The Pekin: The rise and fall of Chicago's first black-owned theater

Thomas A Bauman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract

In 1904, political operator and gambling boss Robert T. Motts opened the Pekin Theater in Chicago. Dubbed the “Temple of Music,” the Pekin became one of the country's most prestigious African American cultural institutions, renowned for its all-black stock company and school for actors, an orchestra able to play ragtime and opera with equal brilliance, and a repertoire of original musical comedies. A missing chapter in African American theatrical history, Bauman's saga presents how Motts used his entrepreneurial acumen to create a successful black-owned enterprise. Concentrating on institutional history, Bauman explores the Pekin's philosophy of hiring only African American staff, its embrace of multi-racial upper class audiences, and its ready assumption of roles as diverse as community center, social club, and fundraising instrument. The Pekin's prestige and profitability faltered after Motts’ death in 1911 as his heirs lacked his savvy, and African American elites turned away from pure entertainment in favor of spiritual uplift. But, as Bauman shows, the theater had already opened the door to a new dynamic of both intra- and inter-racial theater-going and showed the ways a success, like the Pekin, had a positive economic and social impact on the surrounding community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
Number of pages240
ISBN (Electronic)9780252096242
ISBN (Print)9780252038365
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Fingerprint

theater
community center
fundraising
cultural institution
upper class
opera
gambling
hiring
history
prestige
club
profitability
economic impact
entertainment
social effects
music
elite
staff
death
American

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

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The Pekin : The rise and fall of Chicago's first black-owned theater. / Bauman, Thomas A.

University of Illinois Press, 2014. 240 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

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