William Nannary

William Nannary, theatre manager and promoter (born 24 June 1838 in Saint John, NB; died 24 October 1915 in San Francisco).

William Nannary, theatre manager and promoter (born 24 June 1838 in Saint John, NB; died 24 October 1915 in San Francisco). Eldest child of Timothy and Bridget Nannary and probably educated at the local Catholic church, Nannary became a noted lecturer and debater within the local Irish Friendly Society (IFS). In 1857, with others from the IFS, he formed a dramatic club which became in 1864 the noted amateur troupe, the Saint John Dramatic Club, with Nannary as manager. During these years, he worked occasionally with J. W. Lanergan at his Dramatic Lyceum. Nannary's first full-time experience in professional theatre (1868) was as business agent of T. C. Howard's Olympic Theatre.

From 1869 through 1872, he was business manager at Lanergan's Lyceum. In 1871 he began publishing Footlight Flashes, a theatrical newsletter/program which continued at least to 1876. In 1872 the Academy of Music opened in Saint John with Nannary as box office agent. He went on to manage there, either singly or in association with others (Lanergan in summer 1875; E.A. McDowell in summers 1874 and 76) from August of 1873 until its destruction in the Great Fire of 1877, providing standard melodramas, Shakespeare, and the occasional newer play such as Tom Taylor's Clancarty ($500 for the exclusive rights!). He offered performances virtually year round from 1874 and, following the Academy s destruction, helped restore the city's cultural life as manager at the Mechanics' Institute in 1878.

From 1873 Nannary was a respected impresario in Halifax. He lobbied for the construction of an Academy of Music, one which opened in January 1877 with one of Nannary's companies providing the first theatrical season. Operating simultaneously in Saint John and Halifax, his companies toured Atlantic Canada and ventured, in 1878, as far afield as Montreal and Ottawa.

Nannary dominated Atlantic Canadian theatre from 1873 to 1880. He promoted, helped sustain and, where it was lacking, attempted to provide a substantial theatrical presence, at one time paying salaries approaching $4700 per week while employing over 100 people in various enterprises. By 1879, diminishing box office receipts, changing audience tastes, recruiting difficulties, and overextended resources spelled the end. In November in Newfoundland Nannary's company forced him to resign as manager. In 1880 he briefly managed a troupe with Harry Lindley but sometime after July he departed with his family for the USA, settling in San Francisco. Initially he continued with theatrical enterprises but chronic, debilitating bronchitis meant that his career was effectively over by the late 1880s.

His brother Patrick became a minor actor on Broadway; his eldest daughter, Mary Agnes (May Nannary), had a successful stage career on both coasts; his daughter, Genevieve Blinn, was an actress in silent films; his son, Edward, had a long and varied career as an actor, at one point as featured comedian at the Shubert Theatre in New York; his grandson, Kenneth, became a theatrical manager on the West Coast.