The ERC-Project “Developing Theatre“, led by Prof. Dr. Christopher Balme, was represented at the Annual Conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR, 10th-14th July, 2017, São Paulo, Brazil) by Prof. Balme, Dr. Nic Leonhardt, Dr. Gautam Chakrabarti and Dr. Rashna D. Nicholson. The first three members spoke in a panel titled “Collective Modern Theater from the 1st Part of XXth Century and Beyond”. Prof. Balme spoke on “Theatrical modernism for the world: Theatrical Epistemic Communities 1920-1960”, and also introduced the ERC-Project to the audience, which was much larger than expected and necessitated a change of the venue to a larger room. He also demonstrated the beta-version of “Our History“, the Digital Humanities platform of the Project. There was, evidently, a lot of interest in this DH-interface and how it may redefine scholarly conceptualisations of global theatre history.
Dr. Chakrabarti presented a paper, based on his sub-project within the ERC-Project, titled “The Red Bear has Awoken!: Soviet Engagement with Indian Theatre Artists in the Cold War”. He spoke about the Soviet connection of post-Independence India’s ‘progressive’ theatre. He sought, based on his archival and other researches since the beginning of the Project in end-2016, “to attempt a tentative theorisation of the Cold-War-era geopolitical spatialisation of Eurasian cultural geographies as a reactive and subversive function to Eastern Bloc conceptualisations of colonial modernity.”
Dr. Leonhardt‘s paper was titled ‘“…Enlarging the Boundaries of Human Knowledge“– by Means of Theatre: Multiple Theatricalities and the Philanthropic Agenda of Stabilizing Cultural Geographies after 1945’. She presented her research on various, mainly American philanthropists and the foundations established by them and sought to conceptualise philanthropy as a tool of cultural politics in the post-WW2 years. Both her paper and that of Dr. Chakrabarti led, during the Q&A, to animated discussions that underscored the current relevance of the research questions this Project seeks to foreground.
As part of the four-member “Developing Theatre” delegation, Dr. Nicholson spent most of her working hours at the Historiography Working Group. According to her, she “was moved by a series of thought-provoking keynote speeches, struck by the warmth and generosity of the conference volunteers who stood at all hours of the day at strategic points in Sao Paulo’s Butantã subway station and enjoyed the pão de queijo served up with our coffee each day.” We also noted the adequate presence of security personnel and are thankful to the organizers, from the University of São Paulo, for their special attention to the delegates’ well-being and security.The crowning glory of the conference was a farewell reception at an exciting theatrical space, which soon dissolved into dance and music that gave us a delightful impression of Brazilian joi de vivre!
The overall impression we had of the conference was that of a frenetic and dynamic environment that opened up multiple opportunities and pathways for dialogue and debate. We look forward to the next IFTR Conference in 2018 at Belgrade with pleasant expectations and fond memories of a colourful and productive experience in São Paulo.