native of New York, Jack
(John) S. Langrishe, an actor, impresario, and production manager,
had been operating different theatres for some 17 years before his
Deadwood in 1876.
through the early 1860s, the Langrishe-Allen
St. Joseph Theatre Company played to
and Kansas audiences in
as well as Topeka and Junction City,
Enacting such productions as: Ten Nights in a Bar Room, Toodles, Lady
of Lyons, Hamlet, Ingomar the Barbarian, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and
Othello, these and other plays would be fine-tuned before the troupe’s
appearance in Deadwood,
South Dakota .
and his wife, Jenette, an actress and impresario, moved west in the early
1860’s where they operated the Colorado
Denver Theatre, along with partner, Mike J. Doughterty, from 1862 to 1876.
The original two-story
theatre, opened in November, 1861 as the Platte Valley Theater, was on
the northeast corner of 16th and Lawrence Streets. Obviously
successful, Langrishe and Dougherty bought the building in August, 1862, made
immediate improvements and reopened it as the Denver Theater.
Seating about 1000
people, the theatre was a huge success. Ever the opportunist, Langrishe made sure the "business” made money even when a
production wasn’t going on. The performances actually took place
on the second story, while the first floor of the building was
reserved for a saloon and gambling hall. Here, the frontiersmen
enjoyed a variety of games including Faro,
roulette, monte, chuck-a-luck, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
the late 1860's, Langrishe was ready to move on again, and the theatre was leased. The name of the theatre was changed to the Denver Opera
House, but that lasted only a couple of weeks, before the name
reverted to the Denver Theatre. Unfortunately, the building was
destroyed by fire in March, 1877.
In the meantime, Langrishe and his troupe
were performing in many of the
mining towns of the west. In 1870, they built the Langrishe Opera House in Helena,
which operated until 1874, when it was consumed by fire.
They returned briefly to Denver before traveling once again to
in July, 1876. Obviously well seasoned, he wasted no time in
establishing a theatre in the thriving boomtown. Upon their arrival,
the Langrishe troupe first performed in the Bella Union for a brief
time before building their own theater. Late in 1876, the
Theatre, often referred to as the McDaniels Theatre, for the builder,
or the Langrishe Theatre, was completed. It was here that the trial of
Hickok’s killer, was first held.
Exchanging stage performances for gold
dust, the nightly performances played to a packed house, delighting
audiences with the very latest Broadway hits, many concurrently
running in New York and London. During the day or at other times
that no performance was being enacted, the new theatre building was
often used for trials, receptions of distinguished visitors, funeral
service and dances. Though other "entertainment” existed in
when the Langrishe Troupe arrived, Langrishe's theater was the only one that any
respectable lady would set foot in.
The theatre was so
successful that by 1878, Jack
Langrishe relocated the theatre to a larger building on Sherman Street
in South Deadwood. It’s most famous
star to perform was Fanny Price, but the theatre also featured other
well-known names of the time such as Charlotte Cushman, Jim and Belle
Gilbert, Augusta Chambers, Viola Porter, and more.
like many a mining town, the success was not to last, as in early 1879,
many of the miners began to move from Deadwood towards the next
big mining strike in
Colorado. The Langrishe Theatre’s last production in
Deadwood was Our American
Cousin on August 14, 1879. Following the miners, the Langrishe
Company also moved on to Leadville,
where they performed the first show at the brand new
House on November 20, 1879 and continued performances through the end of