"To the Advantage of the City": Playgoing, Patriotism, and the First Washington Theatres, 1800-1836
Saunders, AnnMarie Thomas
Nathans, Heather S
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In 1803, a group of budding civic leaders in the fledgling capital city of Washington D.C. laid the cornerstone for what they hoped would be the first truly "national" theatre of the United States. Yet their grandiose dreams for a playhouse encountered as many obstacles as the rest of the city in the first decades of its development. My project, "'To the Advantage of the City': Playgoing, Patriotism, and the first Washington Theatres, 1800- 1836," represents the first full-length scholarly study of Washington D.C. theatre during the early national period. In my work, I examine the complex networks of economic and political associations that facilitated the development the district's theatre culture. I map the numerous experiments, the sporadic successes, and the traumatic failures that nearly drove theatre from the nation's capital. I explore the ways in which the presumption that theatre could and would contribute to narratives of American nationalism may have contributed to the failures of the early Washington theatre efforts as well as the determination with which theatre proponents in the District worked to rise above these failures and incorporate theatre into the culture of the capital, and thus the nation.