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(7 February 1854 – 7 October 1935) was an American actor, born in Philadelphia.
He began his career in a minstrel show, but by 1878 was playing at the Chestnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, and the next year appeared in M'liss with Annie Pixley. After several years in regular comedy, he took up some opera, most successfully in Erminie (1886). In 1889, leaving the New York Casino, he made his appearance as a star in The Oolah. Plays in which he starred subsequently include: The Lion Tamer (1891); The Little Corporal (1898); The Bachelor's Baby (1909), written by himself. He was the author of Joseph Jefferson: Reminiscences of a Fellow Player (1906), The Eugene Field I Knew (1898), and several plays of which The Bachelor's Baby was the most successful.
Francis Wilson Playhouse is the successor to the Clearwater Players, organized in 1930 as a community theatre which presented productions in ad-hoc venues around Clearwater for several years. In 1935, the first president of Actors Equity, Francis Wilson, a winter resident in Clearwater, convinced a friend, Mary Bok, to contribute $5,000 for the construction of a permanent home for the Clearwater Players.
Mrs. Bok agreed to the contribution on the condition that the Theatre would be named after Francis Wilson, who at that time was the premier actor of the New York stage. The bronze plaque of Mary Bok over the fireplace in our lobby is the only thanks she would accept.
The City of Clearwater leased the land the theatre currently sits on for a term of 99 years for the rental sum of $1.00 per year, and the theatre was built in 1936.
Francis Wilson Playhouse makes traditional theater available to the community and builds and enhances the community's cultural image by offering a season of eight main stage productions. About 14,000 people a year see shows in the 182-seat theater. Opened in 1930, the Playhouse annually includes at least two to three musicals and a family-oriented program in December. Auditions are open to the community and volunteers are welcome in all areas of theater production. A four-week summer theater workshop is given for middle through high students.
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