Shore Acres

Boston Theatre / 1898

Shore Acres (1893), a play by James A. Herne [ Fifth Avenue Theatre, 244 perf.]

Nathan'l Berry (Herne) is a kindly old man who has largely let life pass him by. His brother, Martin
(Charles G. Craig), has inherited “Uncle” Nat's land and long ago wed the girl Nat had courted. Unlike
Nat, Martin is narrow-minded, unsentimental, and greedy. He would even sell to developers the piece of
land on which their mother is buried. While Martin opposes a marriage between his daughter, Helen
(Katherine Grey), and a young physician, Sam Warren (David M. Murray), Nat can see nothing wrong in
encouraging the youngsters to elope. They do so by boat, but a storm arises and the ship is in danger
of being wrecked on the nearby rocks. Martin is the keeper of Berry Light but is so angry at the
youngsters that he refuses to light the beacon. After a fight, Nat succeeds in lighting it and saving
the ship. When the newlyweds are safely home, Nat offers his pension money to keep the property in the
family, and Martin is shamed into admitting how wrong he has been. With the others gone, Nat slowly
turns out all the lights at Shore Acres and puts the house to bed.

Written as The Hawthornes and tried out as Shore Acres Subdivision and Uncle Nat,
the work did not succeed until it played a long run at the Boston Museum before coming to New York,
where most critics extolled the drama. The Mercury observed, “Mr. Herne's play marks an epoch in the
drama of the American stage.” Herne toured in the play for five years; for many playgoers and reviewers
the high moment of the drama was at the end, with Herne's quiet, five-minute pantomime of making the
house safe for the night. Several modern scholars have noted that Chekhov's use of a similar conclusion
for The Cherry Orchard was nine years later.

(Actual program measures 5 3/8"x 7 3/4")

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