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Sothern, Edward


Actor Edward Askew Sothern, who was known as Douglas Stewart in the early part of his career and possibly went by the initials E.A. Sothern in his later years, moved in theatrical circles like many of the Pfaffians, including playwright John Brougham, actress Adah Menken, and theater critic William Winter. Sothern was part of the troupe that theater historian George Odell describes as Laura Keene’s best company. In addition to working with Keene, he also appeared at Barnum’s and at Wallack’s during the 1854-55 season. Shortly afterwards he began to appear as “Sothern” for the first time, credited as the former Mr. Stewart at Wallack’s in the 1856-57 season. His memorable roles include Lord Dundreary in Our American Cousin (Odell 6:359, 530). This role became his "stepping stone to fortune" (7:129). These performances earned him a place among the most popular actors of the day including Edwin Booth and Joseph Jefferson, both of whom were admired by theater critic William Winter.

Sothern maintained connections with Jefferson and Laura Keene during the 1850s. He made his first appearance at Keene’s in a benefit for Jefferson in the 1857-58 season, and he is listed as the manager of Keene’s theater. The addition of Sothern to Keene’s company helped make Our American Cousin a success in the 1858-59 season. The play was a turning point in both his and Jefferson’s careers and would later become famous as the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated.

Though he was not among Keene’s company in the 1859-60 season, Sothern’s connections with Pfaff’s playwright Charles Gayler enabled him to appear in Gayler’s sequel to Our American Cousin, entitled Our American Cousin at Home, or, Lord Dundreary Abroad. This dramatic work was a mix of "fun and melodrama" and included Dundreary falling into a well, a panorama of the Hudson from New York City to Albany with effects of sunset, moonlight, and sunrise, the destruction of Asa’s mills, and a grand skating scene with the actors on roller skates. Perhaps inspired by the success of this play, Sothern brought out his own play Suspense for the 1860-61 season on the eve of the Civil War (7:319-20).