“‘Ben Hur’ with its horde of people, and all its paraphranalia arrived in the city yesterday by special train from Hartford. The organization numbers 300 people, and they carry twelve horses and a camel. The livestock of the organization was unloaded immediately at the arrival of the company, but the scenery and effect of the organization will not be unloaded until the morning, as it is the policy of Klaw & Erlanger not to do any unnecessary work on Sunday. The members of the organization had a difficult time finding locations in which to live while in the city, as many of the people composing the company do not speak any English, this is especially true of the girls, imported especially for this production from Italy.
The horses of the company are an unusually spirited lot of animals and created considerable excitement as they together with the camel were led through the streets of the city yesterday, they are all quartered in the stable near the Hyperion. Among the livestock carried by the organization is a coyote. He was picked up by the company while it was playing in Colorado, and has become one of the pets of the organization. The engagement of the attraction in this city is limited to three nights with a special matinee Wednesday.
The advance sale was unusually large, the out of town orders being the greatest ever accorded in the history of the local theater, while the demand has evidenced by the long line of attendance at the theater yesterday makes such, it is a record breaking engagement. It is, however, announced by the management that although the sale is very large that there are still many good seats to be had for each performance of the engagement, and that intending patrons will not be disappointed in getting locations, if they do not delay too long. Special matinee on Wednesday.
The curtain rises at 8 o’clock evenings and 2 o’clock on the matinee.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Daily Morning Journal and Courier, April 30, 1906
“Many of London’s foremost critics stated that nothing more stupendous or picturesque in the dramatic field had ever been housed inside the four walls of that great historic playhouse, the Drury Lane Theater, than Ben Hur, staged by Klaw & Erlanger.
It is this production that will be unfolded for the admiration of the New Haven public at the Hyperion on April 30 and May 1 and 2, when an engagement of four perforamnces will be inaugurated. A large force of expert mechanics are now busy putting the stage of the theater in shape for the production: When ‘Ben Hur’ was presented at the theater three years ago numerous changes back of the footlights were made. All these are intact, which makes the work for the forthcoming staging easier than it would otherwise be.
Art and invention joined hands in making the production of ‘Ben Hur’ a marvel of the stage. The thrilling interest of the story is intensified by the wonderful mechanical contrivances which make possible the presentation of such stirring incidents as the chariot race, the rescue, the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem, the Vision and the Miracle on Mount Olivet. The character of General Wallace’s impressive story is thoroughly maintained, not-withstanding the magnitude of the scenic settings, with the result that it will take many years to exhaust its popularity.
Perhaps the strongest feature of the scenic display in ‘Ben Hur,’ and one which accounts for the undying popularity of the grand production, is that the scenes are made wholly to serve the purposes of the story, while the story has in no instance been subordinated to scenic exploitation. To describe the scenery and the large organization employed in the production of this play would be like describing in detail some extensive manufacturing plant. Suffice it is to say that while some of the most startling feats of stagecraft have been accomplished in staging ‘Ben Hur,’ they have been only such as appeared absolutely necessary to the adequate exploitation of the theme, and yet no essential part of the story has been omitted because of the seeming difficulties attendant upon putting it on the stage.
Seat sale April 26.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Daily Morning Journal and Courier, April 21, 1906
Grain of Dust Gives Producer His Idea.
“Joseph Brooks, the producer of ‘Ben-Hur,” who is in the city on business connected with the play, talked recently about the genesis of the big stage production that has made an enormous fortune for the producers and for the family of the author of the play, the late Gen. Lew Wallace.
‘I had several interviews with Gen. Wallace in his home. But it seemed a hopeless task to get his consent for a stage version of the story. His main idea was there was no man capable of undertaking the representation in the flesh of the Saviour. One afternoon I was sitting in the darkened study of my home, smoking, when a vivid ray of light came through the shutters and shot a wavering line across the room. Into this shaft of light the smoke of my cigar floated and myriads of silver atoms of dust danced and rioted madly in a luminous trail. Instantly I realized there was the effect which we sought for the final scene of the play. I took a train for Crawfordsville, laid the idea before Gen. Wallace and received his sanction for the dramatization and production of the play.'”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, The Pittsburgh Press, November 29, 1914