2020 Project Conference: identity, invention, and agency

Patricia Smyth

Kitty Lord’s ‘symmetricals’, ©  Museum of London

This year’s project conference on ‘Embodied Spectatorship’ focussed on the body, inviting participants to consider the spectator’s share in the theatrical experience. Over two highly engaging days of papers and discussion, some key themes emerged. The question of identity ran through several presentations. We talk about a new kind of modern spectator in the nineteenth century, but how do issues of class, gender, race, and national or regional identity complicate this idea? Martyn Jolly’s paper on ‘The Flying Dutchman or the Phantom Ship’ examined the ways in which this phantasmagoric spectacle was tailored to appeal to the particular sensibilities of colonial audiences, while Alessandra Grossi discussed the social makeup of spectators for classical burlesque, and Jennifer Schacker considered what Joseph Grimaldi’s racialised performance in a pantomime of the Cinderella story may tell us about the attitudes and expectations of the Drury Lane audience.

The nineteenth century still tends to be associated with the notion of ‘passive’ viewing, but the question of the spectator’s agency was threaded through papers that drew our attention to audiences’ capacity for self-fashioning. In her discussion of the ‘swell’, Alessandra proposed that the classical burlesque performances patronised by these fashionable men-about-town both parodied and reinforced their own masculine identity, while Ani Bezirdzhyan considered the performativity of the costermonger subjects photographed to illustrate Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor.

The themes of technology and innovation have always been central to our inquiry, and this conference raised some important questions about this aspect of nineteenth-century visual culture. In her intriguingly titled paper on ‘Panoramas and Dioramas as Simulation Mechanisms’, Sofia Quiroga Fernandez traced a trajectory of ever-increasing transparency in the production of immersive experiences throughout the century. On the other hand, in his account of lithographic theatre posters, Martin Maryška foregrounded the issue of medium, inviting us to imagine the experience of nineteenth-century urbanites confronted by a city of competing and often contradictory images. In their evocations of two contrasting types of attention, both papers spoke to the broader (and ever-elusive) question of how we can recapture the sensations of historical spectators.

One of the most striking aspects of this conference was the variety and inventiveness of the methodologies that participants brought to the table, among which Jed Wentz’s performance of ‘The Raven’ using the American operatic singer David Bispham’s original score incorporating text, music and photographs of his ‘affective attitudes’ was particularly memorable. Viv Gardner’s examination of costumes worn first by the cross-dressing 5th Marquis of Anglesey and later bought by male impersonator Vesta Tilley at his bankruptcy sale, where some items were incorporated into an impromptu comic turn by ‘faithful Jerry, the auctioneer’s man’, drew out the layered significance invested in these garments. Veronica Isaac’s evocative paper on variety artist Kitty Lord’s ‘symmetricals’ (padded pale pink tights designed to bestow the desired silhouette) also focused on costume, proposing an approach to performance history through the stories told by wear, damage, and repairs.

Kitty Lord (1881-1972) ‘Chanteuse Excentrique Anglaise’ c.1900-1910. © Harvard Library 

See our current call for papers for details of this year’s project conference on ‘Modern Visuality in Nineteenth-Century Performance’, 31 August to 3 September 2021.

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CFP 2021 Conference: Modern Visuality and Nineteenth Century Performance

Grieve Family, Design for a Diorama of Paris for a Covent Garden production, Special Collections, Senate House Library.

University of Exeter

31 August – 3 September 2021

Keynote speakers:

Michael Gamer, University of Pennsylvania 
David Taylor, Oxford University

The nineteenth century is associated with the transformation of traditional ways of life, rapid technological advances, radical changes to the environment, and the emergence of new conceptions of subjectivity. Theatre was central to the culture of this period, so how far did it reflect or shape the experience of modernity? The Modernist experiments of the latter part of the century used to take centre stage in discussions about modernity, but how far can the popular, commercial theatrical culture of this period be seen as the locus of an emergent modern aesthetic?

This is the third and final conference of our project investigating nineteenth-century stage spectacle, the viewing practices associated with it, and its relationship to the wider visual culture of this period. With this event, we return to one of our core concerns: to consider nineteenth-century spectacle as a new and experimental form and as both a facet and product of modernity. We welcome ideas for papers on all aspects of the visual culture of theatre, from theatrical ephemera to links with the world of ‘high’ art, to new spectacular and immersive technologies. We particularly welcome submissions that bring questions of methodology to the fore, offering new contexts through which we may understand the theatrical spectacle of this period.

