Geographies of Performance in New York City
Hillary Miller, Theatre
Faculty Advisor: David Savran
In my dissertation, “The New York Financial Crisis and the Geographies of Performance in New York City, 1972-1982,” I am studying the effects of the 1970s fiscal crisis in New York on “downtown theatre” by calling attention to the influence of the crisis on the places of performance, the perception of neighborhoods as theatre districts, and the phenomenon of government intervention in both of these elements. Governmental actions — whether in conflict or collusion with artists, citizens’ groups, producing organizations, and private business — altered the identities of the city’s neighborhoods during this period. From tax breaks to zoning changes to historical districting strategies, the years of the fiscal crisis birthed a reimagining of Times Square, the East Village, and, ultimately, outer borough areas as well. Using four different neighborhood case studies, this is an inquiry into what models have been tried during periods of economic crisis, and what has had a lasting impact for theatrical production.
Through this project, I am creating interactive maps of the changes to the built environment that impacted the performance activities of the time. By visualizing the geographic displacements that occurred during the time period — both in terms of demographics and the locations of theaters and theater artists — I will explore the ways in which space, place, and cultural policy collided. How have neighborhoods, audiences, and theatres changed as a result, and how have the arts flourished or floundered in these locations? By creating a digital mapping of these neighborhoods, past and present, I can trace what we today take for granted about “downtown” performance in New York to the political, economic, and cultural developments of the 1970s.