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John Henry Alexander

Burrell Collection Photo Library

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John Henry Alexander

John Henry Alexander, actor, theatre owner and manager (1792-1851).

Alexander was already managing two theatres (one in Dumfries and the other in Carlisle, both called the Theatre Royal) when he appeared on the Glasgow theatre scene in the early 1820s. He rented the basement of the Caledonian Theatre in Dunlop Street and ran it as a theatre called the Dominion of Fancy. This led to a certain amount of friction with the Caledonian Theatre above, and eventually the magistrates instructed the two rivals to open on alternate nights. In 1825 Alexander bought the whole building and after the Theatre Royal in Queen Street burnt down in 1829 was able to take that name for his own.

Glasgow theatre was fairly informal, but Alexander seems to have been particularly casual. He was famous for wandering round the stage during performances, moving the scenery, cajoling the band, scolding actors and counting the audience to make sure that the takings were correct. He would even perform "Alexander's Jig" on request from members of the audience! Modesty was not one of his attributes and when the theatre was rebuilt after a fire he had a statue of himself put up on the new facade, alongside all-time theatrical greats such as William Shakespeare.

Reference: 1380.92.45

Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums

actors, Caledonian Theatre, Dominion of Fancy, drama, theatre managers, theatre owners/managers, Theatre Royal, theatres

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