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The Cross Keys Theatre

Picture of an Inn-Yard Play

The Cross Keys Theatre - (Inn-yard) 
The Cross Keys Inn yard theatre was located in Gracechurch Street, London.  We have as yet been unable to trace specific records or documentation or any general information regarding Cross Keys inn-yard other than performances took place at Cross Keys between 1576 and 1594.

William Shakespeare's acting troupe, the Chamberlain's Men, used the Cross Keys Inn theatre on a regular basis due to the restrictions played on play acting within the City of London limits. The research continues...

The Elizabethan Inn-Yard 
The early days of commercial theatre involved performances in public spaces such as town squares. Acting troupes travelled the country and sought lodgings at inns or taverns.

The natural progression for the troupes was to negotiate with the tavern owner, or vintner, in order to stage a performance at the inn. All parties would therefore benefit.

The larger the audience, the more profits were made. In the Elizabethan days the usual form of transport was on horseback, so all of the major inns had large cobblestone yards. The obvious progression was to stage the plays in the inn-yards.

The inn-yards were surrounded by balconies to the rooms which provided lodgings for travellers. A fee was charged to playgoers for entering the inn-yard, and then an additional fee was added on if they wanted to go up to a balcony level.

In 1574 the City of London started regulating the Inn-yard activities which lead to the development of the covered Playhouses and the open amphi-theaters.

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