This panel attempts to delineate the challenging trajectories of early 'modern' South Asian theatres in the 19th century through an emphasis on its origins, development and expansion through the analysis of repertoire, touring companies, public spaces and audience reception.
In the mid nineteenth century, the advent of a burgeoning, educated, South Asian middle-class lead in turn to the creation of a modern indigenous public sphere. This included the emergence of local proscenium-based theatrical forms such as the Parsi and Marathi theatres where native English-educated students, exposed to touring Western theatrical troupes, began to perform translations and adaptations of Shakespeare and Restoration Drama. These theatres therefore constituted as part of larger ideological apparatuses for societal reformation through plays that depicted the evils of child marriages, polygamy and vices such as alcohol and gambling. With the increasing popularization and professionalization of local theatrical troupes and the commencement of touring, historical and mythological episodes were coupled with modern themes facilitating the invention of new modes of worship and forms of social critique. Increasingly mobile actors experienced complex relationships with the audiences that they sought to please, instigating, contributing to and at times appeasing class and communal anxieties. This panel seeks to delineate the conflictual trajectories in the origins, development, diffusion and expansion of early 19th century 'modern' South Asian theatrical institutions through an analysis of repertoire, touring companies and their members, public spaces and audience reception. Tentative panellists include Kedar Kulkarni (Max Planck Institute for Human Development), Sonal Acharya (University of California Berkeley) and Rashna D. Nicholson (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich).