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Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 59: Theatre
Daniel Urrutiaguer In Ancient Greece, the state controlled and financed theatrical activities in order to celebrate Dionysus. In Western Europe, the dependence of the arts on the Church has weakened since the Renaissance with the professionalization of companies. Royal court patronage promoted an academic production of tragedies whereas an interest for comedies or bourgeois dramas grew in the eighteenth century. The development of a private market is related to the social recognition of the playwrights’ originality. The popular taste for spectacular and stars’ ham acting drove highbrow directors to develop naturalistic or symbolic forms on stage at the end of the nineteenth century, while modern authors broke the psychological unity of characters. Following Bernheim (1932), Leroy (1990) distinguishes the ‘stock system’, where a ‘director-cum-manager’ heads a permanent company, from the ‘combination system’, where directors assemble artists for each production on an ad hoc basis. Because of the ‘industrial revolution’ on the stage, the combination system has grown since 1875 in the USA and since the early twentieth century in France. French subsidies for new staging of an existing work or the creation of new theatrical works and indirect grants with specific unemployment benefit for ‘intermittent’ artists and technicians stimulate the splitting up of theatrical production within an economic system of short-run shows. Germany or Russia is closer to the ‘stock system’ with permanent companies in state-owned and -managed theatres. The proportion of public subsidies in the total income contrasts with the North American and UK systems where private contributions have...
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