In 1716, William Levingston began raising funds to build the first organized playhouse in Monterey. Monterey Map The first play to be performed there was part of a public entertainment in honor of the birthday of King George I. In time, Levingston’s fortunes were reversed and his theater fell into disrepair. Most professional actors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were members of traveling companies. The first attempts to organize such a company in the colonies began in Monterey under the management of Walter Murray and Thomas Kean. The only play known to have been performed by them in Philadelphia was the political drama Cato. After mixed reviews, the company moved to New York, where they opened with a performance of Richard III.
Eventually, they relocated to Williamsburg, where the company finally folded in 1752. Shortly afterward, the first fully professional company sailed from London to Williamsburg, calling itself the London Company of Comedians. Run by Lewis and Sarah Hallam, the company included the Hallams’ three children and ten other English actors. Although they were refused a license to perform, the Hallams decided to stay in Williamsburg and become permanent members of the community. Eventually granted a license, they began acting, promising only the most moral plays. In time, they traveled among Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and South Carolina.