Sans Souci Theatre, Park Street, Calcutta, 1841

সাঁ সুসি রঙ্গমঞ্চ, পার্ক স্ট্রিট, কলকাতা, ১৮৪১
The Sans Souci Theatre and Its immediate predecessor, Chowringhee Theatre, were greatly instrumental to the Bengali enterprise in the theatrical line, culminating afterwards in the establishment of the Belgachia permanent stage. The Sans Souci Theatre was opened in 1839 i.e. after the Hindu Theatre and Nabin Babu’s theatre at the house of Babu Nabeen Chandra Bose.
After the destruction of the Chowringhee Theatre, a temporary theatre under the title of Sans-Souci was initiated by Mrs. Esther Leach at the corner of the Government Place East, Waterloo Street. The upper flat of the Building was occupied by St. Andrew’s Library and the lower flat that looked more like a godown was converted by Mrs. Leach into an elegant theatre large enough to accommodate 400 audiences. Sans Souci performances continued here for about a year till the larger house was being reared on her account’ at No. 10 Park Street where the St. Xavier’s College now stands.
The Sans Souci theatre was an enormous building resembling the Greek Parthenon with six Doric columns. The structure of the theatre measuring 200 feet in length and 50 feet breadth was built with a handsome portico in front. The stage occupied 28 feet in breadth, 50 feet depth, the space concealed from the audience above and below being appropriated to the green rooms etc. The theatre building, elegantly designed by the architect, Mr. J. W. Collins, was completed in May 1840.
To meet its funding requirements, subscriptions came in liberal response, the last being headed by Lord Auckland and Prince Dwarakanath Tagore who contributed Rupees one thousand each and the total amount of the subscription rose to Rs. 16000. This also included some money contributed by Mrs. Leach herself. Mr. Stocqueler, Editor, Englishman also offered his services to help her in her noble enterprise. The construction and the interior fittings including scenery and wardrobe cost Rs. 80,000/- the rest being raised by the mortgage of the property.
The formal opening took place on March 8, 1841 with Sheridan Knowless’s “The Wife” under the patronage and immediate presence of the Governor General Lord Auckland. (Asiatic Journal 1841, May.)
Mrs. Leach, the queen of the Indian stage, as she was called, appeared as Mrs. Wyindham in the farce ‘The Handsome Husband,” an after-piece of Merchant of Venice, where Mr. James Vining an actor of London-fame, appeared as Shylock. The house was full, all was in cheerful mood. In the midst of all these, Mrs. Leach, while waiting by the stage for her cue, caught fire from an oil-lamp and in an instant was in flames. She could not survive the fatal burning. She passed away on Nov. 22, 1843 at 34, and was buried in the Military Cemetery at Bhowanipore. “The catastrophe which cost Mrs. Leach her life also brought to a close the last English theatre in which the Bengalees took a keen interest After that, English Companies have no doubt given performances now and then, but the Bengalees had little concern for any of them.” See more Dasgupta. Indian Stage

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St James Theatre, Circular Road, Calcutta, 1871

stJamesTheatre(1871)
সেন্ট জেমস থিয়েটার, সার্কুলার রোড, কলকাতা, c১৮৬০
Before the Saturday Club came into existence in 1875, the members of European communities depend for their dancing on the fornightly assembly balls at the Town Hall, or private dance parties. The Town Hall also used to hold concerts mainly given by amateurs, occasionally assisted by professionals, but there were no professional theatricals. The demand for this kind of entertainment was filled by the Calcutta Amateur Theatrical Society (CATS), which used to give about six productions during the cold weather season. In their amateur performances there were no actresses. All the ladies’ parts were taken by young boys. At first for their performances, CATS were given on the ground floor of where the Saturday Club now is, but after a time this was not found satisfactory. Then one of its most enthusiastic members, “Jimmy” Brown, who was a partner in a firm of jewelers, carried through a scheme for building CATS’ own theatre – the St James Theatre. The St James Theatre was erected, presumably around 1860, in Circular Road at the corner of Hungerford Street by Jimmy Brown, who at a cost of Rs. 30,000. Here CATS carried on until in the great cyclone of 1864 the roof was blown off and the building seriously damaged.StJamesTheatre-remains
Montague Massey in his Recollections wrote the end story after the St James Theatre was destroyed. “We had, therefore, to move again, and went to where Peliti’s is now, which was then occupied as a shop. After one season there, we were temporarily located in a theatre built in the old Tivoli Gardens, opposite La Martinière. The “CATS,” as we used to be designated, was a very old institution, and had been in existence some time before I joined up. They were very ably and energetically managed by Mr. G.H. Cable, assisted by Mrs. Cable, the father and mother of the present Sir Ernest Cable. They were affectionately and familiarly known among us all as the “Old Party and the Mem Sahib.” He used to cast all the characters and coach us up in our parts, attend rehearsals, and on the nights of the performance was always on the spot to give us confidence and encouragement when we went on the stage, while Mrs. Cable was invaluable, more particularly to the “ladies” of the company. She chose the material for the gowns, designed the style and cut, tried them on, and saw that we were properly and immaculately turned out to the smallest detail”.
English Opera Rose Of Castile at St James’s Theatre. Calcutta, 1871. Artist unknown. Published in Grapghic: an illustrated newspaper, [1871]

