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Trafficking in National Brands: Notes on the Political Economy of Theatre

a Lecture by David Savran 

Distinguished Professor of Theatre
Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theatre
The Graduate Center
The City University of New York

Moderation: Prof. Dr. Christopher Balme, Director of Theater Studies, LMU

Although the producers of popular culture have long endeavored to brand their products, opera companies, museums, orchestras, and theatres around the world have spent millions since the 1990s retaining marketing firms to help them carve out distinctive niches. So when the Broadway League branded itself with the registered trademark “Live Broadway” in 1997, it was marching lockstep with the times. The League understands that Broadway may denote a 15-mile long street running the length of Manhattan and the Bronx, but since the nineteenth century, it has been shorthand for the commercial theatre industry in New York City and half the moniker, Broadway musical, which for theatregoers the world over epitomizes the most distinctively American brand of live entertainment. Most important, the League branded itself at a moment when neoliberal globalization was at once reinforcing and compromising the identity of Broadway as a uniquely American resource. The increasing clout of transnational entertainment conglomerates and the development of Broadway musical-like product in many parts of the world have meant that the one form of theatre that has emblematized the U.S. is becoming increasingly stateless. And this very real thoroughfare has now become a fantasmatic origin and terminus in the global culture industry, the way that Vienna a hundred years ago became inextricably associated with mitteleuropäische Eleganz, Gemütlichkeit, and three-quarter time. By studying the production of musicals in Germany and Korea, I argue that in the twenty-first century, what theatregoers call a Broadway musical no longer need originate or even play in the U.S. to be so labeled.

 

Venue: Theaterwissenschaft München, Georgenstr. 11, Room 009

31. of July 2013, 6-8 pm, in the context of ProArt Summer School 2013