Christopher Balme currently holds the chair in Theatre Studies at the University of Munich. Born and educated in New Zealand, where he graduated from the University of Otago, he has lived and worked in Germany since 1985 with positions at the universities of Würzburg, Munich and Mainz. From 2004 to 2006 he held the chair in Theatre Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He has published widely on German theatre, intercultural theatre and theatre and other media. Professor Balme is a former president of the German Society for Theatre Research and is president-elect of the IFTR. From 2004 to 2006 he was Senior Editor of Theatre Research International. He currently edits the journal Forum Modernes Theater. Recent publications include Decolonizing the Stage: Theatrical syncretism and postcolonial drama (Oxford 1999), Pacific Performances: Theatricality and Cross-Cultural Encounter in the South Seas (Palgrave Macmillan 2007) and Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Studies (Cambridge 2008). His current research interests focus on the legacy of modernism in the globalization of the arts; theatre and the public sphere; and the relationship between media and performance. He is director of the Global Theatre Histories project (www.global-theatre-histories.org).
The aim of this project is to investigate the emergence of theatre as a global phenomenon in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Today, theatre is a global artistic practice, a crucial cultural institution in many countries and a central part of transnational networks of artistic exchange. What theatre history has not yet attempted to do is to explain how this global phenomenon came to be. What were the factors that led to a particular, mainly Western, artistic practice being exported to and established in entirely diverse cultural environments? How did these processes of transposition affect the new host cultures and how did they in turn change the practices being exported? How can we define and theorize theatre as a cultural practice that is not only local but in its institutional manifestations inherently global. It is this focus on the institutional and global dimensions as opposed to its aesthetic and local specificities that marks a radical break with existing research paradigms. Within this large research framework I will be focusing on a particular theatrical entrepreneur, Maurice E. Bandmann, who established a network of theatre touring operations between Gibraltar and Yokohama in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Based in Calcutta rather than London, he became a household name for high quality theatre of a commercial nature. Although now largely forgotten, his activities are symptomatic of theatre as a cultural industry under the conditions of empire.