An actor-manager is a leading actor who sets up their own permanent theatrical company and manages the company's business and financial arrangements, sometimes taking over the management of a theatre, to perform plays of their own choice and in which they will usually star. It was a method of theatrical production and management particularly common in 19th-century England and the United States.


The first actor-managers, such as Robert Browne
Robert Browne (Elizabethan actor)
Robert Browne was an English actor of the Elizabethan era, and the owner and manager of the Boar's Head Theatre. He was also part of an enduring confusion in the study of English Renaissance theatre.-Two Robert Brownes:...

, appeared in the late 16th century, to be followed by another Robert Browne
Robert Browne (Jacobean actor)
Robert Browne was an English actor and theatre manager and investor of the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He was also part of a long-standing confusion in the scholarship of English Renaissance theatre....

 (no relation) and George Jolly
George Jolly
George Jolly, or Joliffe was an actor, an early actor-manager and a theatre impressario of the middle seventeenth century...

 in the 17th century. In the 18th century, actor-managers such as Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber was an English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate. His colourful memoir Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber describes his life in a personal, anecdotal and even rambling style...

 and David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

 gained prominence. The system of actor-management generally produced high standards of performance, as demonstrated by such 19th-century actors as William Macready, Charles Wyndham, Henry Irving
Henry Irving
Sir Henry Irving , born John Henry Brodribb, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as...

, Frank Benson and Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree was an English actor and theatre manager.Tree began performing in the 1870s. By 1887, he was managing the Haymarket Theatre, winning praise for adventurous programming and lavish productions, and starring in many of its productions. In 1899, he helped fund the...

, by husband-wife teams such as Squire Bancroft
Squire Bancroft
Sir Squire Bancroft , born Squire White Butterfield, was an English actor-manager. He and his wife Effie Bancroft are considered to have instigated a new form of drama known as 'drawing-room comedy' or 'cup and saucer drama', owing to the realism of their stage sets.-Early life and career:Bancroft...

 and Effie Bancroft
Effie Bancroft
Marie Effie Wilton, Lady Bancroft was an English actress and theatre manager. She appeared onstage as Marie Wilton until after her marriage in December 1867 to Squire Bancroft, when she usually appeared under the name Lady Bancroft...

, William Hunter Kendal
William Hunter Kendal
William Hunter Kendal was an English actor and theatre manager. He and his wife Madge starred at the Haymarket in Shakespearian revivals and the old English comedies beginning in the 1860s. In the 1870s, they starred in a series of "fairy comedies" by W. S. Gilbert and in many plays on the West...

 and Madge Robertson Kendal and Thomas and Priscilla German Reed, and by women stars, such as Lucia Elizabeth Vestris
Lucia Elizabeth Vestris
Lucia Elizabeth Vestris was an English actress and a contralto opera singer, appearing in Mozart and Rossini works. While popular in her time, she was more notable as a theatre producer and manager...

, Selina Dolaro
Selina Dolaro
Selina Dolaro was an English singer, actress, theatre manager and writer. During a career in operetta and other forms of musical theatre, she managed several of her own opera companies and raised four children as a single mother...

, Evelyn Millard
Evelyn Millard
Evelyn Mary Millard was an English Shakespearean actress, actor-manager and "stage beauty" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries perhaps best known for creating the role of Cecily Cardew in the 1895 premiere of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.-Early life and...

, Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt was a French stage and early film actress, and has been referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known". Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of France in the 1870s, and was soon in demand in Europe and the Americas...

, Sarah Thorne
Sarah Thorne
Sarah Thorne was a British actress and actor-manager of the nineteenth century who managed the Theatre Royal at Margate for many years and who ran a School for Acting there widely regarded as Britain's first formal drama school...

, Gertrude Kingston
Gertrude Kingston
Gertrude Kingston was an actress, an actor-manager and an artist.-Early life:...

, Emily Soldene
Emily Soldene
Emily Soldene was an English singer, actress, director, theatre manager, novelist and journalist of the late Victorian era and the Edwardian period...

, Laura Keene
Laura Keene
Laura Keene was a British-born American stage actress and manager. In her twenty-year career, she became known as the first powerful female manager in New York.-Early life:...

 and Lydia Thompson
Lydia Thompson
Lydia Thompson, born Eliza Hodges Thompson , was an English dancer, actress and theatrical producer....

, among many others.

The repertoire usually consisted of a combination of the works
Shakespeare's plays
William Shakespeare's plays have the reputation of being among the greatest in the English language and in Western literature. Traditionally, the 37 plays are divided into the genres of tragedy, history, and comedy; they have been translated into every major living language, in addition to being...

 of Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, popular melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

s, and new dramas, comedies or musical theatre works. The era of the actor-manager was geared to star performances, such as Irving
Henry Irving
Sir Henry Irving , born John Henry Brodribb, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as...

’s role in the 1871 play The Bells
The Bells (play)
The Bells is a play in three acts by Leopold Davis Lewis which was one of the greatest successes of the British actor Henry Irving. The play opened on November 25 1871 at the Lyceum Theatre in London and initially ran for 151 performances...


The system of actor-management waned in the early twentieth century, as actor-managers were replaced first by stage managers
Stage management
Stage management is the practice of organizing and coordinating a theatrical production. It encompasses a variety of activities, including organizing the production and coordinating communications between various personnel...

 and later by theatre directors. In addition, the system of actor-management was adversely affected by factors such as the increasing cost of mounting theatrical productions, more corporate ownership of theatres, such as by the Theatrical Syndicate
Theatrical Syndicate
-Beginnings:One day, early in the year 1896, six men gathered for lunch at the Holland House in New York City. These men were Charles Frohman, Al Hayman, A.L. Erlanger, Marc Klaw, Samuel F. Nirdlinger, and Frederick Zimmerman...

, Edward Laurillard
Edward Laurillard
Edward Laurillard was a cinema and theatre producer in London and New York during the first third of the 20th century...

 and The Shubert Organization
The Shubert Organization
The Shubert Organization is a theatrical producing organization and a major owner of legitimate theatres based in Manhattan, New York City. It was founded by the Shubert brothers, Sam S. Shubert, Lee Shubert, and Jacob J. Shubert of Syracuse, New York in the late 19th century in upstate New York,...

, a trend toward ensemble-style acting, and a move towards the financial security offered by long runs rather than rotating plays for a short period.

An example of a modern actor-manager is Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey, CBE is an American actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and crooner. He grew up in California, and began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s, before being cast in supporting roles in film and television...

, who is the artistic director of the Old Vic
Old Vic
The Old Vic is a theatre located just south-east of Waterloo Station in London on the corner of The Cut and Waterloo Road. Established in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre, it was taken over by Emma Cons in 1880 when it was known formally as the Royal Victoria Hall. In 1898, a niece of Cons, Lilian...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

and who also appears in plays there under his own direction.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.