Tintypes: A turn-of-the-century musical revue

Sep 2, 2013

Credit Marshall Civic Players

If you boiled turn-of-the-century America into one show, it might look something like Tintypes. The Marshall Civic Players will put on Tintypes starting Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Franke Center for the Arts. 

Tintypes is a musical revue featuring characters, music, and dance steps of the late 1880s and early 1900s. Just like the early photographs the show is named after, Randy Wolfe says Tintypes is like a snapshot of America in the turn of the century. Wolfe is the guest artistic director for the Marshall Civic Players. 

“You know you have ‘Grand Old Flag’ to ‘I’m Going to Live My Life Anyhow,’ says Wolfe. “They would be equivalent to Americas top 40 songs. That represented the changing America, represents the characters. The characters have songs that are very much reflective of what…their historical position in history in America at that time.”

One of those characters is called Charlie, a Polish immigrant looking for work in the U.S. In between musical numbers, Charlie acts as the comedian in a series of vignettes made to look like a Charlie Chaplin silent film. There’s also a factory worker named Suzanna. Suzanna is an African American woman trying to find her place in the North after the Civil War. 

The other characters are historical figures you might recognize: U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt, activist and socialist Emma Goldman, and singer Anna Held of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Tintypes might be set a very intense time in American history, but Wolfe says you won’t feel like you’re in a classroom.

“You know we sat around as a cast and we talked about these things and what the working conditions were really like,” Wolfe says. “It touches on, again, the political issues that were going on at the same time or around that era actually. So when I say it doesn’t hit you over the head—it sort of touches very lightly on it and then brings you back out of that into something different. That’s why it’s such a great piece.”