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Cross-over Artists:
The international careers of early twentieth-century theatre
artists between stage, microphone and camera
A symposium on Cross-over Artists, supported by the HRC and HRF was held at the School of
Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies, Millburn House, University of Warwick, on
23-24 July 2014. This was an investigation emerging from, and extending the focus of, a
Leverhulme-funded Research Project British-Australian Cultural Exchange: Live Performance
1880-1960. The focus of our meeting was on the international mobility of individuals,
performing groups and designers, whose careers also shift between theatrical and other
media. Theatrical workers born after the 1880s were historically unique. During the halfcentury 1900-1950 their skills – whether as performers, composers, musicians,
choreographers, scenic and costume artists, directors or lighting designers – were often
called upon to support the new technologies of the mass media: sound recording, cinema
and radio. With their vastly increased potential to reach international audiences, technology
and mass communications now conveyed into every corner of the globe the voices, sounds,
images or bodies of individuals trained in widely differing traditions, and of national origins
possibly far removed from those of their global audiences.
Papers were pre-circulated to allow for fuller discussion at the symposium, which attracted
delegates from the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany and from a range of disciplines
including theatre studies, art history and social history. The symposium opened with a
discussion of ‘Public Broadcasting and International Mobility: Britain and the
Commonwealth, c. 1922-1970’ led by Simon J. Potter , author of Broadcasting Empire: The
BBC and the British World 1922-70. Among other topics focussed on were the singer Peter
Dawson, Noel Coward’s mission to Australia in 1940, theatrical agent Richard Pitrot (18521929), Australian pantomime in the early twentieth century, Robert Helpmann’s
contribution to ballet and theatre in both Britain and Australia, and the depiction of
Australian and Irish landscapes on the early twentieth- century stage. A round table
discussion of issues raised during the symposium closed the proceedings
The symposium created sufficient interest to generate what we hope will be an edited
collection of essays on the topic of cross-over artists, which will be a significant addition to
the original Leverhulme-funded project. (Leverhulme grants do not fund conferences or
Jim Davis