Nightclub and Opera House

This month I gave a lecture on The Nightclub and the Opera House: International Touring and Entrepreneurial Diplomacy in the Asia Pacific Region at the University of Queensland.

Here is a summary of what I discussed. You can listen to a recording online if you like.

Between the 1950s and the 1970s, governments across Asia and the Pacific invested in the construction of civic theatres. Built to showcase the artistic achievements and cultural traditions of city-states and nations, these theatres also provided platforms for international exchange. Across the region, they include the Hong Kong City Hall (1962), the National Theatre in Singapore (1963), the National Theatre in Tokyo (1966), the Cultural Centre of the Philippines in Manila (1969) and the Sydney Opera House (1973).

How was the promotion of national distinction in government-constructed theatres related to the regional network of international touring? In this lecture, I trace unexpected continuities in architectural design, entrepreneurial endeavour and arts programming between government-built theatres and commercial nightclubs associated with the development of international hotels. These so-called ‘super nightclubs’ – including the New Latin Quarter in Tokyo (1959), the Chevron Hotel in Sydney (1960), the Hoover theatre restaurant in Taipei (1966), and the Tropicana (1968) in Singapore – form the commercial counterpart of government-built theatres across the region.

Comparing simultaneous developments in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila and Taipei, I argue that, whatever their architectural distinction, the region’s ‘national’ theatres continued a series of functionally equivalent containers for touring that the nightclubs on commercial circuits had introduced.

白井晟一 Shirai Seiichi, 朝日新聞, 1958年11月22日

This lecture draws on research from chapter 7 in Touring Variety. It forms part of Feeble or Forceful?, a series reappraising the 1950s in Australian performance, hosted by Dr Chris Hay at the UQ Centre for Critical and Creative Writing. I am looking forward to the upcoming lectures in the series.