Myers seating locationsAlthough the designations "orchestra" and "orchestra circle" are not used much today, I was able to determine with some certainty that orchestra seats were near the stage on the main floor while orchestra circle seats, though on the main floor, were located under the balcony.38
Box seats were slightly below balcony level on the left and right walls and provided a great angled view of the stage from an elevated vantage point. A later Janesville theater, the Apollo, had wicker chairs in similar seating areas, so the seats in the boxes at the 1891 Myers might have been fancier than standard theater seats.
The Gay 90s
What did Janesvillians taking in Tuxedo at the Myers that January 11, 1894, evening experience? The following paragraphs are from a story about the production in the August 27, 1893, New York Sunday Herald:
“The Park City theater will open the regular season Wednesday night under auspicious circumstance, for Ed Marble’s famous 'Tuxedo,' that bright star of minstrel farce comedy, will be produced with all of its parts new and improved.
“Hughey Dougherty’s World Fair Minstrels are with ‘Tuxedo’ and that means the best minstrel performers in the business. ‘Tuxedo’ is exceedingly amusing and everywhere are bits of ‘business’ ideas in incident, quips, and pleasantries in language that touch a responsive echo and cause smiles and laughter.” 39
“Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay"A song from Tuxedo, “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,” is still heard today.
Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZlbLj_nlJM for a bawdy take that might approximate what the Myers audience was in for.
Ah, the good old days! The Gay 90s. Some things never change, particularly where sex is concerned.
The friendly Gazette review complimented the production and its minstrels, who "never seem to resort to buffoonery or suggestive innuendos that draw a laugh from the gallery at the expense of the lady auditors, who have so often been compelled to listen to remarks from the stage that cause the blush of shame to rise to their cheeks." 40
"Auditor" in this out-of-fashion use means "listener." The critic's matter-of-fact classism is noteworthy.
LecturesAlthough most Myers entertainments were song, dance, comedy, or tragedy, straightforward lectures designed to educate or inculcate were also presented.
This is from an article about the Myers in the July 15-16, 1922, Gazette: “Such orators as Robert Ingersoll and DeWitt Talmadge spoke from the Myers stage. Such lecturers as Mark Twain wound their spell around the audience.” 41
Ingersoll is well-known among agnostics, atheists, and rationalists as a nineteenth century intellectual who “advocated freethought and humanism and often poked fun at religious belief," according to a Wiki article.42
“He committed his speeches to memory," the article continues, "although they were sometimes more than three hours long. His audiences were said never to be restless...In a lecture entitled ‘The Great Infidels,’ he attacked the Christian doctrine of Hell: ‘All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew, blossomed, and bore fruit in this one word—hell." 43
A retired Washington D.C.-area marketing executive ran full-page ads in Free Inquiry magazine promoting his website, The Ingersoll Times, to "fellow feathers," which comes from his phrase, "fellow feathers on the sea of fate."
The lead Ingersoll speech at the site, "Exoneration of Jesus Christ" is a masterpiece well-represented by these concluding lines:
"...Why did he leave his words to ignorance, hypocrisy and chance? Why did he not say something positive, definite and satisfactory about another world? Why did he not turn the tear-stained hope of heaven into the glad knowledge of another life? Why did he not tell us something of the rights of man, of the liberty of hand and brain? Why did he go dumbly to his death, leaving the world to misery and to doubt? I will tell you why. He was a man and did not know." 44
According to a Wikipedia entry, Hughey Dougherty,
who brought Tuxedo to Janesville, was a member
of George Thatcher’s Minstrels.45 This advertisement
probably was associated with the musical's
Broadway appearance. Public domain.
Robert Ingersoll. Public domain.