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Alice Atherton

Biography: 

(1854-1899)

One of the best-natured, adventurous performers of the 1870s-90s, this native of Cincinnati delighted contemporaries with her gift of impersonation. She began as a child actress in her home city, in "The Sea of Ice." Discovered by Lydia Thompson, Atherton enrolled as one of her girls in "Sinbad" and "Ixion." There she met English performer Willie Edouin whom she married in 1873. They became mainstays of the Coville burlesque companies. Edouin organized the entertainment "Dreams, or Fun in the Photograph Gallery," a piece that showed off Alice Atherton's genius for impersonation and popularized the comic skit as a stage form.

Her versatility as a performer was legendary. She was a show-stopping comic singer, a virtuoso whistler, and her "laughing song" became a signature piece. Though a parodist, she also excelled in comic roles that did not require playing a type. Her capacity to communicate sincerity in her voice made her an able tragedienne as well. The couple moved to England in 1883. Atherton spent the majority of the final decade and a half of her career in English music halls or on the American vaudeville stage. David S. Shields/ALS