First European theater in North America
Play House
United States ()
The first theatre in North America was located in the English colony of Williamsburg, Virginia and was constructed in 1716. It was built by William Levingston and called the “Play House.” Actors put on English plays, frequently Shakespeare, until 1745 when the theatre was demolished and its frame was used to construct a town hall. The Walnut Street Theatre (or simply The Walnut), located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and founded in 1809, is considered not only the oldest theatre in the United States, but also the oldest continuously operating theatre in the English-speaking world. The first British (cultural) Invasion, more than 300 years before the arrival of The Beatles, took place when Lewis Hallam organized a troupe of professional actors—the first to play in America—and had a triumphant arrival in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1752. Their first performance being The Merchant of Venice on September 15, 1752. One-hundred ten years after the theatres were closed in England by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans, and 92 years after the English theatres were “restored,” strenuous opposition arose in the American colonies among religious groups, leading Hallam and his company to flee to Jamaica in either 1754 or 1755. However, to the delight of more sophisticated audiences, the show did go on when Hallam’s son, Lewis Hallam, Jr., opened a theatre in New York for his newly founded American Company. They persevered, broke a leg, and in 1767, performed the first professionally acted American play—The Prince of Parthia, by Thomas Godfrey.