“Irish by Name”: An Overview of Irish and Ethnic Performance in Vaudeville

  • Jennifer Mooney
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)


Theatre programs held in the New York Public Library’s Billy Rose Theatre Division demonstrate the prevalence of Irish performers in vaudeville shows. In 1868, Tony Pastor’s theatre at 201 Bowery in New York had a double song and dance act by the Hibernian Boys and a play entitled Might and Right, or The Days of ‘76. This play included the characters Pat Rierdon, described as “an Irishman, full of fight, and no friend to the redcoats,” and his sweetheart Bridget O’Brien, and is discussed in more detail in the next chapter. During the week of October 21, 1878, the bill at Pastor’s had a decidedly Irish air. Harry and John Kernell appeared in an Irish piece entitled O’Donahue’s Sinecure, Murphy and Morton performed Irish songs and dances, and a sketch called Unwelcome Visitors featured the characters of Jack Krousmeyer and Mike Maloney. The Irish flavor of acts continued into the following week, when the Peasleys appeared in an Irish sketch called Mollie’s Victory and a Miss Flora Moore was billed as an Irish comedian, imitator, and “the unequalled lady Irish singer and graphic delineator of Camp Meeting Hymns.” The bill also had Kelly and Ryan, the Bards of Tara, in their character creations “The Two Nurses,” “Going to the Ball,” and “The Shamrock Guards.” 1


Black Worker Legitimate Theatre Irish Immigrant York Public Library Irish Character 
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© Jennifer Mooney 2015

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  • Jennifer Mooney

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