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 There are several reasons why the year 1825 forms a convenient point of departure in the development of the drama. Up to about 1822, largely through the excellence of the company at the Chestnut Street Theatre where Jefferson, Warren, and Wood formed a triumvirate in comedy, Philadelphia had been the theatrical metropolis. Then the growing importance of the port of New York brought an increasing number of foreign actors to that city and made it important for an actor to begin his career there. The year 1825-6, according to Ireland,2 was remarkable in the history of the New York stage, since it witnessed the first attempt to establish Italian opera with a fully organized company, the beginning of Hackett's career as a comedian, and the combination of Placide, Hilson, Barnes, and Miss Kelly in comedy at the Park Theatre. Most important, this year marked the real beginning of Edwin Forrest's career, both in Philadelphia and in New York. The very prominence of New York and its proximity to Europe, however much they added to its theatrical prestige, hindered the development of the drama. The succession of English actors who were brought over as “stars” resulted in little encouragement to native writers, while in Philadelphia, under the encouragement of Edwin Forrest and others, a group of dramatists arose whose work became widely known both at home and abroad. For the year 1829-30 Durang lists nine plays by American writers, among them Pocahontas by George Washington Custis and John Kerr's first draft of Rip Van Winkle. In 1829 Forrest produced the Indian play of Metamora by John Augustus Stone, an actor who lived during his creative period in Philadelphia. The play was a bit bombastic and the speeches of Metamora show a curious mixture of Indian and Ossian, but they are at times very effective and some of the phrases of this play became bywords in the mouths of the people. Forrest also inspired Robert Montgomery Bird of Philadelphia to write The Gladiator in 1831. It was played by Forrest in all parts of the Union and at Drury Lane in 1836. In this play Dr. Bird combined the principal sources of dramatic interest-self-preservation, love of wife, child, and brother, desire 1 2
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