New publication out: “Theatre for Development in Africa”, by Christopher Balme and Abdul Karim Hakib (eds.)

Sometimes a prolonged silence means a productive phase…. And then it is worth waiting for more news. I am very pleased to announce here today that there is a new publication from our ranks, Theatre for Development in Africa. Historical and Institutional Perspectives, by Christopher B. Balme and Abdul Karim Hakib.

Karim is a former PhD student in the ERC project Developing Theatre. He defended his thesis in 2022. Christopher Balme is the former principal investigator of the now officially expired, yet still active project of the same name.
When the ERC project Developing Theatre was designed back then, it quickly became clear that a project on the concept of “Theatre for Development” in Africa could not be missing. At the time, we managed to recruit Karim Hakib from Ghana, a true expert on the subject.
From the cover of the book:

“Theatre for Development is one of the most dynamic and controversial theatre movements on the global South. Emerging in Southern Africa in the 1970s to address social and economic problems using theatrical techniques, today it is taught in theatre departments across sub-Saharan Africa and employed in numerous contexts from health care to agriculture. This book investigates the emergence of TfD from its beginnings to its transformation into a coherent organisational field capable of attracting significant governmental and NGO funding. Drawing on leading African scholars and practitioners the volume examines the complex transnational processes that led to the institutionalization of Theatre for Development.”

The book is available to read both digitally and in print.

Congratulations to the authors – and a stimulating read to our followers!


°° Christopher B. Balme, Abdul Karim Hakib. (eds.). Theatre for Development in Africa. Historical and Institutional Perspectives. Hildesheim, München: OLMS 2023.

Theatrescapes – GTH Centre Launches the first Podcast on the Histories of Global Theatre


The audio podcast Theatrescapes focuses on the Global Histories of Theatre and the Histories of Global Theatre. It is produced by the Centre for Global Theatre History at LMU Munich.

The Centre for Global Theatre comes up with a new format: in June, we launch our audio podcast: Theatrescapes !  

Theatrescapes takes up those topics that have engaged the Centre’s researchers and its international network since its beginning: Stories and case studies about theatre in a global context, mainly from a historical perspective, but also reaching into the present. The podcast is dedicated to conversations and book reviews about the global or transnational histories of the performing arts, of drama, dance, opera, circus, etc., from the early modern period to the 21stcentury. Guests and interview partners include scholars and artists, theatre and cultural practitioners from around the world. At Theatrescapes, the world is at the microphones for the world.

The variety of topics at Theatrescapes is unique and requires curation. The podcast is therefore structured in series of 3-5 episodes each, dedicated to areas of focus.

A short intro episode in early June will be followed by the first series, Theatre (Research) in Times of Covid, that explores how the global pandemic situation has impacted theatre practice and research. In conversation with theatre scholar Nic Leonhardt, host of the Theatrescapes podcast, theatre practitioners and arts supporters, researchers and faculty members from South America, Asia and Europe describe challenges and opportunities of that special time period that is making history.

We welcome listeners from around the world! 

If you have suggestions for topics and conversation partners, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Special thanks go to our colleague Aydin Alinejadsomeh who conjures everything around the technology.

We would also like to thank the Legon Palwine Band from Accra, Ghana, for letting us use their great music for the podcast!

Theatrescapes is available here, on iTunes, Google Podcast and Spotify

Please follow our updates here on this blog, on Facebook and Twitter.


New article out: C. Balme & N. Leonhardt on “The Rockefeller Connection”

“The Rockefeller Connection: Visualizing theatrical networks in the Cultural Cold War“, in Comparatio, Vol. 12, 2, 2020, p. 127-144.

In this co-authored article, Christopher Balme and Nic Leonhardt (both ERC project Developing Theatre at LMU Munich) examine how the Rockefeller Foundation funded theatrical initiatives in developing countries: the Philippines and Nigeria. Using visualization software, in this case the open source application Gephi, the authors demonstrate how personal and institutional networks underpinned the cultural, specifically, theatrical development strategy of the foundation. The paper discusses the principles underpinning historical network analysis and analyzes two case studies, Severino Montano’s Arena Theatre in Manila, and the establishment of a School of Drama at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

  • This article has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 694559 – DevelopingTheatre) 
and is available in the open access format.


