THE ASTOR PLACE RIOTS: America's Deadly Theatrical Rivalry

A Virtual Performance Event

The New York Adventure Club presents a Peculiar Works Project of

The Astor Place Riots: America's Deadly Theatrical Rivalry a collage of three mid-nineteenth century drawings: hand-colored woodcut of William Charles Macready as Macbeth on the left, a hand-colored woodcut of the Astor Place Theater with rioters fighting in front of it at center, and a black and white woodcut of Edwin Forrest as Macbeth on the right.

for the 174th anniversary of this legendary event

Wednesday, May 10, 2023 at 5:30pm EDT
Admission $10
Get your tickets for the Virtual Performance on Zoom
75 minutes

Created & performed by RALPH LEWIS

Please join us from your home—or wherever—and get the inside scoop on this incredible moment in NYC history: a cautionary tale ripe for today’s divisive political culture.

Handill distributed by the American Committee used to incite the Astor Place Riots: Working Man Shal Americans or English Rule! in the City!May 10, 1849, New York City. The bitter theatrical rivalry between two of the world's best Shakespearean actors — American Edwin Forrest and British William Charles Macready — was reaching a crescendo. At that point, Forrest's rise as an actor through New York's middle-class theaters made him an American hero to working-class fans from rough-and-tumble neighborhoods like the Bowery and Five Points. Macready, on the other hand, was regarded by the wealthy class as the greatest British actor of his generation — translating to the best actor on Planet Earth as Britain was considered the gold standard for theater.

But it’s much more than a fight between the two biggest stars of their day: the riots represent a national tragedy unlike anything before—the first time in U.S. history that our government shot and killed its own innocent citizens. You'll hear verbatim reenactments from contemporaneous descriptions and see how it all unfolded with dozens of rare images. It's not only a requisite for all theater-lovers, it's a prescient story that every American should know.

New York State Council on the Arts and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs logosOur Peculiar Works projects are being made possible with public funds from made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and private funds from the Mental Insight Foundation, as well as our many, wonderful, individual donors.