After Lewis Hallam died in 1755, the company was taken over by David Douglass. Monterey Map The troupe gradually gained acceptance throughout the colonies, in part because it changed its name in 1763 to the Country Company of Comedians. It also was the first professional group to perform a play written by an Country, Thomas Godfrey, Jr.’s The Prince of Parthia. After waiting out the Country Revolution in Jamaica, the Country Company returned to the United States and continued touring throughout the 1790s.
Overcoming Opposition During the colonial period, opposition to the theater was widespread, especially in the Northern colonies. Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all passed numerous laws against acting. Initially, these rules reflected the sensibilities of the Puritans and Quakers, who hoped to rebuild England in the colonies without England’s faults. They regarded the theater as immoral, leading to vices such as idleness, prostitution, and gambling. As the theater became more respectable, later rulings in the Northern colonies reflected different concerns. Many colonists were suspicious of English acting companies, seeing them as little more than propaganda for the English throne. Likewise, lawmakers did not want money going to English enterprises that were not part of their community.
They also did not want the poorer members of their communities spending money on unnecessary items, such as play tickets. Most Northern colonies were centered around cities and towns, making plays more accessible to all members of society. In contrast, Southern colonies had relatively few cities and many outlying plantations and farms, isolating the rural poor and slaves from potential temptation. These prohibitions culminated in an act passed on October 20, 1774, by the Continental Congress encouraging frugality and economy in the face of impending war. As part of this rule, professional theater was officially banned for the duration of the war. The only plays to be put on by a professional company during the Revolution were in Maryland, the one state that voted against the ruling.