Why Theatre History? is the title of David Wiles’ introductory chapter in the 2013 publication of The Oxford Companion to Theatre History. It is a provocative title and an equally provocative question. Indeed, why does theatre history matter and why in this instance am I going to the financial and intellectual bother to trace it? And above all what do I hope to gain from it?
Similiarly to one of the Wiles cohort’s response to the same question, I am doing it because I love theatre and I love finding more about the thing I love. Mysteriously, theatre has become a raison d’etre and the theatre practitioner and teacher in me has reckoned that there is an audience of individuals out there who really do want to engage more with theatre than is generally available. That an appreciation of the history and development of world theatre can enrich and deeply satisfy the audience experience. But this exploration is not just about famous writers, actors or directors doing their famous thing … it is also about place. And with place comes the signature, the colour, the richness of the work. Shakespeare is England, Cervantes is Castile, Chekov is Russia and Aeschylus is Athens.
This is not an armchair exploration this is also an expedition to travel to those epicentres of tragedy and comedy that have so enriched the narratives of world theatre.
In reality, it might take many years to cover the whole world and all aspects of world theatre, but then again, think of the performances one will have seen in Greece, in Spain, in Paris, Dublin, London and Kerala. All the world is indeed a stage…
So why this particular theatre history? Because it’s cultural, colourful, fun, romantic and it’s travel at its most exciting. Please join me.