A Tale of Two Maurices: Family history and theatrical micro-history

Balme Globalization of Theatre, 1870-1930

Christopher Balme with David Taylor (

The publication of my recent book, The Globalization of Theatre 1870-1930: The Theatrical Networks of Maurice E. Bandmann (2020), has generated responses from unexpected quarters ranging from the Getty Centre (where a curator is researching a prominent dancer on the Bandmann Circuit) to more personal stories relating to family history. It is the latter that shall be explored here because family history, no matter who is engaged in it, whether the professional historian or the interested amateur, invariably engage in a form of micro-history which is itself an established methodology in the discipline. As I stress in the preface to my book, the family history of the Lopez family, recorded by Vanessa Lopez, the grand-daughter of Stephen Lopez, one of Bandmann’s managers, provides a superb documentation of the theatrical circuit. It already existed before I began my research, I drew on it extensively, and it is still accessible.

In early 2021 I was approached by the historian David Taylor, in relation to a family story with a possible connection to Bandmann. His great-grandmother had served as a ‘monthly nurse’ for a boy named Maurice E. Benson, who had “theatrical connections”. I knew the name, principally because he was mentioned in Bandmann’s will as a recipient of £1000, the same amount apportioned to the deceased’s mother and sister. This puzzled me at the time because I could find no reason why he should be so munificently rewarded. I knew only that he worked in some capacity for Bandmann’s companies in India but little more. He also played a role in briefly resuscitating the circuit after Bandmann’s death together with Alec Ross, another associate.

David Taylor wrote to me with information that the mother of Maurice Benson was Blanche Forsythe, perhaps the most prominent actress on the Bandmann circuit before 1910. They toured together in the UK and the Mediterranean during the 1890s, she was the major shareholder in Bandman’s ill-fated Mediterranean and the East Entertainment Syndicate Ltd, and she accompanied him on the first far eastern tours until around 1910. Her most famous stage role was the eponymous heroine in the hit novel and play Trilby. After that she embarked on a successful career as an actress in silent films.

Blanche Forsythe in the role of Trilby, ca. 1896. (Helena Cowell Collection)

Within David Taylor’s own family it was unclear who the father was, but the birth certificate showed unequivocally that Blanche Forsythe was the mother. Family oral history proposed that the father was the actor-manager, Frank Benson, who would be knighted for services to Shakespeare. In addition to the birth certificate, Taylor had also acquired court records referring to Bandmann’s divorce in 1904 where Blanche was mentioned as having a relationship with him. Here David Taylor can take up the story:

“The facts around Maurice Benson are shrouded in mystery. However, they are part of the Taylor family story and so I will set them out here. My father often told the story about a young child who was left first in the care of his Grandmother Mary Taylor in Appledore and then, after her death, with his own mother. The child was named Maurice Benson and was said to come from a theatrical family, his father being Sir Frank Benson (1858-1939) the well-known actor-manager. I started to investigate Maurice Benson to see what the facts were behind this family story and found that he was born on 28thDecember 1896 in a house in Bude Street, Appledore. His birth certificate states that his mother was Blanche Benson “formerly Forsythe” and his father was given as “Maurice Benson”, a theatrical performer. 

Certificate of Birth of Maurice Benson in Appledore on 28th December 1896. UK Registry Office.
1901 Census listing Maurice Benson living with Mary Elizabeth Taylor at 100 New Street, Appledore. [National Archives, UK]

In 1901 Maurice, aged 3, was living at 100 New Street, Appledore with Mary Elizabeth Taylor, widow of Thomas Taylor and mother of “Jonty” Taylor. In the census of that year Mary was described as a “Monthly Nurse”. The term “Monthly Nurse” was given to women who were employed for a short term to assist a mother with her new-born baby. Often care would start once a woman entered “confinement”. It usually continued for the first few weeks after a child born. At times the monthly nurse assisted with the birth itself and the line between midwives and monthly nurses was sometimes blurred.

