Herne, James A.


Herne, James A.
(1839-1901)
   Born in Cohoes, New York, son of a poverty-stricken Irish immigrant family, James Aherne left school in early adolescence to work in a brush factory. His family's Dutch Reformed religious beliefs forbade attending theatre, but when he saw Edwin Forrest act he determined to pursue a theatrical career, changing his name slightly to James A. Herne. His first acting experience was in melodrama with a stock company in West Troy, New York, after which he worked with John T. Ford in Washington and Baltimore. He also acted at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre and in both Montreal and New York, appearing in Mrs. Henry Wood's East Lynne (1869) at Niblo's Gardens. Herne was married briefly to actress Helen Western, and later to actress Katharine Corcoran Herne. He worked for a season managing the Grand Opera House in New York and then journeyed to California, where David Belasco encouraged his budding playwriting interests.
   Collaborating with Belasco, Herne wrote his first significant drama, Hearts of Oak (1880), which veered from the typical melodramas of the day in its greater realism. A break with Belasco motivated Herne to solo writing for a panoramic historical drama, The Minute Men of 1774-75 (1886), which failed. Herne's Drifting Apart (1888) gained approval from critics for its realistic style, inspired by the plays of Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. Herne's major dramatic accomplishment, Margaret Fleming (1891), which depicts an upper-class woman's response to her faithless husband, also won critical acclaim, but was generally rejected by audiences who found the similarity to Ibsen's controversial plays unsettling. Herne's next play, Shore Acres (1893), in which he played the leading role, found more appreciative audiences and was often revived. Herne's subsequent works, including Sag Harbor (1900), in which the author also acted, won favor, as did The Reverend Griffith Davenport (1899).
   The difficulty of making a living as a playwright is illustrated by Herne's example; he often acted in or directed plays by others while writing new plays of his own. He appeared successfully in Joseph R. Grismer and Clay Greene's The New South (1893), and he revised and directed Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto (1899) for its American premiere. Herne was sometimes called "The American Ibsen," and his fame rests mostly on his enlightened interest in modernist trends in drama.
   See also Herne, Chrystal.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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  • Herne, James A. — orig. James Ahearn born Feb. 1, 1839, Troy, N.Y., U.S. died June 2, 1901, New York, N.Y. U.S. playwright. He worked as a traveling actor before achieving success with his first play, Hearts of Oak (1879; written with David Belasco). Margaret… …   Universalium

  • Herne, James A. — orig. James Ahearn (1 feb. 1839, Troy, N.Y., EE.UU.–2 jun. 1901, Nueva York, N.Y.). Dramaturgo estadounidense. Trabajó como actor de una compañía itinerante antes de obtener éxito con su primera obra, Hearts of Oak (1879; co escrita con David… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Herne, Katharine Corcoran — (1856 1943)    The wife of playwright James A. Herne and mother of actress Chrystal Herne was herself a reputable actress. Born Katharine Corcoran in Ballyleeks, County Cork, Ireland,* she came to New York with her parents and siblings in 1860.… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater