(1838-1891) American actor and
manager born in Patterson, NJ, but
raised in Detroit, he was the
self-educated son of a poor tailor.
made his acting debut in Detroit in 1853
as Murad in The French Spy. Three
years later he made his New York debut
at the Chambers Street Theatre playing
Sir Thomas Clifford in The Hunchback.
He followed this in short order with
Fazio, The Stranger, Ingomar and Claude
He made his important New York
appearance in 1857 as a member of
William E. Burton’s Metroplolitan
Theatre Company, where he remained until
the house failed. Subsequently he was a
member of Boston’s Howard Anthenaeum
Company from 1858-1861.
was long associated with Edwin Booth
over the course of his career. They
first appeared together during the
1861-62 season playing Hamlet at
the Winter Garden and Barrett took over
playing Richard III when Booth left to
be near his dying wife. He supported
Booth again the following season before
leaving to serve as Captain in the Union
After the war he joined John
McCullough in managing San Francisco’s
California Theatre from 1866-70.
1870, he returned to New York, once
again to act in support of Booth, but
this time in his newly opened Booth’s
Theatre. His most notable role was as
Adrian de Mauprat to Booth’s celebrated
Richelieu, but he also alternated with
Booth as Iago and Othello. Because Booth
refused to play on Saturday nights,
Barrett was able to mount plays with
himself as star on those evenings. But
it was only after Booth’s 1871 season
ended and Barrett took over the
playhouse that he won fame as James
Harbell, the mad poet in W.G. Will’s
The Man o’ Airlie, which was to
become one of his most acclaimed roles.
At Booth’s Theatre he also played
Leontes in a spectacular production of
The Winter’s Tale.
He manages the
Variety Theatre in New Orleans from
Additional laurels were heaped
on him back in New York in 1875 when he
played Cassius to Booth’s Brutus in a
lavish revival of Julius Caesar.
This last production was later toured by
Barrett under the management of Henry C.
Jarret and A.M. Palmer.
He met with
great personal success touring during
the 1877-78 season in two works by
William Dean Howells, playing the
mistrusted painter Barlett in A
Countefeit Presentment and the
tragic jester in Yorick’s Love.
The latter he played in New York in
Although a professional
disagreement that began in 1873
estranged Booth and Barrett for over
seven years, they were reconciled in
1880, and their relationship continued
to be a close one for the rest of their
Barrett’s crowning achievement
came in 1883 when he reached back to an
all-but-forgotten past revive
Francesca da Rimini.
In 1884-85 he
leased Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in
London during the latter first American
Another success was Barrett’s
revival in 1887 of Mary Russell Mitford’s Rienzi.
Later that year
he joined Booths again in several
important Shakespeare revivals,
beginning with Julius Caesar and
continuing with Othello (in which
the two alternated in the roles of
Othello and Iago), and The Merchant
of Venice. Barrett took charge of
the plays’ direction and production. And
when they took these ‘joint starring’
plays on a nationwide tour for the
1889-91 season Barrett also managed.
Barrett was keenly interested in
encouraging American drama and
playwrights, commissioning numerous
original plays and adaptations during
Until shortly before his
death Barrett continued his partnership
with Booth and in 1888 mounted one more
praise worthy production, William
Young’s Ganelon. His last
performance, which he was unable to
finish, was as de Mauprat opposite
Booth’s famous Richelieu.
The same sense
of history that prompted him to revive
neglected works may have induced him to
become a theatrical historian as well.
Among his writings are Edwin Forrest
(1881) and Edwin Booth and His