Possible questions/themes include, but are not limited to:

  • How far were increased connections between theatre and visual art in this period rooted in popular (as opposed to elite) culture?
  • What attitudes, prejudices, and/or desires were brought to bear in discussions of theatrical spectacle in this period?
  • How did the transformation of urban space and other aspects of modernity impact on theatrical spectacle and its reception?
  • What is the relationship of theatre and performance to immersive technologies such as the Panorama and the Diorama?
  • How can theories of perception and visuality enable us to rethink the nature of theatrical spectacle in this period?
  • Popular spectacle continues to be associated with the notion of ‘passive viewing’ and political inertia. What evidence is there for the agency of spectators in the active construction of meaning?
  • How did the spaces of nineteenth-century performance prime spectators for certain types of engagement?

The deadline for proposals is 17 May 2021.

We are hoping that this will be a hybrid conference with the option to present either in person or remotely; however, this will of course be subject to developments this year and we may need to go fully online. Having taken last year’s ‘Embodied Spectatorship’ conference online, we will be including in this event papers originally scheduled for 2020, but which could not be fitted into the online programme. For that reason, we are only able to accept a limited number of new papers in response to this new call.

Given current uncertainty about whether the conference will be hybrid or fully online, we assume that, in submitting a paper, you are committed to taking part in either capacity. Also, since this will be an international event, we expect that all participants will be happy to have the recording of their paper available to delegates for a limited time (password protected).

For queries, please contact Patricia Smyth, P.M.Smyth@Warwick.ac.uk.

A Whole Ton of Learning by Doing: Conferencing Online…

2020 brought us all online in ways we would never would have imagined at the beginning of the year. For our team, this included taking our 2020 conference online. Although all of our team members have run plenty of in-person conferences this was a new experience. I (Kate Holmes) had been quite proud about our commitment to livestreaming, but going completely online was a bit of a gear shift. Having taken the lead on the conference, I thought it might be helpful to share our thoughts on how our approach worked.

Going online meant a complete rethink of the programme due to the dangers of screen fatigue. This meant we had to schedule fewer, shorter sessions in a day; the knock on being that we had to ask people to volunteer to defer to 2021, when we hope to run an in-person event (gods allowing!) Otherwise, it would have been a full week of papers.

Our next issue was time zones. Those who chose to lead the way by presenting in 2020 did not fit neatly into one time zone and meant we were working from something like -9 GMT to +11 GMT. As we were asking people to join us from their homes, this meant we had to be sensitive to that and schedule panels according to linking themes and time zones. This led us to two blocks of time, one to suit North America and one to suit Asia and Australia (as much as possible), with the opportunity for those blocks to catch up later. Take a look at what this meant for the eventual programme.

These are the tools we used to adminster it at no cost beyond our time:

Eventbrite for registration and sending out joining instructions.
Zoom meetings rather than webinars were used so that people could ask questions on camera to speakers. (We also asked people to turn on cameras at the start of each session to try and give speakers the sense of a listening public. Although, we set everyone to enter spaces on mute to try and minimise echo etc). Zoom also permits recording sessions that can be shared as links with passcodes (although this is fiddly) that can be set to expire after 30 days. It also allowed us to put people easily into break out rooms for the 20 minute networking sessions that followed each panel.
YouTube was used where video was a priority. I uploaded videos as unlisted and shared them in the chat as playback in Zoom can be a bit dodgy.
Google Docs was used as a hub for people to pick up links (set to view only) such as recordings and, in a separate file, to allow those watching to contribute to the themes and connections they saw emerging if they were watching back later. We wanted people to feel engaged and included whenever they were watching, as well as helping us out!
Flipgrid was where individuals could upload short video introductions to a video wall. This was to fulfil a couple of purposes related to not physically sharing space. This included trying to facilitate conversation in the networking sessions, allow people to share contact details which we can’t due to GDPR (made more significant by the number of delegates) and to make people feel like they had visibility at the conference regardless of whether they were speaking or not.
Microsoft Forms – for gathering people’s thoughts about how the conference went and any standout things they wanted to share. This also allowed us to request permission to add people to our project mailing list and to try and learn how we can improve administering an online conference. I’ll be honest here, use Google Forms if you can. Because we were gathering personal data and the University of Exeter considers Microsoft the best security-wise, I went for them. But, a few users did encounter a log in page when they shouldn’t have. (This is a known Microsoft issue which I only found out when one person hit the log in page).

