Monday, April 7, 2008

Covent Garden presents

Covent Garden presents

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Wednesday April 6th, 1829

Starring the ever so lovely Fanny Kemble in her stage debut

as Juliet

Wednesday April 6th, 1829
The Covent Garden is fortunate enough to have Ms. Kemble address you, the audience, within this program!

To the members of the audience,

First of all, I would like to say that it is my great pleasure to be performing for all of you tonight. All of us actors and crew have worked extremely hard for this production; it is something my family is very proud of. Seeing that this is my stage debut, it is obvious that my nerves are getting the best of me. My father, Charles Kemble, has told me not to worry since all actors endure this nerve-wracking experience. He certainly did, when he starred in King John.

Wednesday April 6th, 1829

However, he has taught me one valuable lesson- an actor must place passion into every performance. Once he or she focuses primarily on that, there is nothing left to fear. The company has been honoured by the attendance of her Majesty Queen Victoria on opening night, Monday April 4th, 1829. In her words, the production was “one of the most magnificent works of art.” We pay thanks to her Majesty and hope you will share the same view! Please remember to keep all noise at a minimum. There will be a brief intermission where tea and cucumber sandwiches will be served. Enjoy the show!

Fanny Kemble

Wednesday April 6th, 1829

Covent Garden is proud to present

Shakespeare readings by Fanny Kemble

July 19th, 1846

Miss Kemble will be reading for the character of Lady Macbeth

“Never have I seen such a haunting performance.”

“A true veteran of the theatre, Kemble has possessed the evil genius of the character.”

July 19th, 1846
“I was expecting to see her read for Lady Macbeth only, but she exceeded expectations, reading for the three witches as well! Kemble has the talent to play four characters at once.”

“She had us all chanting, ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

“Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. My ears still ring with the cackles and shrieks of Kemble’s voice.”
Please be advised the reading is not suitable for young children for disturbing scenes. Coven Garden thanks you for your understanding.

July 19th, 1846

Fanny Kemble

Frances Anne Kemble aka Fanny Kemble was born on November 29th, 1809 in London, England. In 1829, she began her theatrical career with her appearance in Romeo and Juliet, portraying Juliet. This established her icon status and she became a well known actress. The situation between Fanny and the theatre was interesting. Acting was not her true passion, yet she acted to support her family. According to audiences, she was magnificent onstage, being born into a family of actors known for their contributions to theatre. Not only an actress, Fanny was also a writer, a public reader, and a musician. Kemble performed throughout the United States in 1832. After attending one of her performances, a man named Pierce Butler repeatedly watched her. She was so amazing, he attended performance after performance. In June 1834 Fanny married Pierce and discontinued acting. Instead, she became a writer with her 1835 success of Journal of Frances Anne Butler, a controversial book particularly with Americans because of its views on the United States.
Pierce Mease Butler was born in 1806 in Philadelphia into a prosperous family. His grandfather, Major Pierce Butler, was in the Revolutionary War. Major Butler was the owner of two plantations, one rice plantation in Butler Island, the other in St. Simon’s Island. He resided in Philadelphia in a mansion and country home. In 1812, he held 638 slaves. All this was passed down to his grandson.
Pierce and Fanny’s marriage was troubled because both of them did not agree on the issue of slavery. Pierce wanted Fanny to agree with pro slavery, while Fanny had hoped he would follow her view of anti slavery. She tried to publish a treaty disallowing ownership of slaves, but this did not happen under Pierce’s authority. In March 1836, Pierce became the new owner of his grandfather’s plantations. Fanny longed to go to the plantations; however, her proposal was rejected by her husband. In December 1838, he gave way and he took his wife, two daughters, Sarah and Frances, and their governess Margery O’Brien on a journey consisting of nine days spent on train, stage, and steamboat. Fanny lived on the islands for four months, having numerous accounts of life there in letters. These writings became her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, which painted an accurate portrait of plantation slavery.
At the time of return to Philadelphia, Pierce and Fanny were no longer getting along. Fanny was neglected, abused, and imprisoned from her children. She tried to get her marriage back on track many times, but failed. Overwhelmed, she moved back to England where she continued in theatre, reading works of Shakespeare to the public. She was enjoying success when she was informed that Pierce was taking legal action against her for divorce. He claimed she left him and the family, deciding to walk out one day on September 11th, 1845. On April 7th, 1848, it was established the couple would be divorcing. Determined to clear her name, Fanny journeyed back to America to endure tedious, everlasting court sessions. The divorce was finalized in September 1849, granting Fanny custody of her children two months a summer and $1500 per year as alimony from Pierce.
Kemble progressed with her Shakespeare readings in America and Europe. Pierce, on the other hand, was far from progression. His inheritance was all lost on gambling and stock market speculation. In 1856, he was at the brink of having no money, and as a result, three trustees were placed in charge of looking after his finances. Under the trustees, the mansion as well as other possessions to pay off debts, but they still were not paid. The plantations were considered for sale. Slaves were sold to pay the remainder in February 1859. This selling of slaves later became America’s greatest sale of human beings in history, “the weeping time.”
The Civil War occurred in the United States in 1861. Fanny and her daughter Sarah were on the side of the North, Pierce and Frances were on the side of the South. In the beginning of 1861, Pierce and Frances were in Georgia. August was their journey back to Philadelphia where Pierce was jailed for treason. After the war Pierce and Frances lived on Butler Island where he retraced his former slaves and decided they would be his share-croppers. Taking care of the plantation proved to be hard work. Frances moved back to Philadelphia; Pierce did not listen to disease warnings and stayed on the island. In August 1867, Pierce Butler died from malaria. Frances was then placed in charge of the plantation.
Fanny was now living in Philadelphia. She dedicated the rest of her life to traveling, writing, and performing. Fanny Kemble died of natural causes on January 15th, 1893.

Works Cited

“Fanny Kemble and Pierce Butler.” PBS. 5 April 2008

Clinton, Catherine. “Fanny Kemble.” 22 Jan 2003. New Georgia Encyclopedia. 5
April 2008

All images and excerpts from:

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