Project Title: The Development of Resident Professional Theatre in the USA, 1913-2013: A Geographic Perspective
Student: Luke Steffen ’16
Mentor: Dr. Bonnie Gardner
In this project, I set out to create maps showing the resident professional theatre companies in the United States in twenty year intervals, beginning with 1913, with a map for 1933, 1953, 1973, 1993, and 2013. 1913 was chosen as the start year because it is the year when the Actor’s Equity Association, the only union for stage actors in the United States, was founded. The maps show every 20 years because I thought this technique would be a good way of displaying a century of theatrical change in a way that was thorough enough to show trends but not too detailed. I was interested to see if this will help us discover new perspectives or clarify our understanding of the significance of the increase in resident professional theatres geographically. With this project, I proposed to find out if this growth had any specific spatial pattern that is significant. I found that before 1993, professional theatres were mostly centered around large population centers, although there were exceptions to this rule. Sometimes, charismatic leaders were able to establish theatres in areas without large populations. In addition to showing important historical trends, this project also demonstrates the limits of cartography in its ability to represent a complex development over a large spatial area and a long time.