It was a beautiful, crisp, clear night this past November 13th in New York City. A perfect night to celebrate Edwin Booth’s 179th birthday at the private club Edwin founded on the last night of 1888─The Players. The Players was his longtime dream; it was a first-class sanctuary where actors and eminent men in other professions in business and the arts could informally meet and rub shoulders, and still is today. For many it was and is a home away from home. It was also the last place Edwin chose to make his home.
The Players continues to honor Edwin’s life and the ground breaking theatrical contributions he made to the American theatre alive today. The birthday celebration they held in his honor that night achieved just that. It commenced with carefully selected readings by Players members, moderated by the Master of Ceremonies David Staller: Edwin Booth’s Youth by his sister Asia Booth Clarke and William Winter. Read by Nichole Donje / A Booth Saves a Lincoln by Adam Badeau. Read by Tom Vinciguerra / Edwin Booth’s Letter to the people of the United States read by John Martello / The Curse of Rome by Laurence Hutton. Read by Jim Brochu / An excerpt from Joseph Jefferson’s inaugural speech as second president of The Players. Read by David Staller. Then they presented a touching, beautiful slideshow of Edwin through his life produced by Elizabeth Jackson.
Cathy Rowan, a Junius B. Booth member who resides in The Bronx, and I, the President of the JBBS and a volunteer At the Historical Society of Harford County were honored to be invited to the celebration and were warmly introduced to the members in attendance. We all made a candlelight excursion across the street into Gramercy Park and a laurel wreath was placed on Edwin Booth’s statue. There David Copeland read On Edwin Booth’s 104th Birthday-November 13, 1937, written by Player Edgar Lee Masters. An impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday to Edwin was sung by all. We then made our way back to The Players for champagne and hors d’oeuvres in The Grill Room.
Elizabeth Jackson, who produced the celebration invited Cathy and I to join her and her guests at her table. We had a great time getting to know each other and talking about Edwin and his legacy. I met many wonderful Players members and answered a lot of questions about The Junius B. Booth Society. It really was a wonderful, unique experience─made even more special in Edwin’s beloved The Players.
Later Cathy and I were delighted to tour the club and visit Edwin’s bedroom, preserved just as it was when he died in 1893. I would like to thank Elizabeth Jackson and John Martello, Director of The Players, for their hospitality and making us feel at home. It was a night to remember. Well done The Players!