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This comprehensive study shows that the stage was active in Kentucky long before the first professional troupe toured in 1815. During the period covered, 1790–1820, Lexington, Frankfort, and Louisville became the major theatrical centers in the West. Performances on Kentucky stages far outnumbered those in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Nashville, or New Orleans. Drawing upon accounts in contemporary newspapers, West T. Hill Jr. demonstrates that drama had developed west of the mountains a full quarter century prior to the date given in theatre histories.

The Theatre in Early Kentucky, 1790–1820 captures the full flavor and color of the promoters, managers, professional strollers, and actors, many of whom performed dual roles as actors and managers. Working under primitive conditions, the groups often put on a melodrama, a musical comedy or farce, and several acts of singing, dancing, and recitation in the same performance. Appreciative audiences responded enthusiastically to the overworked and predictable plots of mistaken identity, revenge, and domestic difficulty.

This delightful, informative book includes and appendix containing the production data available for 1790–1820. It is illustrated with reproductions of charming newspaper theatrical announcements and with portraits of leading stage figures.

West T. Hill, Jr. is professor of dramatic art at Centre College.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Kentucky, Theater history


Theatre History

The Theatre in Early Kentucky: 1790-1820
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