Theatrescapes: Global Media and Translocal Publics (1850-1950)

Theatrescapes: Global Media and Translocal Publics (1850-1950)

Institut für Theaterwissenschaft, LMU München; gefördert durch die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
Vom - Bis
19.06.2014 - 21.06.2014
Marija Đokić/ Johanna Dupré/ Rashna Nicholson, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Email:

In the century between 1850 and 1950 theatre experienced an unprecedented expansion. Performers, genres, new buildings, and new publics emerged which both responded to and enabled new cultural flows. The notion of ‘theatrescapes’ proposed by the international conference “Theatrescapes: Global Media and Translocal Publics (1850-1950),” which took place at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich from June 19th to June 21st, responded to Arjun Appadurai’s famous notion of various ‘scapes’ marking the emergence of globalized cultural flows after the end of the Cold War. The conference, which was supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, asked whether one should speak of a globalization a century earlier, as many historians now argue, since the mass migration of the nineteenth century ushered in a fundamental reorganisation of geocultural certainties. The same period also saw the emergence of global media – press, photography, cinema, radio – all of which interacted with rapidly expanding theatre infrastructures. With 26 invited speakers from 14 different countries, the Theatrescapes conference investigated the intersection of these two major flows: media and migration – and their impact on theatre.

The first panel ‘Media Manoeuvres I’, started with a presentation by VOLKER BARTH (Cologne) who provided an important background by investigating the foundations of the modern order of international news. He focused on news agencies and the formation of a news cartel in the 19th century through the division of the world into exclusive news territories. An agency was not allowed to produce or sell reports within a foreign zone of influence, but instead had to refer to the relevant partner agency, he explained. RASHNA NICHOLSON (Munich) talked about Parsi Theatre and the development of a Pan-Asian theatre vocabulary. She emphasized the growth of Parsi printing presses and spoke of how Parsi journalists created an imminently translatable, modern Asian theatrical vocabulary for reading and watching, which greatly facilitated the theatre’s expansion. Thematically, her presentation was nicely segued by JAN VAN DER PUTTEN’S (Hamburg) talk, who analyzed how Parsi and Western theatrical troupes touring the urban centers of Southeast Asia spawned new local forms of popular theatre in the Malay world. Van der Putten demonstrated how these troupes aimed to advertise their shows as entertainment for the entire population and not just small fragments of it.

The day’s second panel, ‘Trans-(Local) Publics & Geographic Imaginaries’, shifted the focus to the conference’s second important strand: migration. As BERENIKA SZYMANSKI-DÜLL (Munich) pointed out, migration is still often falsely treated as a recent phenomenon. Focusing on the case of Helena Modrzejewska who, in the 19th century, came to be a successful actress in both the U.S. and in Poland, she argued for the notion of transmigrants, which helps to overcome the binary model of emigration and migration in order to be able to see how people were involved in transnational practices. Her presentation was followed by GORDON WINDER (Munich) who focused on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, asking how, while travelling from country to country, it also ‘travelled’ in the newspapers and which geographical imaginaries were thereby evoked. Analyzing reviews from its London productions he concluded that one message conveyed was that ‘the world comes to London every year’. ZOLTÁN IMRE (Budapest) talked about the appearance of African-American actor Ira Aldridge on Budapest’s stage in 1853, analyzing how Aldridge came to be a symbolic figure for the Hungarian revolution as his success was turned into a substitute for his Hungarian audience’s struggle for freedom.

‘How Global Was the 19th Century?’ was the question MATTHIAS MIDDELL (Leipzig) asked in his keynote lecture, which concluded the first day of the conference. After having demonstrated that, for the past twenty years, global history has been the fastest growing field in historiography and that particularly the 19th century has become the period par excellence for a historical study of globalization, Middell discussed conflicting models of periodization and their merits: the idea of the ‘long 19th century’ starting with the French Revolution and ending with World War I versus the idea of continuities of a 20th century spanning from the 1860s to the 1970s. In his lecture, Middell instead argued for the use of a set of indicators that may help to understand the character of a particular period in the course of modern global processes.

CHRISTOPHER BALME’S (Munich) keynote lecture ‘Theatre, Religion and Transnational Public Spheres in the Age of Empire’ started the second conference day. He stated that, while theatre has traditionally been theorized as the most local of the arts, scholars now increasingly acknowledge that the impact of the 19th century clearly challenges this traditional notion. Balme asked if as colonialism expanded and new media emerged it becomes possible to speak of a transnational public sphere even in the colonial context. He highlighted this with two examples: Firstly, the case of Henri de Bornier’s play ‘Mahomet,’ whose Paris performance in 1890 was cancelled by the French government due to pressure by the Ottoman Caliphate and the fear of religiously-motivated unrest in the French protectorates. Something similar later happened when the play was scheduled to be shown in London and protests in India led to its cancellation. Balme’s second example was the theatre the entrepreneur Maurice Bandmann wanted to erect in Bombay. The plan was abandoned after it led to a major press controversy, as the piece of land allotted to him would have been near burial sites of all three major Indian religions.

