William Rufus Blake

William Rufus Blake, actor, manager (b at Halifax and christened there 5 Dec 1802; d at Boston 22 Apr 1863).

William Rufus Blake, actor, manager (b at Halifax and christened there 5 Dec 1802; d at Boston 22 Apr 1863). The highest paid actor on the American stage at the height of his career, Blake first performed as an amateur with Thomas Placide's company of American actors as the Prince of Wales in Richard III in Halifax on 19 May 1817, and joined that company as a professional for the next season. He made his New York debut in 1824 at the Chatham Street Theatre as Frederick in The Poor Gentleman.

Blake married Placide's sister, Caroline Waring, in 1826, and the couple returned to Canada in 1831 to star first with Vincent DeCamp's company in Montréal and Québec, and then with their own company in Halifax until the summer of 1833, when they moved to the United States. In June 1855 he returned to Montréal for a one-week engagement with J.W. Buckland's stock company at the Theatre Royal.

Blake's increasing corpulence in the 1830s had forced him to give up romantic leads to become the first comedian in the greatest companies of the day, playing such roles as Sir Peter Teazle, Mr Hardcastle, Malvolio and Sir Anthony Absolute. An astute businessman, he managed several theatres during his career - the Bowery, the Franklin, the Olympic and the Broadway in New York, the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, and the Tremont Theatre in Boston. His known written plays include Nero, The Turned Head, Norman Leslie and The Buggs, and he was probably the author of Fitzallan, the first play by a Canadian-born author, which his company produced in Halifax in 1833.


Further Reading

  • Denis Salter, "William Rufus Blake and the Gentlemanly Art of Comic Acting," in Richard Paul Knowles, ed, Proceedings of the Theatre in Atlantic Canada Symposium (1988).