Theatre is and it isn’t globalized. And it is and it isn’t all economics and trade. (See “Theatre globalized.”) Mostly through touring and immigration, forced or chosen, cultures from different parts of the world began to have a real impact on other cultures it came in contact with it. There have been migrations, like the massive ones to America at the end of the nineteenth century that brought people from all over the world and with them came their culture and therefore their theatres to large U.S. cities.
And what about the place of the Little Theatre movement in America? This movement started roughly around 1910 when theatre courses found their way into universities and colleges. Was theatre becoming globalized or were Little Theatres firmly in the hands of local people?
Massive immigrations, as the ones affecting the United States in the late 1800s, brought with it a cultural de-territorialization, a term along with reterritorialization (there are those pesky “izations” again) helps define globalization. When people migrate to different areas around the world, they bring much of their culture with them. De-territorialization. As when a group of Greek immigrants living in Chicago put on Greek plays in Greek, with Greek staging, for a Greek-speaking audience. They have come to another country but cling to their culture as a way of keeping powerful links to who they are.
But just because a Greek play is being put on in Chicago, doesn’t make it global. It gets closer to globalization when the reterritorialized part takes over. That would happen when the old culture gives way to new influences from the new country’s culture. For instance, an assimilation might take place with other immigrants in Chicago, and maybe this same play that originated with the Greek immigrants, would take on American, Irish, and other actors. It might be staged on a proscenium rather than an amphitheater. It might be now in English. It maybe goes on tour to Europe and Asia. Now you begin to see theatre globalization.
Take Chicago. The Hull House sprung from Jane Addams’s vision to help these immigrants cope productively with the changes they faced in America. What was happening to many of these immigrant communities in those days was that they lived in the worst parts of town and faced even further decay of their community and families. Jane Addams was determined to change that. What made a big difference was that she combined social services with a preservation and expression of culture. The Hull House Theatre sprung up, thanks to the efforts of other people, such as Laura Dainty Pelham, an actress, who has also been credited with starting the Little Theatre movement in America. But the people themselves brought what theatre they knew with them to America and so to Chicago.
In 1889, it was Greek immigrants themselves, living on the Near West side of Chicago, where Hull House was located, who put on Greek plays, in Greek, staged by Greeks, at the Hull House. This is an example of de-territorialization, when people migrate and bring their culture with them, a kind of globalization in the sense that it encompasses the world culture.
The Little Theatre movement didn’t just spring up all around America spontaneously. There were many global influences at work, and many local ones.
Next up: 3: Other global influences strengthening the Little Theatre movement.
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