Maurice Benson was still with Mary ten years later, in 1911, after she had moved to 2, Seaview, Appledore. On-line archives reveal that, from 1903 to 1906, Maurice attended Appledore Elementary School. He then went to Bideford Grammar School as a boarder until 1913. His registration details at Bideford Grammar state that his father was a “Theatrical Manager” and that his parents were “abroad”. After leaving Bideford Grammar his first job was as a “Clerk in Accountant’s Office.”

Mary Elizabeth Taylor (photo: Taylor family)

My researches revealed that Maurice Benson’s mother, Blanche Forsythe (1872-1953) was a well-known stage actress and that she also appeared in several early melodrama and historical dramas made with the Barker Films Company from 1912 onwards. Her full name was Blanche Victorine Forsythe. Despite what is said on Maurice’s birth certificate, Blanche never married.  She was best known for her roles in “East Lynne” (1912), “Jack Tar” (1915), “The Rogues of London” (1915) and the title role in “Jane Shore” (1915). She also played the title role in “She” (1916). Her last movie was “A Just Deception” (1917).

Blanche Forsythe in The Rogues of London (1915)

Although the name Benson seems to link both Blanche and her son Maurice to the well-known English actor-manager Sir Frank Benson (1858-1939) who founded his own company in 1883 and produced all but three of Shakespeare’s plays, the father is more likely to have been Maurice Bandmann, a well-known theatrical impresario.

In 1903 Blanche Forsythe was named in the divorce proceedings of Maurice and Gertrude Bandmann. The divorce papers state that Bandmann had committed adultery with Blanche Forsythe from about 1898. However, the papers also state that Bandmann had an affair with a lady named Florence Fletcher and that she had given birth to a child in September 1897. This seems to suggest that Bandmann was having relationships with a number of women at this time. Although the divorce papers state that his relationship with Blanche Forsythe started in about 1898, it now seems likely that he was the father of Maurice Benson who was born in 1897. Bandmann had a reputation as a womanizer.

Maurice Bandmann (1872-1922)

Maurice Bandmann went on to work closely with Blanche Forsythe both through her acting career and in business matters relating to his company. Maurice Benson also worked closely both Bandmann and Forsythe and travelled with them to Egypt, India and the Far East. In 1919 Maurice Benson travelled to India. The Passenger List for the vessel on which he sailed states his profession as “theatrical” and his last country of residence as Egypt. In India Maurice married Marjorie Eanswyth Lamport who died in 1951. The couple had a son named Maurice and a daughter named Doreen. When Maurice Bandmann died, he left the considerably large sum of £1,000 to Maurice Benson.

Everything points to Maurice Benson being the illegitimate son of Maurice Bandmann and not Sir Frank Benson as assumed by my father. Presumably Blanche put down the father as Maurice Benson to preserve Bandmann’s identity. My father told me that Maurice Benson returned to Appledore on a number of occasions to visit and that he was very kind to Maggie Jane Taylor. Perhaps this why Maggie Jane’s first child, who died in infancy, was named Maurice, and her daughter was called Blanche.

Although not part of the Taylor ancestry, Maurice Benson is an interesting character and his story links the Taylor family with one of the early stars of the silent films and a pioneer theatrical impresario.”

Evidence that Maurice E. Bandmann was the father of Maurice E. Benson is overwhelming. But why did they give their son the surname, Benson? Was it a kind of theatrical joke, or perhaps a desire to link the baby’s name to the father: Bandmann and Benson sound very similar and produce the same initials: MEB. Bandmann was married at the time of the birth, although already estranged from his wife, but presumably had little taste for a scandal. Both he and Blanche evidently remained on good terms because they continued their private and professional relationship for some years. The parents presumably also remained in contact with their common child (no doubt there were financial responsibilities as well in the arrangement) because once he became old enough young Maurice joined his father on the circuit. By 1919, when Maurice Benson went out to Egypt and India, Maurice Bandmann’s second marriage was on the rocks. Yet, he was joined by his illegitimate son and evidently integrated into the company and provided for in his father’s will. By 1922 he was listed on the letterhead of the Bandmann Eastern Circuit Ltd and the Madan Theatres Ltd as ‘Director & Secretary’ in Calcutta.

Letterhead of the Bandman Eastern Circuit Ltd. listing Maurice E. Benson as ‘Director and Secretary’ of the Calcutta office.

