chapter  4
38 Pages

Wallace tries anew

WithBarbara Ryan

Ben-Hur grew more popular as Wallace started staging it. After ten years of staging semi-professionally, he agreed to let a theatrical firm, Klaw and Erlanger, take over. Existing explanations for this reversal of his refusals to allow Ben-Hur to be staged professionally are that he wished to protect his property and/or to exploit its popularity for personal gain. I counter-argue that he wished to expand his book’s audience by taking the chance that staging afforded to make quiet changes to the story-line. This chapter reviews Wallace’s journey from writer to stager, an earlier attempt to stage Bible-scenes that had gone badly wrong, and Susan Wallace’s follow-up to Klaw and Erlanger’s triumph: she added fan mail to the autobiography she completed for Lew after his death in 1905. A “methods” innovation is that this chapter learns from a sociologist’s analysis of hidden history.