Dunlap, William (dŭnˈlăp), 1766–1839, American dramatist and theatrical manager, b. Perth Amboy, N.J. Inspired by the success of The Contrast by Royall Tyler, he began to write plays for the American Company (see Hallam, Lewis). His second comedy, The Father; or, American Shandyism, produced in 1789, was his first success. Later plays of his are excellent examples of the Gothic romance school. André (1798), a tragedy based on an actual occurrence in the Revolution, was the first native play on American material. He was a partner in the American Company (1796–97) and he later was manager of the Park Theatre, New York City (1798–1805). Dunlap was a founder and secretary of the National Academy of Design. His History of the American Theatre (1832) and History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (1834) are invaluable source books and contain important autobiographical material. Dunlap's diary was edited by D. C. Barck in 1930.
See biographies by O. S. Coad (1917, repr. 1962) and R. H. Canary (1970).
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Dunlap, William(1766–1839) painter, playwright, theater manager; born in Perth Amboy, N.J. He began as a painter and went to London (1748) to study with Benjamin West, but on his return (c. 1787) he took up writing gothic romances, such as The Father (1789) and Fountainville Abbey (1795). He then was attracted to the theater, and in the ensuing decades he wrote or adapted some 56 plays (about half of which were translations or adaptations of Continental writers). From 1796–1805 he also served as proprietor and manager of the John Street and Park Theaters in New York City, where he produced many of his own plays, including Andre (1798), based on Major Andre's dealings with Benedict Arnold in the American Revolution. He worked to get the government to support the theater to help lift it from its commercialism and he tried to encourage indigenous American plays and actors over the prevailing Anglophile snobbery. For his many contributions, he would later become known as "the father of American drama," but when his theater work led to bankruptcy, he returned to painting; he gained a reputation with his portraits but he maintained his romantic approach in works such as Count of Death (1818). He also wrote several histories and biographies including the Life of Charles Brockden Brown (1815) and History of the American Theatre (1832). He was one of the founders of the National Academy of Design (1826) and wrote History of the Arts of Design in the United States (1834).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.