At Vaudeville Exhibit, See Houdini’s Ball And Chain, Or Do Your Own Song-And-Dance

The Harry Ransom Center’s vaudeville exhibit features more than 200 items.

By Joy DiazFebruary 15, 2018 11:51 am, ,

A new exhibit called “Vaudeville” at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center in Austin recalls a time when all entertainment was live, not delivered through a screen or a speaker.

Eric Colleary, curator for theater and performing arts at the Ransom Center says vaudeville dates back hundreds of years.

“The word ‘vaudeville’ is believed to come from France in the 15th century,” Colleary says.

In the U.S., vaudeville came to be in the 19th century as a form of entertainment that was family-friendly and accessible for everyone to enjoy. Vaudeville performances consisted of magic, animal acts, gymnastics, comedy sketches, song-and-dance numbers and ventriloquism.

Vaudeville was successful for 100 years, but movies, radio and television changed all that.

“It shifts into other forms like ‘The Johnny Carson Show,’ ‘Saturday Night Live’ and now with ‘America’s Got Talent,’” Colleary says.

The exhibit includes more than 200 items; photographs, poster, letters and Harry Houdini’s ball and chain. There is also is a stage where visitors can perform with some of the objects, allowing them to feel the experience.

Written by Angela Bonilla.