Aldridge, Ira

Aldridge, Ira (Frederick)

(1807–67) stage actor; probably born in New York City. He got his start in his teens with the African Theatre, established by William Henry Brown in New York City in 1821 to present all-black casts in a variety of plays. In 1824 Aldridge went to England, where for the next 25 years he became widely known throughout Britain and Ireland. In 1833 he replaced the mortally ill Edmund Kean as Othello at London's Covent Garden Theatre (to mixed reviews). He played both comedy and tragedy and is credited with introducing psychological realism in acting in the 1850s, before his European counterparts. In 1852 he began a series of highly successful appearances in Europe and Russia, receiving several decorations from heads of state. His return to the London stage in 1865 was well received. He died in Poland while on an engagement there.