It’s a pleasure to welcome Ann Tatlock, a dear friend and gifted writer, to Historical Nibbles. Ann’s newest historical novel releases this month—what an amazing book! Read my review. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Ann!
by Ann Tatlock
Who doesn’t love to be entertained? Most of us like to kick back of an evening and tune into our favorite live-streamed show or the latest movie to hit NetFlix or Hulu. But before the internet age bombarded us with entertainment options, before DVDs and videotapes, before televisions came into our homes and movie theatres came to Main Street, even before radio became popular, there was …Vaudeville!
In those days, stretching from the 1880s to the 1930s, people gathered to watch real live performers sing and dance, perform magic acts or animal acts or comedy routines or short plays, spin plates, juggle knives, recite poetry, do acrobatics. The possibilities were as endless as the talent crowding the theater bill.
Performers who joined Vaudeville troupes traveled specific circuits, some considered small-time, others big-time. The two largest were the Keith Circuit in the East, including the coveted Palace Theater in New York City, and the Orpheum Circuit in the West.
The life of these stage performers was far from glamorous. It was a peripatetic life as they journeyed the circuits, moving from one city to the next, often traveling all night by train to reach the next theater in time for tomorrow’s matinee. Seedy hotels were standard, and home-cooked meals were a rarity.
But hope of success drove them on. Whether they played the smallest house with the three-piece orchestra (a piano, a stool and a piano player) or a large 1,200-seat theater with full orchestra pit, Vaudevillians made sure the show went on because today’s performance might be their lucky break. From small-time, to big-time, to Broadway…that was the dream.
And certainly most of them dreamed of stardom. A few found it. Some went on to become successful on the radio, in the movies and, later, on television. Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, George Burns and his wife Gracie Allen—these are just a few of the names from Vaudeville that are remembered today.
For every big star, though, there were many more “fallen stars,” whose lights burned out and whose names were forgotten. But they have stories too, untold yet still significant and often beautiful. It was these forgotten ones who inspired me to write The Names of the Stars.
The Names of the Stars is the story of Annalise Rycroft, a young girl who dreams of stardom even as she fears becoming lost to the “surplus population.” Against a backdrop of Vaudeville and the Spanish flu pandemic, Anna’s life is changed when she has an unexpected encounter with some of the characters from her favorite book, A Christmas Carol. Jacob Marley, Mr. Fezziwig, and Tiny Tim’s unnamed brother all work to assure Anna of God’s great love for every individual, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
Purchase link: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Ann Tatlock is an award-winning novelist and children’s book author. In 2013, she founded Heritage Beacon, the historical fiction imprint of LPC/Iron Stream Media, and served as its managing editor for six years. She and her husband have one grown daughter and make their home in North Carolina. Please visit her website at www.anntatlock.com.