The Rise and Demise of Vaudeville

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As far as the development and demise of vaudeville, there is much to be said. But to truly understand its rise and fall, first one must understand what vaudeville is. Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of entertainment that was popular in the United States from the early 1880s until the mid 1930s. Each performance consisted of a series of unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts included classical musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, and movies. Vaudeville developed from many sources, including the concert saloon, freak shows, dime museums, and literary burlesque. Deemed "the heart of American show business," vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in America for several decades. Vaudeville, more than any other mass entertainment, grew out of the culture of incorporation that defined American life post Civil War days. The development of vaudeville marked the beginning of popular entertainment as big business, spending power, and changing tastes of an urban middle class audience became a front and center demand. In the years before the war, entertainment was only available on a different scale. Of course, variety theatre did exist before 1860. However, it was the Europeans who enjoyed types of variety performances years before anyone even had conceived of the United States. In America, as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, theatre patrons could enjoy a performance of Shakespeare, acrobats, singers, dancers and comedy all in the same sitting .As the years passed by, seekers of different amusement styles found an increasing number to choose from. A handful of circuses toured the country, but this did not satisfy the demand of variety. While, music-halls, saloons and burlesque houses catered to those with a taste for the exotic, vaudeville appeared to those interested in the arts as...
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