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

Chowringhee Theatre – Inerior View, Calcutta, c1830

চৌরঙ্গী থিয়েটারের আভ্যন্তরীণ সাজ-সজ্জা, c১৮৩০
The Chowringhee theatre was built in 1813 and was bought by Prinsep’s friend Dwarkanath Tagore in 1835 for Rs 30,000. It burnt down in 1839.The Theatre was also known as the ‘Subscription Theatre’ The image is inscribed, “All the rest rows of benches, Counsillers box and Govr. Genl. box”. Inscribed on the original mount: “Chowringhee Theatre holds about 800 persons in the boxes and 200 in the pit. Last scene of ‘Blind Boy’ set – my own drawing WP”. William Prinsep, a merchant with the Calcutta firm of Palmer & Company, came from a family which served in India for several generations; five of his brothers were also in the country. This view is from the circle looking towards the stage showing the first few rows of seats.
Pen and ink drawing of the interior of the Chowringhee Theatre in Calcutta, by William Prinsep (1794-1874), c. 1830s

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.