Daily Life at the Playhouse: Celebrating Molière and the “Maison de Molière” – call for articles

5 November 2019

DAILY LIFE AT THE PLAYHOUSECelebrating Molière and the “Maison de Molière”

Sabine Chaouche and Jan Clarke (Eds.)

In 1680, Louis XIV made an important decision. A new playhouse was to be created through the merging of the troupes of the Hôtel de Bourgogne created in the first part of the century, and the ‘Troupe du Roi’ – including, after Molière’s death, most of his players and those from the Théâtre du Marais. The new playhouse would later be known as the ‘Maison de Molière’ (Molière’s playhouse), as a celebration of the famous playwright’s comic genius.Molière’s outstanding talent as a playwright, actor, and stage-director has often been praised over the centuries and analyzed in literary studies. However, his work as a director of a company, and the context in which Parisian theatre businesses throve in the seventeenth century and eighteenth century has been overlooked. More generally, daily life has been left out as it involves a social and economic historical approach, with a focus on the history of business and consumption, and material culture.From the seventeenth century onwards, playhouses and court entertainments had already sophisticated logistics and complex organizations. Companies dealt mainly with artists, local suppliers, and managed multiple employees. They often faced tight schedules in terms of rehearsals and stage production.Playhouses impacted the area in which they were located. They were a unique platform for business operations. Entertainments became the hub of Parisian life, Versailles and Fontainebleau, and economic activity during the period. They were intrinsically linked to the rise of consumerism by selling cultural products to audiences, and other goods such as drinks or books. The most important theatrical institutions had seemingly some characteristics of contemporary cultural enterprises that have merchandising products.Although it is usually accepted that most studies have a Paris-centric take, few works have actually examined the economic and daily operating side of Parisian playhouses or court entertainments. Our objective is to examine the interface between the companies, their suppliers and audiences, and to give new insight into the ‘pre-theatre industry’ period and the consumer ‘revolution’ (McKendrick, Brewer and Plumb, 1982).

We seek contributions that focus on the different Parisian companies’ organization and the running of playhouses, and that link the history of theatre to a broader social and economic context, such as the districts in which playhouses were located (transportation, street life, and taxes). We seek also to gather contributions able to give a glimpse into the theatre employees’ ordinary life, through their experiences, skills, and work, and to reveal how they participated in the burgeoning theatrical life that marked Molière’s time and later the eighteenth century when competition between rival companies and institutions peaked. Finally, we are interested in the way Parisian playhouses were managed as cultural enterprises and how companies developed a network of suppliers.This volume will look at the macro-environment—that is the social, political, cultural and economic context linked to the daily life of playhouses or companies—and the micro-environment of the business of theatres—that is the economy and organization of the playhouses in terms of staffing, directors, and boards; the costs involved in the running of shows and daily life within theatres; the tradesmen who supplied the playhouses.

We invite historians of theatre, social and economic historians, and historians of material culture, historians of consumption or of the history of Paris, Versailles or Fontainebleau to examine the following themes:

  • The living environment: daily life in the districts or streets surrounding the playhouse (or the towns where court entertainments were organized); the premises and location; the actors’ accommodation.
  • The running of a playhouse or a company; daily organization and changes; schedules, tasks, and committees.
  • Financial operations.
  • The interior of the theatre, its design, and the services or facilities which were provided.
  • Logistics, travels, modes of transportation, warehouses, the material used, etc.
  • Marketing and promotional material and campaigns; strategies and innovations to attract audiences.
  • Trade and business operations: major or minor suppliers, supplies and services (goods for the stage, but also anything relating to the off-stage or day-to-day running of the playhouse); shops near the playhouses or court entertainment spaces; deliveries; the relationships between companies and tradesmen.
  • Merchandizing and goods that became fashionable or were sold in playhouses.
  • Employees and family networks; spectators having close relationships with companies.
  • Actors’ or employees’ standard of living and consumption; estates; actors’ or employees’ pastimes and hobbies.

You should send your proposal in French or English (250 to 300 words) with a short bio-bibliography (1-page maximum) by 30th January 2020 to both Professor Sabine Chaouche (sabinec@sunway.edu.my) and Professor Jan Clarke (jan.clarke@durham.ac.uk).