In the categories of romantic fiction, one could speculate that Blanche Forsythe, the beautiful and successful actress, was his great love but their relationship was destined never to be consummated in marriage. For the theatre historian, in the language of network theory, these were strong (family) ties that had always kept actor-manager families quite literally together on the road.


Conference Theater for Development (TfD): Historical and Institutional Perspectives – Program and Map

Pretoria, South Africa, 16-20 March, 2020

International Conference, organized by ERC project Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945 & Department of Drama & Film Studies, Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa.

The final programme of the conference Theater for Development (TfD): Historical and Institutional Perspectives is now online and can be accessed here: Conference_Pretoria March 2020_final programm

A map of the conference venue is online and can be accessed here: Map_Art Campus_Tshwane University of Technology


Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hasibe Kalkan visited the Centre for GTH in January 2020

Hasibe Kalkan studied German Literature in Ankara, and Theatre in Istanbul. She works as an assoc. professor at the Theatre Department of Istanbul University and from time to time as a dramaturg at the State Theater in Istanbul. She also writes theatre reviews for various theatre magazins, like TEB Oyun or Mimesis.

Over the past decade, she has been conducting research on interculturalism in theatre, documentary theatre, Turkish theatre in Germany and the foundation of theatre studies in Turkey. She has published books on documentary theatre and theatre semiotics, articles about Turkish theatre in Germany, intercultural theatre and contemporary Turkish theatre. She is a member of IATC (International Association of Theatre Critics) and GIG (Gesellschaft für Interkulturelle Germanistik).

We are very pleased that Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hasibe Kalkan accepted the invitation of Prof. Christopher Balme at the Centre for Global Theatre History to join us in January 2020.

For more information please contact:                                                                            Name: Hasibe Kalkan                                                                                                        E-Mail:


Clara de Andrade (PhD) and Gustavo Guenzburger (PhD) at the Centre for GTH

Clara de Andrade is an actress, singer, teacher and researcher of theatre.

She is a visiting fellow at the Centre for GTH from January till March 2020 at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Christopher Balme.

Her research fields are Brazilian theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal, exile & political memory, transnational networks and theatre historiography.

She holds a PhD and a Master’s degree in Performing Arts, both from the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, UNIRIO, with a scholarship from Brazilian agency CAPES. In 2014 she was granted a split-site program award at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris III, as part of her doctoral research. She is the author of the book “O exílio de Augusto Boal: reflexões sobre um teatro sem fronteiras” and also co-editor of the book “Augusto Boal: arte, pedagogia e política”. She has given workshops on the theatre of Augusto Boal in international festivals and in postgraduate programs in Rio de Janeiro.

Currently she is a Collaborative Lecturer in theatre at the University of Santa Úrsula and at CAL Faculty of Performing Arts. Active in the Rio de Janeiro scene for about 20 years, recently she co-created and acted in the play “Crônicas de Nuestra América”, a stage adaptation of the stories written by Boal during exile.

For more information please contact:                                                                            Name: Clara de Andrade                                                                                                    E-Mail:



Gustavo Guenzburger is an artist, activist, researcher and teacher of theatre and literature.

He is a visiting fellow at the Centre for GTH from January till March 2020 at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Christopher Balme.

His research specializations include Brazilian theatre, theatre historiography & aesthetics, theatre politics, sociology of theatre, cultural policies and literary theory.

He holds a Master’s degree in Literary Theory and a PhD in Comparative Literature, both from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ). In 2014 he held a split-site program award at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University (Paris III) as part of his doctoral research.

From 2015 to 2019, he worked at the Federal State University of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), where he taught and developed postdoctoral research on “Theater, aesthetics and fostering policies”, since 2016 with a FAPERJ scholarship. He has been working for more than 30 years as an actor, singer and producer, and he has also directed many shows such as “Crônicas de Nuestra América”, by Augusto Boal.

For more information please contact:                                                                            Name: Gustavo Guenzburger                                                                                            E-Mail:

Working Retreat of ERC Research Group ‘Developing Theatre’ in Kochel am See

The team of Developing Theatre (ERC) in front of the Georg von Vollmar Academy, Kochel am See (Bavaria)

At the beginning of June, the entire team of the ERC project Developing Theatre went on a retreat in Kochel am See (Bavaria) to concentrate for two days on discussing specific topics relevant to the group’s research agenda. The place of retreat was the Georg von Vollmar Academy, situated on a green hill above the beautiful lake “Kochelsee”. Retreats as a working format have two positive sides: they allow a dense time to work together and to learn from each other; and they strengthen the team spirit. Both facets are essential for collaborative research.

