Brisbane theatre during World War I

Ryan, Delyse Joy (2000). Brisbane theatre during World War I PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ryan, Delyse Joy
Thesis Title Brisbane theatre during World War I
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2000
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Veronica Kelly
Total pages 418
Collection year 2001
Language eng
Subjects 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
190404 Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
L
410102 Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
750201 The performing arts (incl. music, theatre and dance)
Formatted abstract Patriotism, romanticism, and escapism were the defining features of live performance in Brisbane during World War I. Flag waving, national anthem singing, and anti-German feelings were prominent characteristics of performances early in the war; the stage offered a space for the demonstration of patriotic sentiments. Melodrama found renewed life at the start of the war as old military plays received new airings and the romantic representation of the military hero pitted against an evil enemy helped to rally the people behind the present war effort. The topicality of such plays, however, could not sustain the interest of audiences for the duration of the war; instead, they fell from favour and were replaced by more light-hearted forms of entertainment. The need for theatre to take on the role of providing diversionary performances, presenting the bright side of life, increased as the war continued. The people of Brisbane turned towards vaudeville and variety style performances as a means of escaping the real life dramas that were affecting the community. The Great War, therefore, is significant in the cultural history of Brisbane because it has become a defining moment in its development; it forced the direction of live performance away fi-om the traditionally popular melodrama towards 'illegitimate' theatre styles. The serious subject matter that could be explored through melodramatic structures lost its appeal as Brisbane's audiences suffered the consequences of the war.

While this study examines theatre in Brisbane firom 1914 to 1918, it is not merely a diachronic study of what was performed when; instead it looks closely at some of the social formants which helped to create and fi-ame the theatrical events of the time. Firstly, theatre's role in the community will be examined to identify ways that the theatre helped to construct social and civic identity as well as ways that it reflected that identity. This thesis will also demonstrate the ways in which theatrical techniques were used outside the theatres as a special response to the war. This includes an exploration of the war's effects on both the social life of Brisbane as well as the theatre that was produced as a direct result of wartime conditions. By concentrating on these themes this study will demonstrate how one urban community interacted with theatre; the connections that will be made between the various social pressures will illustrate that theatre in Brisbane was not driven exclusively by a desire to create art. By analysing what might be considered 'low-brow' art-forms as well as 'high-brow' art-forms, this study will show how society influences the theatre that it produced.
Keyword Theater -- Queensland -- Brisbane -- History.

 
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