Pros/Cons:

– Going online is a great way to encourage people to attend your event if you can make the conference free. Our first 2019 in-person conference had around 40 delegates and a good number of individual live-streamed panel views with round 15-20 people online (you only get YouTube data per panel, so that’s a guesstimate). Going online in 2020 pushed us over 200 registrations and we ranged from 40 to 60 participants live on Zoom which felt like a good number of contributors.
– Prepping an online conference took a long time and a lot of careful logical thinking. I think much of this is because it wasn’t a known beast in the same way as an in-person event. Make sure you share around roles and responsibilities. I found it helpful to create a list that outlined exactly who was meant to be doing what when. I saw this list as a bit of a cue list for everyone. However, you will have to adapt too. For instance, I discovered that I had to take back one role on the day because of how privileges differ between Hosts and Co-Hosts in Zoom. Testing had sorted most of these out, but not all…

Communication & Thinking Ahead:

– The University of Exeter’s institutional Zoom account requires a higher than average security level to access it and prevent Zoom bombing. For that reason, we tried a few different ways of explaining how to access sessions and settled on a step by step process. Unlike other meetings we hosted this seemed to do the trick and we didn’t have anyone let us know they struggled to get in.
– Have standard responses ready for issues you can anticipate with links to further support available. If you’re monitoring your email, twitter and listening to sessions this can take a little pressure off.
– One of our team encountered problems receiving Eventbrite emails so we included information on our website and Twitter about how to work around this and to flag when communications had gone out.
– Schedule tweets and Eventbrite emails so you don’t have to think about them in the moment and review them on the morning of the conference to check it reflects any adjustments to the programme.
– Ask for Twitter handles when you invite abstracts so that you can include @mentions in your pre-scheduled panel tweets.
– We asked people to send through their presentations in advance so they could preserve bandwidth by turning off their camera to let one of the team run their presentation on their behalf.
– I also offered each speaker the opportunity of a test call so that they were clear on how to share their screen in Zoom. Presenting online can be nerve-wracking, so this was about ensuring smooth running sessions and giving people confidence in tech.
– Uploading a video of the presentation to YouTube can also be an additional back-up if a participant is concerned about their internet, such as we had from one person located in China. I’ve heard of other conferences asking this from all participants, but we felt it was probably unnecessary and didn’t need to deploy any of these solutions in the end as everyone’s internet cooperated. (Peace of mind is great though!)
– Communicate clearly with your speakers, chairs and delegates thinking about what they need to know with clear emboldended deadlines. Don’t be afraid to remind, speakers in particular, about what you need with bullet pointed emails. Send chairs, speakers and your team a meeting request with joining instructions so they can start from their calender. Send tailored reminder emails with joining instructions to everyone on the morning of the conference so they can quickly access sessions.
– Although this will be less relevant as we all get a bit more au fait with conferences online, let your chairs know any norms you wish them to promote. We did not chair any sessions ourselves because of the various roles we took on and made sure they were not presenting in order to take the pressure off speakers working in this less familiar format.

Things I didn’t realise you could do:

– You can link Zoom to Eventbrite so that Eventbrite can automatically let people in. However, you can only set that up if you have the event as one session. We were working with two chunks of time so set up two… Letting people in is something that co-hosts can do, so don’t be afraid to hand that task off if you need to.
– If you include all of your panels as one long session, you will have to wait until the session has ended until your Zoom recordings become accessible.

Doing Things Better:

Although our questionnaire revealed that the break out rooms were really appreciated, this was the main thing people thought could have worked better and that I’m going to think about for the next online conference I plan. I wasn’t that familiar with Zoom break out rooms and chose to go for random allocation. Some people would have preferred more autonomy over where to go, perhaps with speakers allocated to separate rooms so that they could ask questions once the panel was done. Another suggestion was for some discussion points if conversation took a while to get going (something we’d thought about but discarded as being a bit too teachy!)

Setting the Tone

A couple of days before the conference, I initially thought the FlipGrid was a bit of a waste of time as few people contributed to that and to our crowdsourcing themes and connections google doc. However, there is something in both these things that I would want to preserve and develop: it let our conference-goers know that we were interested in them; it set the tone for an event where people knew we wanted them to be active and engaged audience goers. Something that seems particularly fitting bearing in mind the conference’s focus on embodied spectatorship…

The Wild Card Quality of the Visual: starting conversations on Repetition, Realization and Remediation ahead of ASTR 2021

Our virtual pre-conference seminar on Saturday 7 November with the participants of our ASTR working session was a lively affair, leaving us eager to carry on our discussions in San Diego in 2021. The general conference theme ‘After Repetition’ spoke to several of the key concerns of our project. Nineteenth-century staging often aspired to replicate real environments while ‘realisation’, the practice of transposing well-known works of art into three-dimensional stage tableaux, is a form of transmedial repetition. Yet the wild card quality of the visual leaves it always open to new interpretations and therefore to interruptions in the replication of meaning.

