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Trouping Under Canvas: The American Tent Show Tradition

During the sixty year period centered at the turn of the century, rural communities across the nation enjoyed a uniquely American form of traveling theater--the tent show. These theatrical performances under canvas became, for smalltown audiences, the major purveyors of popular entertainment, bringing them a theater that combined elements of the circus, Broadway, minstrelsy, and regional folklife into a form ultimately reflecting vernacular rural culture. Concert and comedy companies, Uncle Tom's Cabin troupes (commonly referred to as "Tommers"), repertory theaters, medicine shows, Chautauquas, and Black variety shows set up their tents at ...

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