In a real ‘think tank’, the PhD students, PostDocs, Senior Researchers as well as current visiting researcher Patrick Ebewo (Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria) discussed the topic of “workshop as a format“: In the course of the 20th century, but especially since the middle of the century, this working format gained increasing importance in the context of theatre education and practice. Based on their respective research projects and source material, historical approaches to ‘workshop’ as a concept, and theories, the researchers elaborated on this theme. A joint working paper on the topic is in the making and will be published on the project’s website in the coming weeks. 

Working ‘en plein air’. Morning session above the lake; from left to right: Karim Hakib, Rebecca Sturm, Gideon Morison. (photo: Gwendolin Lehnerer)

A second focus during the retreat was on the concept and discourse of ‘soft power’, a term coined by Joseph S. Nye; according to Nye, ‘soft power’ is “the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion and payment. A country’s soft power rests on its resources of culture, values, and policies.” (Nye, Public Diplomacy and Soft Power, 2008). The reading of Nye’s and other selected texts on the topic and their critical reflection against the background of cultural diplomacy, philanthropy, the arts and media, formed the content of the second day.

The Developing Theatre team is very international, its members come originally from Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, New Zealand, Nigeria and Syria – a true intercultural benefit for each single of the researchers (and for multifaceted research in general). The themes of the retreat were deepened during expanded walks and hikes through the beautiful landscape of the so-called ‘Blue Land‘.

On the summit: part of the team on the Herzogstand, 1731 m above sea level (from left to right: Gautam Chakrabarti, Christopher Balme, Nic Leonhardt, Rebecca Sturm, Karim Hakib, Judith Rottenberg, Aydin Alinejadsomeeh) (photo: Gideon Morison)



Talk by Patrick J. Ebewo: “Theatre for Development (TfD) Communication: Polarities and Conflicts”

On Wednesday, 19 June, 12-2pm, our guest Prof Patrick J. Ebewo will give a talk on Theatre for Development (TfD) Communication: Polarities and Conflicts.

With Theatre for Development (TfD) interventions in some rural communities in Africa, the theatre landscape has undergone a major transformation following a paradigm shift from the elitist (conventional) mode of operation where performances are regarded as mere entertainment and vehicles of escape from mundane preoccupations of daily life to that which fulfils a major function in society. In response to a number of contemporary social challenges, TfD, one of the trends in applied theatre practice has emerged as a pragmatic post-modernist experiment that explores the relationship between theatre practice, social efficacy and community building. Theatre for Development advocates and encourages participatory, inclusive and community-oriented discourse. This is a socially engaged theatre that relies on the principle of dialogue for change, and functions effectively as an agent of empowerment in polarised, excluded and impoverished communities. In its various contexts and manifestations, TfD deals with the awakening of people’s critical consciousness; its goal ensures desirable adaptability and changes in human behaviour for the betterment and prosperity of humankind, and it acts as a vital force in the transformation of society. Though TfD has been regarded as a “model of good practice”, some of its intentions have fallen short of expectation. Some of the outlined principles in its blueprint seem not to conform with the goal and vision of the practice and practitioners. The aim of the presentation therefore, is to examine some of the challenges that Theatre for Development faces as an agency for rural education and conscientisation of people in some local communities in Africa.

Prof Ebewo is Professor at Tshwane University of Technology, Faculty of Arts, South Africa. He is currently guest of the Centre for Global Theatre History, the ERC Project Developing Theatre, and the Centre for Advanced Studies of LMU Munich.

The talk is open to the public and will take place at the Institute of Theatre Studies, Georgenstrasse 11, 80799 Munich, room #109.


Philanthropy, Development and the Arts – Check Out Our Conference Website

The first conference of our ERC project Developing Theatre will be focusing on “Philanthropy, Development and the Arts: Histories and Theories” and is taking place from 23-25 July, 2018, at Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation in Munich.