The event took the form of a two-hour loosely structured getting-to-know-you session, which we hoped would reveal points of connection, raise questions, suggest potential methodologies, and provide food for thought for next year’s conference. It turned out to be a wide-ranging discussion peppered with exciting exchanges and interwoven with parallel discussions in the Zoom chat. There was a brief pause in our discussion as Stephen Cedars informed us of Joe Biden’s just announced election victory, allowing us to hear, via his laptop speakers, the jubilant honking of horns in the New York street below. These were joined by the whiz and bang of fireworks from a belated bonfire night display by one of my Nottingham neighbours, lending a festive atmosphere to our discussion.

The repetition of tropes over time emerged as a dominant theme, from the mounted knight as a figure of Georgian melodrama to the ‘Woman in White’, appearing and reappearing in various contexts from Wilkie Collins’ eponymous novel to lynching narratives. But what was the effect of repetition? While we acknowledged its power as an instrument of ideology, in many cases meanings were altered over time, becoming less virulent or even open to subversion, as in Sharon Weltman’s example, which examined the adaptation of an anti-Semitic trope in a pro-Jewish emancipation melodrama, The Echo of Westminster Bridge. Adaptation theory offers one approach to the processes at work in these repetitions, but given the current pandemic, metaphors of virus mutation seemed particularly apt. In any case, the shifting and open nature of meaning in these case studies raised questions about the spectator’s share in their interpretation and put paid to the persistent notion of audience passivity in this period.

Scene from Elizabeth Polack’s The Echo of Westminster Bridge, 1835

It was striking that the scenic designs, lithographs, photographs, sound recordings and realisations we talked about lacked a unifying terminology. They were certainly modern, relying in many cases on sophisticated new technology, but this popular, commercial visual culture was distinct from modernism. In its broad appeal and transmediality, it was perhaps modernism’s ‘other’, although the postcards of Henrik Ibsen discussed by Penny Farfan reveal the relationship as one of mutual dependence.

This is not a definitive summing up of our wide-ranging and productive discussion. However, if our diverse topics, which ranged from lithographic prints of Lincoln’s assassination to commercial sound recordings of popular Yiddish theatre, had an over-riding common factor it was the popular audience. Indeed, it was in order to reach this group that so many of the new reproductive technologies of this period were developed. That being so, how should we understand late nineteenth-century resistance to repetition? How far was the modernist concern with originality and truth to materials a judgement not only on popular commercial imagery, but also on its audience? Perhaps, as was suggested, legal copyright cases may reveal competing interests and shifting definitions of authenticity as they were played out in this period.

We look forward to next October when we hope to meet each other again, this time face to face.

To find out more about the working group session originally planned for this November in New Orleans, see pages 30-1 of the ASTR 2020 Conference programme.

Changing places: 2020 Embodied Spectatorship and 2021 conferences

First we had hoped to be welcoming speakers from across the globe to Exeter in June to our 2020 conference. Then we hoped to do the same in December, but as time goes on and international travel continues to look tricky in our new COVID-19 world, we’ve decided to take our conference online.

Rather than completely deferring our conference for a year, we wanted to maintain the momentum of our first conference in Warwick by moving online. In consultation and with the assistance of our speakers, this new format has meant offering a reduced programme on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th December. For more details on what December’s Embodied Spectatorship (online!) conference will look like check out our current programme.

So, what does this mean for our 2021 conference? It means we already have a host of impressive speakers waiting in the wings, ready to give their papers at our next in person event.

So, here’s your teaser for 2021:
Papers range from shadow plays, anatomy theatres, panorama to telephone broadcasts.
We’re looking forward to welcoming: Isabel Alexander, Sharon Aronofsky Weltman, Gillian Arrighi, Barbara Bessac, Hayley Bradley, Kathleen Chater, Keith Cavers, Depelchin Davy & Jonckheere Evelien, Maire Fox, Michael Gamer, Nick Havergal, Joe Kember & John Plunkett, Agata Koprowski, Heidi Leidke, Josip Martinec, Atsuko Miyake, Laura Monros-Gasper, Anna Myers, Janice Norwood, Jane Pritchard, Catherine Quirk, Marlis Schweitzer, Isabel Stowell-Kaplan, and Clara Zarza.

