The lights of Broadway shine brightly, but they would have been dimmer without the innovations of David Belasco. As an artist and master of stagecraft, he created stage settings and genuine light effects that made his plays stand out above all the rest. He was an originator, for he was the first one to use modern stage lighting and colored lights. He even had lights in the dressing rooms, so actors and actresses could see how their appearance changed with different lights. In order to intensify all of his productions, he used a 1000-watt lamp. Ahead of his time, he used technology to make his shows the best on Broadway.
Born on July 25, 1853, Belasco was an American theatrical producer, magnate, director and playwright. His parents, Abraham H. Belasco and Reyna Belasco, were Jewish. Ever since he was young, he loved the theater. He worked at the San Francisco Theater doing typical jobs. Those simple tasks would eventually turn him into a master in the art of theater.
In 1882, he got his big break in the theatrical business. He became a stage manager for the Madison Square Theater. In 1895, he became an independent producer and his career skyrocketed. One of Belasco’s greatest effects was seen in the 1905 production of Girl of the Golden West. During the opening scene of this play, there was a magnificent sunset that had a duration of five minutes. From 1884 to 1930, he had a very productive career. He wrote, directed or produced more than 100 Broadway plays. Since his plays were so interesting as well as marketable, more than 40 became films.
Of all the theaters that he worked in,his favorite was the Stuyvesant Theater. In 1910, Belasco changed the name of the Stuyvesant Theater and named it after himself. He loved working at the Belasco Theater so much that he literally made it his home. In 1909, he built a 10-room duplex penthouse apartment at the theater that functioned as his home as well as his office.
Through his innovations, he opened the doors for many actors and actresses to succeed in Broadway as well as in Hollywood. In 1946, a youthful Marlon Brando made his first appearance on Broadway, at the Belasco Theatre, in the play Maxwell Anderson’s Truckline Cafe.
Belasco’s professional life was just as fulfilling as his personal life. He married Cecilia Loverich. and their happy union lasted a lifetime. They had two daughters, Reina and Augusta.
At the age of 77, Belasco passed away on May 14, 1931, but his legacy still remains. The Belasco Theater, formerly called the Stuyvesant Theater, which opened to the public on October 16, 1907, still stands today. As the sixth oldest Broadway Theater, it is a historic wonder. Just like in the past, there are still high quality productions at this playhouse.
There is a legend connected to the Belasco Theater, for many people claim that they have seen the ghost of Belasco. They say that he haunts the theater at night and appears with the same clerical collar and garment that he wore when he was alive. If Belasco’s specter really does materialize, there is no doubt that he would make his presence known at the Belasco Theater. During his lifetime, it was Belasco’s place of work and his home.