Philly Native Edwin Forrest, That 19th Century Star, Gets a Day All His Own March 9

By Kenneth Jones
08 Mar 2006

Philadelphia area theatres will celebrate the 200th birthday of Edwin Forrest, one of Philadelphia's most famous actors, on March 9.



Forrest (1806-1872) "was America's first superstar of the stage and the highest paid actor in the world in the mid-nineteenth century," according to The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. "When this great Philadelphian died, he set aside a majority of his estate to establish a retirement home for actors."

The Alliance will honor Forrest by inviting area theatres to collect donations which will be given to The Lillian Booth Actors' Home of the Actors' Fund of America on Shakespeare's birthday, April 23.

Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street issued a proclamation naming March 9 "Edwin Forrest Day," saying, "Edwin Forrest is not only remembered for his talent, but for what he did for the American stage and its actors. The legacy of Edwin Forrest lives on today through theatres, schools, including the Edwin Forrest Elementary School in Philadelphia, and competitions that bear his name."

On March 9, theatregoers can attend the following performances and make donations: Dancing at Lughnasa and Opus at Arden Theatre Company; Love's Fire at City Theatre Company; Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at Curio Theatre Company; Les Miserables at Forrest Theatre; No Good NigG@ bLueZ at New Freedom Theatre; The Student Prince at Media Theatre; Psychopathia Sexualis at Montgomery Theatre; The Lady in the Van at Mum Puppetttheatre; Our Town at Ritz Theatre; and Nine Parts of Desire at The Wilma Theater.

Donations will be collected on other dates at the following performances: Forrest: A Riot of Dreams at Walnut Street Theatre Independence Studio on 3 and Trying at Walnut Street Theatre on March 18; and Vietnam 101: The War on Campus presented by Simpatico Theatre Project at the Shubin Theater, March 31.

Additionally, The Walnut Street Theatre, where Forrest made his debut, is currently presenting an Edwin Forrest exhibit in its lobby as part of a year-long celebration of his 200th birthday. The theatre hosted an Edwin Forrest Playwriting Competition and will premiere in March Forrest: A Riot of Dreams written by South Philadelphia native Armen Pandola, surrounding the times, triumphs and trials of Forrest's life.

According to a statement, "Forrest left an indelible mark on the Philadelphia theatre community. The Forrest Theatre was named after him, and New Freedom Theatre now calls his home, its home. In 1872, his country home near modern-day Northeast Philadelphia was transformed into the Edwin Forrest Home for Indigent Actors. The home moved to Philadelphia's Parkside Avenue during the 1920s and again in the 1980s to Englewood, New Jersey where the Actors' Home continues to care for aging performing artists 130 years later."

The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia "strengthens and leads the region's richly diverse theatre community, with more than 100 member organizations and 200 individuals, by promoting awareness and serving as a resource for information, professional development and advocacy." For further information, visit www.theatrealliance.org or call the Theatre Alliance at (215) 413-7150.