As ever, best wishes from the Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century team in these uncertain times.

Socially-Distanced ‘Glorious’ Seaside Entertainments

We’re delighted to see our project partners, Promenade Productions, safely entertaining the public on Teignmouth seafront with their special brand of historically-inspired showmanship.

To find out more about how Uncle Tacko, Sergeant Spike and Professor Gayton are charming and delighting seaside audiences with their ‘glorious’ shows and reinvigorating the seaside tradition in these socially-distanced times, read this wonderful write up in the Guardian.

ASTR Working Group Call for Papers: Repetition, Realization, Remediation: Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century

This Working Session seeks to interrogate different modes of repetition in play between visual and performance cultures in the long nineteenth century at a time when different art forms sought not only to replicate the natural and material world, but also to borrow and copy from each other. We want to investigate the manifold ways in which repetition took place within and between performance and visual cultures through, for example, adaptation, realizations (frozen moments staged as tableaux based on popular pictures and illustrations), and remediation. We ask how ‘remediation’ can take us beyond repetition, providing a further way of thinking about temporality, progress and change. We are interested not only in the impact of the visual arts on performance, but also in questioning the ways in which tableaux, dioramas, panoramas, spectacle, scenic design often constitute discourses of repetition within performance and in considering the notion of ‘copy culture’ in reference to the authorised and unauthorised copying of stage set designs (between theatres) and of famous art works. Realizations of art works on stage remediated them as kinetic, temporal and immersive environments, relocating familiar 2D images in a more convincing, immersive medium rather than scaling them up as static backdrops. Although our primary focus is historical, we are interested in how the process of adaptation and repetition also extends into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as witnessed by the transformation of The Octoroon into An Octoroon with its re-emphasis on what constitutes spectacle over time. Overall, we are looking for papers that offer innovative approaches to the exploration of the relationship between visual culture and performance in the nineteenth century, especially in relation to repetition, realization, remediation, adaptation, stage realism, disruption and slippage at a time of social, economic and political upheaval created by new technologies and the onset of modernity. 

This Working Session aims to elicit papers of 2,000-5,000 words to be circulated among participants at least 3 weeks in advance of the Conference. We will group papers thematically as far as possible and appoint a respondent for each individual paper (or themed group) according to numbers. Within the three- or two-hour session, we would allocate time in each grouping for short statements by the respondents, responses by the authors of individual papers and more general discussion.

The convenors of this Session (Professor Jim Davis, Professor Kate Newey, Dr Patricia Smyth and Dr Kate Holmes) are the recipients of a large UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Grant funding a three- year project on the relationship between Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century. We would hope the Working Session would enable us to explore this topic in greater depth, extend our network of contacts internationally and enable ongoing debate beyond the conference. 

Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups.

The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June.

Changing dates: 2020 Conference

Like everyone else, our team have been watching on and trying to work out what COVID-19 means for us.

Although we still don’t have all the answers, we do know that it would be foolish and irresponsible to go ahead with our conference in June. For that reason, we’ve decided to postpone it.

At the moment, our plan is to rearrange for Monday 14 to Wednesday 16 December 2020; making it a slightly shorter conference.

Although it has now closed, should you wish to get a flavour of what our conference will be like, take a look at our call for papers.

In the meantime, our team wishes everyone healthy few months.

CfP 2020 Conference: Embodied Spectatorship and Performance in Theatre and Visual Culture, 1780-1914

Louis-Leopold Boilly, L’effet du Melodrame, c.1830

University of Exeter, Monday 14 – Wednesday 16 December 2020

Please note dates have been provisonally rearranged from June in light of COVID-19.

Throughout the long nineteenth century the ways in which spectators observed the world in which they lived and entertainments on offer changed radically. New modes of viewing were facilitated by developments in new technologies and innovations that emerged in this period: a range of optical toys were produced, while developments in painting techniques contributed to new spectacular entertainments such as panoramas and dioramas, and new printing methods facilitated the circulation of images to a wider audience. These changes created an opportunity for significant developments in theatrical performance. Images and motifs were frequently realised or remediated across different media, including the theatre, providing multivalent experiences for their audiences.

We invite papers and panels that consider embodied spectatorship and performance from a multiple range of perspectives, and in the widest possible terms.

