There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet (1.5.166-7), Hamlet to Horatio
The most famous American born actor of his time, Edwin Booth encounters a mystery while touring to raise money for his new theatre in New York City. The time is the bustling 'shoddy' pre-Golden Age, post-Civil War 1870s. The setting/s are the booming cities and towns of the eastern seaboard. To solve the mystery, which threatens not only his beloved Art but the people he holds dearest, Booth calls some on influential friends. Together they form a team of actors, theatrical wannabes, historians, agents provocateurs and even politicians. Aligned against them is a diabolical conspiracy to take first the United States and then most of the western world, back to the times of the Puritans in the US, the Roundheads in England and all they sought to destroy in the name of morality. These fervent reformers are tools in the hands of those with far darker motives and tremendous wealth, seeking ever greater power and influence. Two of the young men who join Booth's search for answers are Alex Cooper and Jemison Singer, MD, who when not acting or practicing medicine consult with high level figures of the day on questions of security and the nation's welfare.
Robert Downey, Jr
As Edwin Thomas Booth
As David Anderson
As John Wilkes Booth
As Laura Keene
As Mary Devlin Booth
As Mary McVickers Booth
As Henry Irving
As Ellen Terry
As John Wilkes Booth
As Alexander Alastair Gregory Cooper
As Elias Aarons
As Adam Morgan
As Jemison Torrance Singer, MD
As Daniel Kiernan March
As Jonathan Kieran Randolph
As Jonathan Deverill Parry Owens
As Thomas Anglim Kieran Macquillan
As Benjamin Franklin Cooper
As Sean Oriel Liam Hoynes
As Stephen Robert Vincent Macquillan
As Dennis Morrissey
“No, no, and no!” the wiry, black haired man with blazing dark eyes exclaimed, jumping up from his place in the third row of gilt-framed velvet covered theatre seats. He raced up the steps to the stage and strode to the center right. There he confronted a quaking, frail looking blond supernumerary-turned-understudy who looked as if he wanted the trapdoor a few feet away to open underneath him.
“You’ve still not got it right, sir, not right at all and you’re wasting a great deal of this company’s time getting it wrong!” Edwin Booth protested, shaking his head and hiding a taut smile.
Better than most of the actors present for this rehearsal he understood the younger man’s state of mind. But as owner of the theatre they worked in and leading light of the New York stage Booth couldn’t allow compassion to overrule common sense. They had a performance to give tonight at 8:30. They had a sold old house. So the accident that broke both the ankle and the heart of their juvenile lead had to be set entirely aside and this young ‘supe’ had to go on.
“ I believe your speech sir, short as it is, has something to do with the sun setting in the west, does it not?”
“Y-y-yes, sir, yes, sir, Mr. Booth, sir.” the youth finally managed to reply. “Yes, sir, it certainly does, Mr. Booth, sir.”
“Then show them!” Booth replied somewhat more quietly. “The audience, man, show them where the damnable sun is going down as you speak. Where is that sun setting, sir? Point it out!”
Stiff as a plank of stage flooring, the youngster held out his left arm and pointed westward, his hand shaking so badly it seemed about to take leave of it’s wrist.
“That’s better, young sir. Now, just this one more time, lets see you do that over again, without looking like a signpost if you can help it at all.” Booth said, hiding another smile.
“Then we can all finish the second act.”
The Booth Theatre was a grand endeavor and a long-lived dream for its owner, his partners and his company of actors. It was an architectural and theatrical work of art from start to finish. The Romanesque exterior showed off the finest theatre in New York. The neoclassical interiors, rich sets, glorious costumes and splendid properties to the last finial, feather and furbelow proclaimed a new golden-not-gilt era in glorious theatre going. It was intended to be as the owner called it ‘the Temple’ to the Thespian’s Art and a Memorial dedicated to his late wife Mary Devlin Booth. And the Booth Theatre was in trouble before the first production was either scheduled or cast.
Edwin Booth was a man on fire to make actors and acting not only welcome again in modern society but warmly and universally received. He’d already spent most of his life pursuing the heights of an actor’s career and suffering its bleakest hells. And no one yet alive knew those heights and those hells better than Booth.
Now he would make New York his home and the Booth Theatre his legacy, as well as an unshakeable foundation for his small daughter’s inheritance. The only child of his first marriage, Edwina was ‘his bird’ and the core of his life. The actor sheltered and shielded her from the worst of his life, but posed with Edwina for a set of daguerreotypes
in which father and daughter could be seen to utterly dote on one another.