20 speakers from 13 different countries were selected for interdisciplinarily interrogating the interrelationship between philanthropic foundations and NGOs, the notion of “development”, and the visual and performing arts throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

We set up a website/blog for the conference. All updates and info can be retrieved there.

Conference attendance is free of charge, yet registration is required.

For further info please contact the organizers,

PD Dr. Nic Leonhardt ( & Prof. Dr. Christopher Balme (


Talk @ Symposium “European Performing Arts Dataverse” , CREATE Amsterdam, 9-10 Nov, 2017

From 9-10 November, the CREATE research programme, University of Amsterdam, holds a workshop on “European Performing Arts Dataverse (EPAD)”, jointly with the Flemish Scientific Research Community “Cultures of Spectacle”.

The workshop seeks to “to assess the feasibility of creating an international framework and data model that would allow for harmonisation of different European datasets on performing arts, in order to facilitate research on transnational and cross-sectoral connections and comparisons”.

Nic Leonhardt, co-Director of the Centre for Global Theatre History and the Centre’s Academy of Digital Humanities in Theatre Research, will give a talk on “DH in Theatre History, and the Challenges of ‘(Trans-)Cultural Interoperability’” , and shall introduce into the digital infrastructure of the ERC project Developing Theatre.

Click here for the programme. Attendees welcomes, registration is mandatory.

Hashtags: #EPAD #CREATE #nicleonhardt #DHinTheatre #TheatreHistory

New Article Out Now: Theatrical Institutions in Motion (C. Balme)

The first peer-reviewed publication of the new ERC project “Developing Theatre: Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945” just came out in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (vol. 31, 2, 2017).

In his paper “Theatrical Institutions in Motion: Developing Theatre in the Postcolonial Era” the project’s principal investigator Christopher Balme examines the complex transnational processes that led to an institutionalization of theatre in emerging nations after 1945.

Christopher Balme: “Theatrical Institutions in Motion: Developing Theatre in the Postcolonial Era”, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, vol. 31, no. 2, 2017, pp. 125–140.

Article available on Project MUSE.


Theatre, Globalization and the Cold War

We are pleased to announce the publication of the most recent volume in the series Transnational Theatre Histories ( which explores the complex geopolitical and cultural imbrications of a globalising theatre culture against the backdrop of the Cold War.


The book examines how the Cold War had a far-reaching impact on theatre by presenting a range of current scholarship on the topic from scholars from a dozen countries. They represent in turn a variety of perspectives, methodologies and theatrical genres, including not only Bertolt Brecht, Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook, but also Polish folk-dancing, documentary theatre and opera production. The contributions demonstrate that there was much more at stake and a much larger investment of ideological and economic capital than a simple dichotomy between East versus West or socialism versus capitalism might suggest. Culture, and theatrical culture in particular with its high degree of representational power, was recognized as an important medium in the ideological struggles that characterize this epoch. Most importantly, the volume explores how theatre can be reconceptualized in terms of transnational or even global processes which, it will be argued, were an integral part of Cold War rivalries.

Table of contents (18 chapters)

  • Introduction

    Balme, Christopher B. (et al.)

    Pages 1-22

    A Cold War Battleground: Catfish Row versus the Nevsky Prospekt

    Canning, Charlotte M.

    Pages 25-43

  • Spirituals, Serfs, and Soviets: Paul Robeson and International Race Policy in the Soviet Union at the Start of the Cold War

    Silsby, Christopher

    Pages 45-57

  • The Politics of an International Reputation: The Berliner Ensemble as a GDR Theatre on Tour

    Barnett, David

    Pages 59-71

  • ‘A tour to the West could bring a lot of trouble…’—The Mazowsze State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble during the First Period of the Cold War

    Szymanski-Düll, Berenika

    Pages 73-85

  • Song and Dance Ensembles in Central European Militaries: The Spread, Transformation and Retreat of a Soviet Model

    Šmidrkal, Václav

    Pages 87-106

  • Theatre, Propaganda and the Cold War: Peter Brook’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in Eastern Europe (1972)