Likely areas may include (but are not limited to):

  • How did stage spectacle create or contribute to the embodied experience of being an audience member?
  • What evidence and documentation do we have for the embodied experience of performers in the theatrical spaces of the nineteenth century?
  • How can theories of perception and visuality enable us to rethink the affective nature of theatrical spectacle and performance in this period?
  • How did new and experimental technologies developed through the visual arts influence performer and/or audience experience?
  • How did notions of theatricality impact on spectator experience of the visual arts?
  • What sort of responses did the trans-medial circulation of images create?
  • What evidence is there for the agency of spectators in the active construction of meaning in nineteenth-century places of performance?
  • How did audiences understand and respond to stage spectacle? Might stage spectacle work independently of (or even against) the meanings of text to create different responses?
  • How did similar images in different media or different national contexts inspire varying audience responses?
  • How did notions of place work to create affective experiences?
  • How might curatorial practices or innovative research methodologies help us reimagine the historical viewing experience?
  • What do representations of people reacting within the theatre, interacting with optical devices or witnessing outdoor spectacles tell us about spectatorship in the long nineteenth century?

We anticipate this conference will be of particular interest to scholars from art history, visual culture, cultural geography, theatre history and those with an interest in curation.

Accompanying this conference as part of the broader project are exhibitions at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum and University of Bristol Theatre Collection, which draw on their unique collections. We will offer delegates opportunities to visit both exhibitions and meet with curators of the collections to discuss the research resources and holdings.

Please submit proposals of 200 words and biographies of 100 words using the online form by Thursday 27 February 2020 (deadline now passed). Speakers will be asked to present papers of 20 minutes with questions and discussion at the end.

The registration fee for this event will be £130 (full fee) and £80.00 (postgraduates/unwaged), and includes lunches, refreshments and a wine reception. We anticipate being able to reimburse partial travel for postgraduates/unwaged ECRs.


This conference is organized by Jim Davis, Kate Holmes, Kate Newey, and Patricia Smyth as part of a three-year AHRC-funded project, ‘Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century’, examining theatre spectacle and spectatorship in this period. The main focus is on Britain, but France provides a comparative study.

If you would like to be on the mailing list for news and events related to this project, please contact Kate Holmes at k.j.holmes@exeter.ac.uk or use our contact form.


Turning One

Although the ideas for this project have been germinating for much longer, today is our first birthday. It’s been a full year since our funding began and Jim Davis, Kate Newey, Patricia Smyth and Kate Holmes became an official collaborative team. This blog post is about what we have started and what you might expect from the next 2 years.

Behind the scenes we’ve been visiting archives, planning our programme of activities and further developing our own research interests. The first major milestone that involved those beyond our project team was our first conference in June on nineteenth-century visuality and theatre. We welcomed over 40 people to Warwick to participate across 12 panels that ranged from focusing on paintings, costume, theatre architecture, manuscripts through to moving panoramas. Our speakers took us from the regions to the British capital, and from the national to France and Italy. On the way themes emerged of networks, methods of reading images, modes of audience engagement or appreciation, as well as the trans, inter and multi-medial relationships between theatrical and visual culture.

From the start our team have been committed to interdisciplinarity, bringing together expertise from both art and performance history. Our next event in April reflects this commitment as we run a session at the Association for Art History Annual Conference on Theatre, Art and Visual Culture (deadline for CFP: 21 October 2019). Our call for papers invites contributions that further the themes of blurred media boundaries and begins to encourage thinking about how modern-day curatorial practices might help convey some of the experience of nineteenth-century spectatorship.

In the meantime, we’re also developing two public exhibitions and an exciting new piece of performance practice with our project partners the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, the University of Bristol Theatre Collection and Promenade Productions. These activities are all planned to coincide with our next conference in Exeter on 23-26 June 2020. Drawing on themes of spectatorship, we’ll be thinking through what it means to experience visual culture as a whole and what being part of visual culture means for theatre through these important collections. In line with that, and building on some of the themes that are already emerging out of this project, we’re delighted to announce the title of our 2020 conference: ‘Embodied Spectatorship’. We’ll be releasing the call for papers in the next few months but expect the call to be very broad! We’re keen to extend some of the stimulating and wide-ranging conversations begun in Warwick.

So, what else might you expect from Team Theatre & Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century over the next two years? (Other than the mouthful of a team name!) Well, we have a few things under wraps at the moment, but you can definitely expect another conference in early June 2021 (probably in Venice) and a commitment to talking and thinking about the connections between all things theatrical and visual in the long nineteenth century.

We hope to see you in Newcastle in April or Exeter in June, or maybe, somewhere else before then…