MacKaye, Steele

MacKaye, Steele

MacKaye, Steele (James Morrison Steele MacKaye), 1842–94, American dramatist and inventor in theatrical scene design. After studying in Europe he went to the United States (c.1872) and first appeared in New York with a group of students he had trained in the Delsarte system. He opened the Madison Square Theatre in 1879, where his most successful melodrama, Hazel Kirke, was presented (1880). It was in this theater that he invented and installed overhead and indirect stage lighting, movable stages or wagons, and folding seats. He then took over the Lyceum where he established the first school of acting in New York City, later known as the American Academy of Dramatic Art.


See Epoch (1927) by his son, Percy MacKaye.

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MacKaye, (James Morrison) Steele

(1842–94) actor, playwright, designer, inventor; born in Buffalo, N.Y. Although 19 of his plays were produced in New York, he is best known as a dreamer and deviser of technical innovations, many of which never became reality. In pursuit of a more naturalistic mode of presentation, he reopened the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York in 1879 as the Madison Square Theatre, introducing a double moving stage as well as overhead and indirect lighting. After opening the Lyceum in 1885, he founded a school of acting there, which became the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He planned a "Spectatorium" for the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, a vast, technically advanced auditorium, but it was never built. Most of his plays were commercially successful, but only Won at Last, Hazel Kirke, and Paul Kauvar survived to be performed into the 20th century. A biography, Epoch (1927), was written by his son, Percy MacKaye.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.