On Stage Saturday


Life has been busy at chez McCabe this week! Here is what I’ve been doing:

1) Doing some more political campaign volunteering (though I still haven’t found an occasion for a blue velvet suit and foxtail-trimmed hat, a la The Duchess!)

2) Writing. Lots. (natch)

3) Reading! (This week’s read–The Lady Penelope, a new biography of Lady Penelope Rich by Sally Varlow. It has lots of good info, but not really the “you are there” feeling of bios like Georgiana and Perdita)

4) Getting book title news!! I always like this–it makes the book feel “official,” somehow. Balthazar’s book (out in January ’09, just in time for my birthday!) is now called High Seas Stowaway. Ships, pirates, battles, and, as Anna Campbell put it “Historically accurate nookie!”

And the reissued Christmas novella from Signet, Upon a Midnight Clear, will be in an anthology titled A Homespun Regency Christmas (Regency on the Prairie??). The other 3 novellas are by Carla Kelly, Emma Jenson, and Sandra Heath.

5) And 4th of July-ing! Yesterday, in between eating hot dogs and cupcakes and watching fireworks, I took a friend’s daughter to see Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. We both give it 2 enthusiastic thumbs-up, as did her American Girl doll, Samantha, who accompanied us. (Though she did want to know why Kit got the feature-film treatment, when she, Samantha, got only a cheesy TV movie…)

One of the previews was for the delightfully silly-looking Mamma Mia!. I may have to see this one, if only to watch Meryl Streep singing ABBA songs.

And it just so happens that July 5, 1755 was the birthday of the Regency’s own version of Meryl Streep, Sarah Siddons. I doubt she ever had to sing Dancing Queen, though.

She was born Sarah Kemble, the eldest of 12 children of the actor-manager Roger Kemble (several of her siblings also became well-known actors). She married another actor, William Siddons, in 1773, and had her first professional role as Belvidera in Otway’s Venice Preserved. Things went a bit downhill from there–she was dismissed from Drury Lane, in her own words, “banished from Drury Lane as a worthless candidate for fame and fortune.” But after a very succeseful five-year run in Bath, starting in about 1778, she went back to Drury Lane.

Her appearance as Isabella in Garrick’s version of Southerne’s Fatal Marriage in October 1782 was a triumph. She soon took on her signature role, Lady Macbeth, as well as Desdemona, Ophelia, Volumnia, and the title role in Queen Catherine. For over 20 years she was queen of Drury lane, the greatest tragic actress in London, and a cultural icon.

In 1812, her farewell performance at Covent Garden, as Lady Macbeth, brought down the house. The audience refused to let the play go on after the sleepwalking scene. After this, she appeared only once in a while for special performances, making her last appearance in 1819.

She had 7 children, though only 2 outlived her, and ended up informally separated from Mr. Siddons. She died in 1831. I only have one book about her in my library, but it’s a good one with lots of pics–Robyn Asleson’s A Passion for Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists.

So, happy birthday, Mrs. Siddons! And happy weekend to all of you. How have you spent your holiday? Seen any good theatrical performances lately?

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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