'The New Prima Donnas': 'Homegrown' Tasmanian 'Stars' of the 1860s Emma and Clelia Howson

Nicole Anae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Even during the height of his career, Errol Flynn's reputation was never really overshadowed by his 'Tasmanian-ness'. In fact, both his reputation and his origins were often integral to his publicity. Around the same era, Merle Oberon's publicists claimed that the famous actress was Tasmanian-born, specifically, into a wealthy Hobart family. Whether or not this was true, Oberon's identification as 'Tasmanian-born' cast a glowing light on the State's cultural credibility despite the fact that she lived 10,000 miles away and returned to the island only once, in 1978. Modern-day Tasmanian celebrities encounter a similar emphasis on their State of origin.Although the Howson family excelled in 'popular' entertainment such as extravaganzas and pantomimes, their forte in classical music and operettas enabled the ensemble to capitalise on both 'high' and 'popular' theatre. This made the Howsons particularly unusual. While the early 1850s had ushered in an industry trend toward the separation of 'legitimate' (or 'high') and non-legitimate ('popular') entertainment, the Howson family found that by the 1860s they could offer 'popular' theatre without necessarily compromising on their appeal as a more classically oriented troupe. The ensemble's hybridity would in fact lessen the tensions of distinction necessarily implied by 'high' and 'popular' material works. I would suggest that this was, in part, due to Frank Howson's inventive approach to production.Although the Howson family excelled in 'popular' entertainment such as extravaganzas and pantomimes, their forte in classical music and operettas enabled the ensemble to capitalise on both 'high' and 'popular' theatre. This made the Howsons particularly unusual.While the early 1850s had ushered in an industry trend toward the separation of 'legitimate' (or 'high') and non-legitimate('popular') entertainment, the Howson family found that by the 1860s they could offer 'popular' theatre without necessarily compromising on their appeal as a more classically oriented troupe. The ensemble's hybridity would in fact lessen the tensions of distinction necessarily implied by 'high' and 'popular' material works.I would suggest that this was, in part, due to Frank Howson's inventive approach to production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-181
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Volume2005
Issue number84
Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Fingerprint

Cite this