The panel ‘(Trans-)Local Publics & Geographic Imaginaries II’ began with a presentation by JIM DAVIS and PATRICIA SMYTH (Warwick) regarding the impact of stage spectacle and illustrated global media on trans-local publics between 1880 and 1920. Their subject focused on the theatrical articulation of space and place by visual means. They demonstrated how different forms of reproductive media affected how images were used for international audiences and outlined the increasing Australianization of plays and images. In ‘Herr Daniel Bandmann and Shakespeare vs the World’ LISA WARRINGTON (Otago) analyzed the way the famous 19th century thespian was critiqued in the press and his varied responses to this criticism. The paper emphasized the role the press played in the creation and articulation of theatre publicity. MARIA JOÃO BRILHANTE’S (Lisbon) presentation ‘BRASIL-PORTUGAL. Theatrical Reading for Migrant Communities’ delineated, through the description of the creation of the newspaper ‘Brasil-Portugal,’ not only the newspapers’ importance in relation to global theatre flows but also its influential role in the creation of a new reading public and consequently a public sphere.

‘Allied Agencies: Media Manoeuvres of Theatrical Brokers’ was the title of NIC LEONHARDT’s (Munich) presentation in the panel ‘Media Manouevres II’. As Leonhardt pointed out, the role of theatrical agents is largely underresearched – partly because theatre scholars still tend to neglect theatre’s commercial aspects, partly because historians only recently began to research the history of (news and image) agencies and partly because economists have only just started to discover the idea of the cultural entrepreneur. Leonhardt then demonstrated through the cases of H.B. Marinelli, Richard Pitrot and Alice Kauser how it is possible to analyze the role of agents, deriving information about their self-advertising techniques from a variety of sources such as newspaper clippings, photos and letter-heads. Her presentation was followed by CHRISTINA J.L. DE MEDEIROS (Rio de Janeiro) who talked about ‘Media Strategies of the Portuguese Theatre in Brazil’. She outlined how actors and actresses such as Beatriz Costa were promoted in the Brazilian market and how these strategies alluded to different cultural contexts, as was the case with a revue that incorporated tango and US-American foxtrot. STANCA SCHOLZ-CIONCA (Trier) analyzed the role Zoe Kincaid Penlington’s column ‘The Stage‘, which appeared in the magazine The Far East between 1912 and 1923, played for an emerging transnational public sphere by focusing on the controversies around the statue for kabuki hero Danjuro and the theatrical practice of onnagata which tragically led to two deaths in Tokyo’s summer heat.

The panel ‘Transregional Bridges I’ started with a presentation by TOBIAS BECKER (Berlin) and LEN PLATT (London). Their paper, derived from a three-year project based on the comparative study of popular musical theatre in London and Berlin between 1890 and 1939, dealt with shows that migrated between these cities and the cultural industry that supported these transfers. This was followed by MARIA HELENA WERNECK (Rio de Janeiro). She focused on the role of the media and the expansion of infrastructure and the theatrical public sphere through an analysis of Portuguese actress Beatriz Costa’s theatrical trajectory in Brazil. MONIZE MOURA (Versailles) presented her paper ‘Sarah Bernhardt in Brazil (1886, 1893 and 1905)’ which analyzed how a global cultural space was developed with Bernhardt’s tours. The discussion following her paper emphasized the creation of a larger global imaginary through Bernhardt’s enabling of diverse public conceptions of France, Brazil and the world.

‘Urban Contact Zones’ was the title of the next panel, which was opened by FERNANDO ANTONIO MENCARELLI (Belo Horizonte). Referring to musical theatre in Rio de Janeiro in the 19th century, Mencarelli showed that the expansion of musical genres directly responded to the cultural plurality of large emerging cities, which as contact zones allowed a plurality of encounters and intense exchange. VERONIKA KELLY (Brisbane) focused on civilian and military urban audiences in Australia between 1942 and 1945. She outlined what happens to popular entertainment when large-scale global upheavals create volatile new local configurations of urban ‘audience scapes’.

The last conference day started with ‘Trans regional Bridges II’, which was opened by ANNEGRET BERGMANN (Berlin). She analyzed shifting paradigms in the visualization of the performing arts in Japan when woodblock-prints were replaced by photography. The spreading of photos in the print media led to the emergence of international theatrical stars, which she demonstrated through the case of kabuki star Ichikawa Sadanji II. TAKASHI HOSHINO (Shinjuku) offered a reconsideration of ‘Typhoon,’ a Western play in which the main protagonist is Japanese. Hoshino outlined how this play, performed in many Western cities, described the conflict between patriotism and cosmopolitism in the early 20th century. JOHANNA DUPRÉ (Munich) analyzed how the international career of the Buenos Aires-born circus jockey Rosita de la Plata was launched by focusing on public relations. Dupré examined the professional maintenance of a potentially profitable public image, her artist persona. She demonstrated how this image was tied to different global imaginaries, e.g. the importance of the Hamburg-Americas connection when she appeared with Hagenbeck’s circus or later in Argentina Buenos Aires’ aspirations to be a modern metropolis.

