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Theatre on tour (1830-1950)

Le théâtre en tournée (1830-1950)

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Published on Tuesday, May 14, 2024


La Revue d’Histoire du Théâtre prépare un numéro (2026-1) consacré au « Théâtre en tournée (1830-1950) ».




Even though artists didn’t wait for reliable transport means to perform away from home, it seems that international tours really took off in the 1830s with the development of regular shipping lines. In a politically unstable Europe, a few artists were tempted to emigrate and followed international commercial routes towards colonized or newly independent states. Tours were also responses to a saturated market, but these journeys had little appeal to artists because of the dangers they entailed: in 1826 most of the Garcias’ possessions were stolen on their way to Veracruz; thirty years later, Rachel’s early death was blamed on exhaustion caused by her American tour.

The second 19th century opened a new era for theatre tours. In a context of economic growth brought by natural resource exploitation, railroad developed, sea transport intensified and new markets appeared. As a response, a new kind of professional theatre intermediaries rose and helped normalizing tours. Journeys across the oceans then held the promise of outstanding financial benefits for artists who confirmed their talent and fame in the process. These changes transformed touring itself: whereas artists used to leave for years and sometimes settled in the countries they had been travelling to, they now left with a schedule of their trip before coming back home, often to the theatre they performed in before departing. In the 1880s, the great tours of Sarah Bernhardt, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, or Adelina Patti made itinerancy and the star system a reality, and both of them shook up the way show was produced and received.

Beyond the transformations their brought to the entertainment world, tours always had a political dimension which became more pronounced in late nineteenth century colonial context. Companies performing in colonial empires claimed to have an educational or even colonizing mission, often supported by their home government (as was the case with France) and carried a racialized and racist vision of the world. As a reaction, these circulations also encouraged the rising of national theatres which supported newly formed nations or nations to be. Some of them toured in European countries to assert their claim, like the companies of the Egyptian actress Fatma Rochdi, also called “the Eastern Sarah Bernhardt,” after the First World War.

In recent years, theatre tours have been the subject of a wide range of academic studies, showing the growing interest in the subject. Often focusing on local aspects of the phenomenon (a theatrical genre, an artist, a world region), these writings provide fascinating keys to analysis, while giving a fragmented view of touring. The present issue of La Revue d’Histoire du Théâtre welcomes contributions coming from a wide range of approaches and genres: spoken theatre, opera, danse, concerts, café-concert, music-hall, circus… Spanning more than one century (1830-1950), it wishes to understand the touring phenomenon in its historical context and in the plurality of questions that run through it.

Suggested lines of research or topics for proposal submission:

New geographies:

  •     Ocean routes (Southern Atlantic ocean itineraries between Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires; Australasian paths going through Suez Canal and India, etc.)
  •     Mapping territories with transports: roads, boats, trains, planes…
  •     Political, economic and cultural colonial spaces

A new media environment:

  •     Iconography: posters, portraits, postcard, autographs, derivative products…
  •     Newspaper promotion and circulation: advertisement, narratives, personal anecdotes…
  •     Radio broadcasting
  •     Works’ translations and adaptations

What’s on tour?

  •     “Sound investments”: successful plays and artists
  •     Cheaper and more transportable forms of entertainment: digests, vaudevilles, costume concerts…
  •     Scores rewritings
  •     Dealing with censorship
  •     Repertoire testing

Experiencing the tour:

  •     Resting: hotels, trains, boats, directors’ houses…
  •     Local food: discoveries, apprehension, disappointments…
  •     Artistic encounters
  •     Tiredness, lack of sleep, boredom
  •     Loneliness, living together
  •     Diseases, epidemics, quarantine
  •     Friendship, romance
  •     New cultures discovery
  •     Relatives on tour

Touring professions:

  •     Theatre directors
  •     Impresarios and managers
  •     Theatrical agencies
  •     Local artists joining the companies
  •     Artists’ staff (maids, valets, personal therapists or cooks)

Touring stages and equipment:

  •     Performing onboard (ships, trains)
  •     Ephemeral spaces
  •     Adapting to a wide range of stages and theatres
  •     Private performances
  •     Outdoor spaces
  •     Travelling and local sceneries and properties
  •     Storage
  •     Technical equipment

Spectators on tour:

  •     Who goes to the theatre? (public segregation, high society, military troops, colonists, children…)
  •     Touring and charity work
  •     Official receptions (artists as ambassadors)
  •     What artists think of their audience, what their audience think of them

Archives and narratives

  •     Touring stories: facts, personal experience and myth
  •     Who tells the story? Impresarios, stars, artists “without rank”
  •     Scattered archives
  •     Touring in fiction

Submission guidelines

A proposal of one or two pages maximum, with a one-page bio-bibliography, should be sent to the following address: leonor.delaunay@sht.asso.fr et societehistoiretheatre@gmail.com

by 30th June 2024.

Coordination comity

  • Léonor Delaunay (Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin – Paris Saclay),
  • Megan Estella (Université Paris 8)
  • Jean-Claude Yon (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes)

The Revue d’histoire du Théâtre is a biannual French peer-reviewed journal with an international scientific commitee. Website: www.sht.asso.fr


  • Sunday, June 30, 2024


  • theatre, spectacle, tournée, transfert, circulation


  • Léonor Delaunay
    courriel : societehistoiretheatre [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Jean-Claude Yon
    courriel : jeanclaudeyon [at] wanadoo [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Theatre on tour (1830-1950) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/11o2d

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