    Imre, Zoltán

    Pages 107-129

  • MI5 Surveillance of British Cold War Theatre

    Smith, James

    Pages 133-150

  • Creating an International Community during the Cold War

    Korsberg, Hanna

    Pages 151-163

  • The Cultural Cold War on the Home Front: The Political Role of Theatres in Communist Kraków and Leipzig

    Kunakhovich, Kyrill

    Pages 165-186

  • Years of Compromise and Political Servility—Kantor and Grotowski during the Cold War

    Michalak, Karolina Prykowska

    Pages 189-205

  • ‘A Memorable French-Romanian Evening’: Nationalism and the Cold War at the Theatre of Nations Festival

    Szeman, Ioana

    Pages 207-221

  • An Eastern Bloc Cultural Figure? Brecht’s Reception by Young Left-wingers in Greece in the 1970s

    Papadogiannis, Nikolaos

    Pages 223-238

  • Acting on the Cold War: Imperialist Strategies, Stanislavsky, and Brecht in German Actor Training after 1945

    Klöck, Anja

    Pages 239-257

  • Checkpoint Music Drama

    Stauss, Sebastian

    Pages 259-270

  • Whose Side Are You On? Cold War Trajectories in Eritrean Drama Practice, 1970s to Early 1990s

    Matzke, Christine

    Pages 273-292

  • ‘How close is Angola to us?’ Peter Weiss’s Play Song of the Lusitanian Bogeyman in the Shadow of the Cold War

    Hoogland, Rikard

    Pages 293-306

  • Manila and the World Dance Space: Nationalism and Globalization in Cold War Philippines and South East Asia

    yamomo, meLê (et al.)

    Pages 307-323

“How to change the World” – Conference in Shanghai, 26-28 May, 2017

From 26-28 May, 2017, GTH Centre director and associate director of the ERC project “Developing Theatre”, Nic Leonhardt, participated in the international conference “How to Change the World” at Shanghai University. Organized by Iris Borowy, director of the new Center for the History of Global Development at University of Shanghai, this conference gathered mainly historians from different parts of the world for discussing case studies, methodologies, and political agendas of initiatives and notions of ‘development” in different sectors such as medical aid, health, education, tourism, media, and political propaganda throughout the 20th century. Nic illuminated the outline and work packages of the project Developing Theatre. Building Expert Networks for Theatre in Emerging Countries after 1945. 

Grooming a White Elephant: Maurice E. Bandmann and the Empire Theatre in Gibraltar

On 13 November, 1920, Bandmann wrote to J.R. Crook, Government Engineer of Gibraltar, announcing his attention to apply for a two-year lease (with an option for renewal) to the Empire Theatre in order to convert it into a ‘Cinema Theatre’ for the ‘exhibition of the very best and up to date English picture productions’. On a recent visit he had noted the lack of such films. He claimed to have a virtual monopoly on the distribution of English films in Egypt and Palestine and enclosed a garish red and yellow letterhead of his Bandman Film Control company printed in pseudo-Egyptian style with pyramids and palm trees in the background.

Bandmann Letterhead

Crook noted in a memorandum (19.11.20) to the Colonial Secretary, C.W.J. Orr, that there were plans to demolish the theatre – which was in bad state of repair and had been unoccupied for some years – in order to erect forty tenements in the chronically constricted fortress town. Orr, however, proved to be very receptive to the idea of a cinema and a correspondence with Bandmann ensued in which the latter extended his offer from two to three years and from cinema to light opera and variety. Bandmann refers specifically to the Empire (Jan 13, 1921) He also inquired generally about the location, despite being aware of the availability of the vacant Empire (Aug 12, 1921), but was presumably reluctant because of its location outside the town centre on Rosia Road .

Rosia Road, Gibraltar, ca. 1910

On 19 December 1921, an agreement signed between Colonial Office and Bandmann including a detailed ‘Schedule of proposed repairs and renovations’. The lease was for three years at a nominal rent of £2 per month in the light of the substantial investment required. Renovations included the installation of flush toilets on all floors, tiled urinals, a corrugated iron roof, concrete steps, new floorboards for the verandah, plus major rebuilding inside, and out. Two days before the scheduled opening, an advertisement in the Gibraltar Chronicle announced with typical Bandmann puff: ‘New Empire Theatre. Licencee Maurice E. Bandman. Grand Opening This Saturday 4 Feb., 1922. NOTE.– This Theatre has been remodeled, re-furnished, re-seated, re-decorated and re-lighted throughout at enormous cost.’ (GC on 2 Feb 1922). The costs had indeed been substantial as a colonial official later admitted and amounted to about £4000. (Letter from the Colonial Secretary 18.2.22).

