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Original Cast of "Our American Cousin" - Where Are They Now? +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

LOUISVILLE - January 29, 2016: Perhaps the most momentous stage play in American history is the three-act comedy farce by English playwright Tom Taylor. The aspect of this play that makes it so momentous is that it is the play that President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary were watching in Ford's Theater when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth.

The play's plot is based on the introduction of an awkward, boorish, but honest American, Asa Trenchard, to his aristocratic English relatives when he goes to England to claim the family estate.

Edward Sothern as Lord Dundreary, sporting "Dundrearies"

Among the original cast was British actor Edward Askew Sothern, playing Lord Dundreary; a caricature of a brainless English nobleman. Sothern had already achieved fame on the New York stage in the play "Camille" in 1856, and had been reluctant to take on the role because he felt that it was too small and unimportant. He mentioned his qualms to his friend Joseph Jefferson, who had been cast in the lead role, and Jefferson supposedly responded with the famous line: "There are no small parts, only small actors."

"Our American Cousin" premiered in New York on October 15, 1858. After several weeks of performances, Sothern began portraying the role more broadly, as a lisping, skipping, eccentric, weak-minded fop prone to nonsensical references to sayings of his "bwother" Sam. His ad-libs were a sensation, earning good notices for his physical comedy and spawning much imitation and mockery in both the United States and England. Sothern gradually expanded the role, adding gags and business until it became the central figure of the play. The most famous scene involved Dundreary reading a letter from his even sillier brother. The play ran for 150 nights, which was very successful for a New York run at the time. Sothern made his London debut in the role when the play ran for 496 performances at the Haymarket Theatre in 1861, earning rave reviews. The Athenaeum wrote, "it is certainly the funniest thing in the world... a vile caricature of a vain nobleman, intensely ignorant, and extremely indolent".

"Dundrearyisms," twisted aphorisms in the style of Lord Dundreary (e.g. "birds of a feather gather no moss"), enjoyed a brief vogue. And the character's style of beard — long, bushy sideburns — gave the English language the word "dundrearies". Dundreary became a popular recurring character, and Sothern successfully revived the play many times, making Dundreary by far his most famous role.

The play's most famous performance was at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865. Halfway through Act III, Scene 2, the character of Asa Trenchard, played that night by Harry Hawk, utters this line, considered one of the play's funniest, to Mrs. Mountchessington:

"Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap."

During the ensuing laughter, John Wilkes Booth fatally shot Abraham Lincoln in the back of his head. Familiar with the play, Booth chose that moment in the hope that the sound of the audience's laughter would mask the sound of his gunshot. Booth later leapt from Lincoln's box to the stage and made his escape through the back of the theater to a horse he had left waiting in the alley. That night, the remainder of the play was suspended.

Curiously, John Wilkes Booth, and his cousin actor Edwin Booth, never appeared in the play.

So let's take a look at the entire original cast of "Our American Cousin" and learn where they are now:

Asa Trenchard (a rustic American) – Played by Joseph Jefferson
Where is he now: He's dead.

Sir Edward Trenchard (a baronet) – Played by Edwin Varrey
Where is he now: He's dead.

Florence Trenchard (his daughter) – Played by Laura Keene
Where is she now: She's dead.

Mary Meredith (a poor cousin) – Played by Sara Stevens
Where is she now: She's dead.

Lord Dundreary (an idiotic English nobleman) – Played by E. A. Sothern
Where is he now: He's dead.

Mr. Coyle (a businessman) – Played by J.G. Burnett
Where is he now: He's dead.

Abel Murcott (his clerk) – Played by C.W. Couldock
Where is he now: He's dead.

Lt. Harry Vernon (of the Royal Navy) – Played by M. Levick
Where is he now: He's dead.

Mr. Binny (a butler) – Played by Mr. Peters
Where is he now: He's dead.

Mrs. Mountchessington – Played by Mary Wells
Where is She now: She's dead.

Augusta (her daughter) – Played by E. Germon
Where is he now: She's dead.

Georgina (another daughter) – Played by Mrs. Sothern
Where is she now: She's dead, but rumors persist that she'll be appearing at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in September 2016 in a revival of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes."

* Yes, the above article is meant to be funny and take the piss out of all the inane "Where Are They Now" stories that appear on USA Today, Yahoo and the Huffington Rag.

Special thanks to Wikipedia for all the historical information.

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