Calcutta Theatre, Clive Row, Calcutta, 1776

allahabadBankক্যালকাটা থিয়েটার, অধুনা এলাহাবাদ ব্যাঙ্ক গৃহ, ক্লাইভ রো, লালদিঘী, কলকাতা, ১০০৮
The most important English theatre that inspired foundation of the Bengali Stage – was the Calcutta Theatre, or the New Play House, as it was called to distinguish it from the Old Fort Play House – the first English theatre the city had. The land for it was granted in June 1775 and the construction cost of one lakh Rupee was collected through public subscription. The site had been previously occupied by Mr. Eyre who perished in the siege of Calcutta in 1756, and the new theatre opened sometime in autumn 1776 or little earlier. The maps of Wood 1785-86 and of 1792 by Upjohn spotted this Theatre at the north western corner of Lyon’s Range behind the Writers’ Buildings. The other theatre, the old Play House disappeared by this time.
Between 1776 and 1808, Calcutta Theatre performed many popular farces of its time like, Neck or Nothing; and the musical Entertainment of The Waterman, Barnaby Brittle, with a new musical entertainment called Rule Britannia. Tickets are sold for different sitting types, as for instance, pit and box, sixteen rupees; upper boxes, twelve rupees; gallery, eight rupees. The European community found it a favourite venue for socialization. The theatrical shows apart, they gathered here to dance on its imposing ballroom floor, enjoy excellent drinks and foods served in foyer, or meeting people on business in cordial ambiance as the government officials often did. The theatre hall was as spacious as London’s Bath Theatre, and the standard of shows performed here was comparable to any European stage. To look after the business of Calcutta Theatre, Mr. Barnard Messink was summoned from England to take charge. The Theatre was generally manned by Europeans for works like gate-keeping. The theatre was used for performances until 1808, when the house and adjoining buildings were purchased by a member of the Pathuriaghata Tagore family, Gopimohun Tagore, who added to the buildings and formed the whole of the premises into a bazar, which he called the New China Bazar —subsequently renamed Royal Exchange Place in 1913. See more
Memoirs and travelogues present conflicting descriptions about the location of the Calcutta Theatre. This is mostly because of mixing up details of the Calcutta Theatre and of the Old Fort Play House. Based on reports published in government gazettes scholars however convincingly show that the Calcutta Theatre was situated in 15 Clive Row where the James Finlay, Muir & Co. stayed for a number of years before moving to 21 Canning Street, and thereafter to their own handsome block of buildings erected on the site of old Thieves Bazaar. Presently, the grand building at no.15 Clive Row, previously known as Theatre Street, is occupied by Allahabad Bank as seen in the photograph taken by DBH Ker in November 2008.
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Empire Theatre, Calutta, 1908

empiretheatre

এমপায়ার থিয়েটার, ১৯০৮
In 1908, Maurice Bandman built the Empire Theatre in Calcutta, which does not exist anymore. Possibly, this is the one, which was also known as the Fist Empire, as I gathered from my father long back. Accordingly, the theatre was situated in the same place where the Roxy Cinema hall stands now. In fact, the Roxy Cinema started as an Opera House. In early 1940s the house was converted into a cinema. The hall had high banisters but during this conversion stage height was removed. See Roxy Cinema History

Chowringhee Theatre, Theatre Road, Lower Chowringhee, 1833

থিয়েটার রোডের অধুনালুপ্ত রঙ্গালয়, ‘চৌরঙ্গি থিয়েটার’, ১৮৩৩
This image shows the imposing theatre on the corner of Theatre Street and Lower Chowringhee Road. The whole site between Chowringee Road and Elysiam Row (Now Lord Sinha Road) was occupied by the Chowringee Theatre. The adjacent house to the north was known as Ballards’ Place. The expenses of the construction and the cost of the materials for the stage were borne by a number of gentlemen subscribing amongst themselves the shares of Rs. 100 each. It was beautifully crowned with a dome. The Chowringhee Theatre (1813 to 1839) was the principal theatrical venue in the city.  Some affluent British theatre-lovers along with a few Bengali elites founded Chowringhee Theatre. Accordingly, this also came to be known as the ‘Subscription Theatre’ Among the illustrious patrons who donated generously for this Theatre, the names of Mr. Hares Heman Wilson, D.L. Richardson, Dwarakanath Thakur etc. deserve mention. It was inaugurated on 25th November, 1813 and the maiden play held here was a remarkable tragedy named ‘Castle Spectre’. Several dramas were performed here in course of time. The actors in the initial days were amateurs. Later, some renowned professional actors joined this troupe breaking away from the big banners. But, the Theatre was staggering due to acute financial stringency. In 1835, Prince Dwarakanath Thakur purchased it and made some drastic renovations. Unfortunately, in 1839, this Theatre was completely incinerated. After that it was never revamped and play acting was never resumed here. – Interestingly, the female roles at the theatre were played by professional actresses but male roles were taken by amateurs, such as William Princep, whose memoirs describe his theatre work in detail, both as actor and set designer, and give us insights into the running of the building.
This lithograph of painting dated 1833 is taken from plate 22 from ‘Views of Calcutta’ an album of paintings by William Wood.