Opening of the New Empire

The final result was deemed impressive. In a preview article, published a day later the self-advertisement was confirmed:

‘the building has received a complete renovation inside and out, most comfortable cane arm chairs have been installed, refreshment bars arranged for different parts of the house, cloakrooms and all modern conveniences … One is particularly struck by the excellent view of the stage obtainable from the whole of the seats. An orchestra has been engaged which will perform the music specially arranged for each film. The pictures screened will be sixteen by twenty feet and the fire proof operator’s box is a novelty in Gibraltar, equipped with dual projection, thus obviating waiting between the parts or in case of a breakdown. At the back or the circle is a commodious lounge with liquor and coffee bars.  (‘Opening of New Empire Theatre’, GC Feb 3 1922).


At the actual the opening The Gibraltar Chronicle enthused:

Wonders have been worked with the building since Mr. Bandman took it in hand, the seating arrangements could not be more comfortable, without a suspicion of crowding in spite of the fact that the big auditorium has accommodation for a thousand people.  A very well got up programme giving all essential information was not the least welcome of the many provisions made for the convenience of the public. (GC, 6.2.1922)


Unfortunately, the city council also had a say in the matter. In 1921 the first city council had been elected and had begun to flex its political muscles against the colonial administration.[1]

In a long report the council engineer outlined a list of additional repairs and alterations required. The building was not particularly solid, as it was constructed of wood, steel framing and corrugated iron and quite literally built on sand. One of the stanchions had even dropped about six inches but the steel frame still provided enough flexibility. He even recommended the installation of dust extraction by vacuum cleansers. The involvement of the city council, often at odds with the Colonial Secretary deepened and led to the issue of a license for ‘cinema purposes only’. For live performances the council insisted that Bandmann install a fire curtain between stage and auditorium, a major additional expense. Although the license was issued by Orr on 24 February and the cinema opened on 4 March, on 9 March, the day Bandmann died, the city council reiterated its opposition to a license for ‘plays or other performances necessitating the use of scenery’. The council admitted, however, that in a wooden building a fire curtain only provided a marginal improvement in and that asbestos lining or even fire-proof paint might be acceptable. (Letter to Orr by Chairman of the City Council, 9 March 1922.)

The first test case came in April 1922 with the impending arrival of The Scamps, a variety company that had been touring the Bandmann Circuit in the east and was now on its way back to England. The new manager of the New Empire, Charles Lewis, the younger brother of Bandmann’s secretary and main heir, Nancy Lewis, wrote to the Colonial Secretary on 19 and 20 April 1922, requesting permission in reference to a decision by the city council, pointing out that the company did not carry any scenery and that provision would be made to ensure fire safety: ‘in the way of having a fireman in continuous attendance on the stage throughout each performance as also a goodly supply of water and sand fire buckets.’ Exceptional permission was granted but no further licenses would be entertained until the necessary requirements of the council were complied with.

This restriction was a major blow for the enterprise because Bandmann had planned the New Empire as a stopping off point for his companies on the way to his main circuit. It meant that the company was now operating an expensively renovated cinema for which high ticket process could not be demanded. Charles Lewis cancelled the lease on 31 May 1924 and the building was returned to the Colonial Office or more precisely to J. R. Crook, the Government Engineer, who was once again saddled with the building. In a memorandum to the Colonial Secretary he stated that no new tenders had been forthcoming and expressed his despair over its possible use: ‘The building has since it was erected 20 years ago proved a “white elephant” and failing a satisfactory offer (…) should be pulled down.’ (GGA 25.7.1924). This is indeed what happened – at a cost of £ 1000.00 to the government of Gibraltar.


[1] Stephen Constantine: ‚the City Council became (…) not just a passive agent of government but an alternative interest group and actor’, Community and identity: The making of modern Gibraltar since 1704, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), 332.

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