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This essay models how scholars of theatrical culture, especially when navigating the textual archive, can use the nineteenth-century repertoire to examine how movement created meaning in the nineteenth-century theater. Using A Glance at New York as a case study, the essay maps the show’s mobile rhythms to examine how they construct a sense of place, class, gender, and racial identities, and affective atmospheres that enable the audience to feel the city that lies beyond the stage.
Although sectarian violence characterized life in Belfast for hundreds of years, 1864 marked a shift in how violence played out in the city. Unlike previous conflicts that occurred in open spaces and reflected long-held rural rituals, the riots of August 1864 took place in the city's rapidly developing urban streets. The violence broke out in response to celebrations around the foundation laying for a new statue of Daniel O'Connell, the late Catholic politician, in Dublin. Thousands of Belfast Catholics traveled to Dublin for the celebration. Upon their return to Belfast, ten thousand Protestant loyalists greeted them by burning an effigy of O'Connell on Boyne Bridge and staging a mock funeral and procession that attempted to enter a Catholic burial ground. The resulting violence and rioting continued for ten days on the city streets, where homes and businesses faced destruction on a scale previously unseen. Expelling residents of opposing views, rioters reinforced older ideas of “communal conflict” expressed through “disagreements over each group's place—literally and imaginatively—in the city” and strengthened notions of neighborhood geography based on religious beliefs. As historian Mark Doyle argues, the shifting patterns of violence resulted from “[t]he steady advance of working-class alienation from the state, the growing hegemony of violent extremists in working-class neighbourhoods, the sectarian alliance between Protestant workers and elites, the insecurity of the Catholics and, above all, the polarising effects of earlier outbreaks of violence.” Lasting reminders of conflict lingered as the city recovered, reminding anyone walking the streets of the city's violent past and the likely potential of future clashes.
In 1874, a group of newsboys took on some of the wealthiest, most respected, and most powerful New Yorkers and emerged victorious. The Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents, a philanthropic organization that worked to guard public morals and championed Christian values, faced two challenges that year over the city's theatre licensing fee. Its prominent members and their financial power made the organization a formidable force in local city matters. As a result of the 1872 Act to Regulate Places of Public Amusement in the City of New York, theatre managers were required to pay $500 to the city for an operating license. The city gave the fees to the society, which it used to operate the city's House of Refuge. The society believed that theatres corrupted the city's youth and that, therefore, the theatres should help fund youth reform efforts. In its legal proceedings against theatres without licenses, the society typically targeted cheap entertainment establishments in poor neighborhoods. These playhouses “were not particularly powerful and presumably would not put up too strenuous a legal battle.”
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