Actresses in the 1700's
were generally not regarded with the respect that men were. The stage was not a woman's world as it was said to be better
suited for men. On one hand women were looked down upon if they acted, as it was un-ladylike; On the other
hand, women were viewed as celebrities if they were actresses, as they kept the aristocracy and royalty entertained as well
as ocasionally socialized with them. It is competely different when we think of modern day actresses, who are among the highest
paid, influential and idolized women in the world.
was expected from actors during this time, as well with the actresses that were working right along with them. Women were
expected to keep the pace and work just as hard as men. Rehearsals were held every morning for several hours and performed
every afternoon at the theatre. Usually, any performance that took place during the evening was held for the court, simply
for mere formality. Acting was at the forefront of these women's lives, as it was a very demanding job. "A successful
leading lady might have to learn about 30 different parts in one season."
It was quite a competitive job, for male parts were in much higer abundance that were those for women."There were fewer parts
forwomen than for men which led to well documented arguments between actresses over casting and costimes." http:/peopleplayuk.org/timelines/women.php?year=1&
Unlike today, females
were expected to have many different talents, they needed to be well rounded and not just be able to act. The leading
lady especially needed to be quite skilled in different areas. She was required to read, sing, to dance and to speak
loud and strong- (to avoid being drowned out by men.) These were all considered upper class skills. Many people
did not have these skills so most actresses originated from good families who had come "down in the world." From the time
of the Restoration, acting and performing were connected with prostitution and the like. This was another reason why women
were not particularly respected, as skeptics viewed them immoral characters. Certainly, some actresses were
brought onto stage from their connections with the audience and general public.
The stages of the theatres
during this period were decorated with painted perspective settings as well with props and furniture. The stage was
separated from the auditorium by the familiar proscenium, which translates directly to "picture frame". Many of these have
moldings and artistic carvings to accentuate the frame. The lighting was bright, as most attention was focused on the actors
and what they were doing. By this time the inside of theatres were decorated beautifully and seating was comfortable as well
Females On Stage?
professional actors were male for the first part of history. It was not until the Restoration period in 1660 that women came
onto the stage. When Charles II, was on the throne, he did not want young men to play women’s parts anymore, he
demanded that only women play their own parts. Charles was noted with having relations with several actresses himself. Many
of the women’s parts were called ‘breeches parts’, this was where women played the part of a male. Audiences
during this time of course found this intriguing, daring and quite appealing. Women of course were aware of the advantage
they had by showing their legs on stage. At the end of one play it was noted that a woman by the name of Elizabeth Boutell
added to lines: “Tis worth such money that such legs appear. These are not to be seen so cheap elsewhere.” (http://www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/timelines/women.php?year=1&) Around the same time, female playwrights started to have their plays and skits actually performed
on stage. This indeed was liberating for women as well as women being able to portray the characters they were interested
in playing. Not only was it a way for women to begin to earn their own money, it proved that the attendance of the plays did
not diminish, but grow due to women being on stage.