‘Modernism and Modernization’, the last panel, was opened by CATHERINE VANCE YEH (Boston). She demonstrated how the simultaneous introduction of female impersonators and dance transformed the whole structure of the Peking Opera, specifically focusing on one question: What happens to theatre due to global migration? Yeh outlined how experiences and cultural practices observed and acquired in places like Paris and Japan changed the Peking Opera at the turn of the century. SAIFUL ISLAM (Dhaka) demonstrated how Modern Bengali Theatre emerged in the early 19th century, partly as a result of the Westernization of Bengali culture under British colonial influence, which led to a local audience demanding modern plays that addressed their own issues. The panel was concluded by FRANCISCO LEOCÁDIO (Rio de Janeiro) who talked about the modernization of Rio de Janeiro’s downtown area and the erection of the Theatro Municipal. Leocádio demonstrated how this infrastructure project was part of the self-fashioning of Brazilian elite culture on a French model.

The final discussion, chaired by Christopher Balme and Nic Leonhardt, focused on the development of further avenues for research such as the ideas of movement, media, body, action and gesture; of the role of film; and of the importance not only of trans-local publics but also of trans-local reading publics. Methodological concerns were raised with regard to access to newspapers in different languages, the structuring of global histories and the finding of local implementations of global movements. Criticism was voiced on the consensual drift of the papers due to a lack of emphasis on censorship, punishment and violence. The need was consequently raised for additional work to be undertaken to explain these discrepancies.

Conference Overview:

Media Manoeuvres I

Volker Barth (University of Cologne, Germany): Exclusive Territories: News Agencies and Global Cooperation, ca. 1870-1934
Rashna Nicholson (LMU Munich, Germany): Public Spectacle and Private Reading: The Parsi Theatre, its Press and the Development of a Pan-Asian Theatre Vocabulary
Jan van der Putten (University of Hamburg, Germany): Ways to Capture New Audiences: Charity, Zenana and Football

(Trans-)Local Publics & Geographic Imaginaries I

Berenika Szymanski-Düll (LMU Munich, Germany): Touring Migrants and Translocal Publics
Gordon Winder and Lea Weiß (LMU Munich, Germany): Geographical Code in Media Representations of Transnational Theatre: How Buffalo Bill Traveled in the Modern Newspaper
Zoltán Imre (Eötvös University, Hungary): Mediatization, Surrogation and Theatre : Ira Aldridge’s Visit in Pest-Buda in 1853

Matthias Middell (Global and European Studies Institute, University of Leipzig): How Global Was the 19th Century?

Christopher Balme (LMU Munich, Germany): Theatre, Religion and Transnational Public Spheres in the Age of Empire

(Trans-)Local Publics & Geographic Imaginaries II

Jim Davis and Patricia Smyth (University of Warwick, UK): Visual Theatrescapes: The Impact of Stage Spectacle and Illustrated Global Media on Trans-local Publics 1880 – 1920
Lisa Warrington (University of Otago, New Zealand): Herr Daniel Bandmann and Shakespeare vs. the World
Maria João Brilhante (Lisbon University, Portugal): BRASIL-PORTUGAL Theatrical Reading for Migrant Communities

Media Manoeuvres II

Nic Leonhardt (LMU Munich, Germany): Allied Agencies: Media Manoeuvres of Theatrical Brokers
Christine Junqueira Leite de Medeiros (Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro & Carlos Chargas Filho Foundation, Brazil): Media Strategies of the Portuguese Theatre in Brazil
Stanca Scholz-Cionca (University of Trier, Germany): New Patterns of Interaction: Tokyo Theatrescapes and the Foreign Press after 1900

Transregional Bridges I

Tobias Becker and Len Platt (FU Berlin, Germany and Goldsmiths, University of London, UK): London, Berlin and Beyond. Global Networks in Popular Musical Theatre, 1890-1939
Maria Helena Werneck (Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): Dynamics of Portuguese Theatre’s Circulation in Brazil: Friendship, Media and Immigrant Networks
Monize Moura (Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University, France and Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): Sarah Bernhardt in Brazil (1886, 1893 and 1905)

Urban Contact Zones

Fernando Mencarelli (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil): Brazilian Musical Theatre in the Second Half of the 19th Century: Crossing of Bodies and Sonorities
Veronica Kelly (University of Queensland, Australia): Civilian and Military Urban Audiences in Australia 1942-45: the Migrant Landscapes of Wartime Popular Entertainment

Transregional Bridges II

Annegret Bergmann (FU Berlin, Germany): Shifting Paradigms for Visual Media in Japan. Ichikawa Sadanji II between Modern West and Traditional East
Hoshino Takashi (Waseda University, Japan): Reconsideration of Typhoon
Johanna Dupré (LMU Munich, Germany): "Die erste Jockey-Reiterin der Welt, aus Süd-Amerika": Rosita de la Plata, Global Imagination and the Media

Modernism and Modernization

Catherine Vance Yeh (Boston University, USA): Experimenting with Apsara: Peking Opera Modernism and the Denishawn’s Tour of the Far East
Saiful Islam (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh): The Emergence of Modern Bengali Theatre: An Assessment of European Influence
Francisco Leocádio (Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): The Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro and the Modernized Downtown of the Federal Capital in the Beginning of the 20th Century

Final Discussion