Before there was television, there was vaudeville. Vaudeville is an entertainment genre which was popular from the 1880’s until the 1930’s. Even though vaudeville shows were performed around the world, it was especially popular in the United States. Minstrel shows, saloon concerts, variety shows, freak shows, and American burlesque shows strongly influenced the vaudeville genre and vaudeville shows. Like variety shows, minstrel shows, and freakshows; vaudeville shows were comprised on a large variety of unrelated acts. Some examples of acts that would appear in vaudeville shows include burlesque skits, musical acts, comedians, animal trainers, magicians, acts featuring unique or special talents, dancing acts, and more.
In its early stages, the vaudeville genre and vaudeville shows were very segregated and spontaneous. However, during the early 1900’s, this entertainment genre and these shows became so popular in the United States and Canada that there was no other choice to adopt a more organized approach. This organized approach consisted of the creation of the vaudeville circuit. Two major vaudeville circuits which were created include Martin Beck’s, Orpheum Circuit and Alexander Pantages, Pantages Circuit. Both circuits hosted shows in major cities located in North America. New York City, Chicago/Peoria, Kansas City, Manitoba, Ontario, and St. Louis are just a few of these major cities. Although the vaudeville genre died out in the 1930’s, it remains one of the most influential movements in American theatre and entertainment history.