky probably is.”

Mr. Bob Mondello reports, “I’m getting a jump on Shakespeare’s Birthday (April 23) by reading accounts of the Astor Place Riots in Shakespeare in America: An Anthology from the Revolution to Now.  Amazing story about a time when folks took theater reeeeeeally seriously: On May 19, 1849, more than 15,000 fans of American actor Edwin Forrest, descended on the Astor Place Opera House where his British rival William Charles Macready was performing Macbeth. The rioting not only stopped the show, but also resulted in 20 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Those were the days, no?“ 

Founding Mother Susan Stamberg is reading Listener Supported as she prepares an obituary for Don (not Dan) Quayle, NPR’s first president – tune in to tonight’s All Things Considered to hear it.

Editor Nina has a little light weekend reading, Vincent Crapanzano’s Recapitulations.

And Code Switch’s Karen Grigsby Bates has an ARC of Wednesday Martin’s Primates of Park Avenue. “Martin, an anthropologist, moved with her husband and child from downtown to Manhattan’s Upper East Side and used her anthropological skills to explain the social mores of the 1%. Equal parts frightening and entertaining.”

How about you? What’s on your shelf this weekend?

– Petra