Vaudeville Origins of American Theater

Vaudeville and Film

Sidney, Jack. Newspaper clipping of vaudeville review, 1911-1930, container 4, Jack Sidney Family Production Company, Scrapbook Clippings, 1911-1930, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Cultural intersections in Texas blur many lines as we go back in history. The Jack Sidney Family Production Company, a foremost theater company in Texas in the early twentieth century, founded its roots in traveling USO shows across various Air Force bases. These USO and minstrel shows became a source of camaraderie for the soldiers and military men while stationed. The Jack Sidney Family Production Company found their fame through these variety shows which depicted romantic duets, amusing sketches about life while fighting overseas, and overall shows that lifted the morale of the soldiers. As well as these other acts, their hallmark claim to fame was their blackface performances. This newspaper clipping of a review of one of their performances describes, how "Jack Sidney as 'The Jack of All Spades,' in a blackface role, tells funny stories and sings nifty songs. An appreciative audience called him "lack for all the encores he could give." With their origins in military bases, vaudeville, and ultimately blackface, became a uniquely American theater genre. Today, this performance style is viewed as culturally insensitive and demeaning, and the Jack Sidney Family Production Company in a way can attribute a portion of their success to this exploitation of a racial group that they are not a part of. However, these performances were highly popular in the early twentieth century, and in turn, made this production company highly popular across Texas.