The Impresario Project: Tracking the Transnational Trade in Theatrical Commodities examines the period between 1905 and 1910, when a series of theatrical business wars in the United States encouraged the rapid acquisition and circulation of foreign plays, performers, acts, stage properties, and theatrical personnel. Imported from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, these commodities promoted a touristic gaze, offering American audiences the theatrical equivalent of a Grand Tour in the comfort of a Broadway theatre. Yet more than affording a glimpse of exotic cultures or introducing new approaches to acting or scenography, these imports exposed American audiences to, and in some cases directly involved them in, escalating geopolitical tensions. Foreign theatrical commodities not only provoked heated discussion among American audiences about such topics as immigration, public health, and foreign trade but also reflected, and may even have influenced, US foreign policy.
This website represents one of several research sites for this project. Here you will find online exhibits to accompany the five case studies I’m developing as part of a book project, tentatively titled Commodity Stages: Broadway Wars, Foreign Imports, and the Prelude to World War I; biographies for over 50 cultural intermediaries (literary agents, publishers, talent scouts, etc.) who were instrumental in the expansion of the transnational trade in theatrical commodities; a database (under construction) that will allow students and scholars to search for plays entered into copyright in the United States by year and country between 1870 and 1916; a project blog that chronicles the development of the project from its earliest stages to the present; and links to publications that have come out of this project.