MORE ON MONEY: RESEARCHING THEATRE

I invite to my Contemporary British Theatre class Prof. Mireia Aragay and Prof. Enric Monforte of the University of Barcelona, two of the best Spanish specialists in the field and co-authors of the excellent collection of interviews with directors, playwrights, critics and academics, British Theatre of the 1990s (Palgrave, 2007) I interview them with interventions from my students (a format I’d certainly recommend) and they draw a very vivid panorama of what’s happening on the London stage right now. I’m amazed at how important money becomes in our discussion.

First, the matter of their book (the other co-authors are Pilar Zozaya and Hidegard Klein, by the way). It’s a great volume and I wish all my students could read it. This is unlikely, though, as it costs 72.62 euros (well, 55.99 at the usual lower cost place). The students will have to share the copy I’ve bought for the library –one of the few overpriced purchases I mentioned in my previous post. Mireia and Enric explain to me that publishing houses are reluctant to issue paperback editions of academic books unless they can be widely used as textbooks. They’re aware of how the high price limits the impact of their book but there’s nothing they can do. This, as you can see, connects with my comments on the previous entry on that expensive sociology book I didn’t buy.

Money also comes up next on two other accounts: one of my students asks insistently about the price of theatre tickets in London, as Mireia and Enric explain that there theatres are full every evening. We’d already had a conversation in class about how theatre is only relatively expensive: prices run from 8 to 70 euros (for a musical), which means that at the lower end, theatre prices rise slightly above cinema’s, whereas on average a ticket costs the price of inexpensive dinner (20-30 euros). I remind my students that rock concerts and, indeed, football matches are far more expensive but, somehow, the idea that theatre is expensive sticks.

Then, there’s the problem of research costs –here we go again. Mireia brings an impressive bunch of programmes from the plays she’s seen recently in London. It’s quite clear to everyone that a committed theatre specialist cannot be simply satisfied with the texts and that what is worth researching is, as Mireia underlines, the ‘cultural experience’ that the staging of a play constitutes. Ideally, this means travelling to Britain as often as possible. She and Enric quickly explain that they’re now making the most of their research project money but that, otherwise, their research travelling is necessarily limited. Mireia also points out that you might be in London for an expensive week and miss for just one day a very relevant play…

All this might explain why, as they told me, the research project they run, ‘Contemporary British Theatre – Barcelona,’ (https://161.116.168.92/cbt_joomla/index.php) seems to be the only one of its kind in Spain. Shakespeare, of course, is, from this point of view, easier to research, as one may focus on the texts, the films and ignore, depending on the budget, how he fares on the British stage. Some irony…

1 thought on “MORE ON MONEY: RESEARCHING THEATRE

  1. I’m so glad you invited them to class — it was such an interesting chat!

    And, definitely, money makes the world go round, or, at least, the academic world, which I find quite sad — I’m sure there are plenty of talented people who cannot contribute to the academic world because they lack the money to invest on their research. And our government is not willing to help, and even less if we are talking about the humanities field… I can’t help but feel a mixture of sadness, rage and powerlessness. Yet, this is what we are left with.

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