An Austro-Hungarian born into a family of professional singers, Emily Rigl and her family came to the United States in 1866 to work in "The Black Crook." She appeared on stage in that extravaganza as a member of the ballet corps, at age twelve. She toured as a stage dancer for eight years, until Augustin Daly asked that she act, wishing to make use of her charming accent. Rigl's work as a supporting actress in "Pique," "The Big Bonanza," and "Saratoga" won her respect among theater professionals.
Rigl considered her greatest artistic successes to have been two plays in which she played European women: the Italian girl in Bartley Campbell's "Galley Slave" and in "The Child of the State." Possessed of a fiery temperament, a heroic work ethic, and solid intelligence, she enjoyed a 40-year career, playing everything from Shakespeare to "Uncle Tom's Cabin." She left the American stage after her 1907 appearance in Samuel Shipman's "The Spell." David S. Shields/ALS