Alex Kirstukas profile

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Alex Kirstukas

Royal Holloway University of London (2023)


Professor Julie Brown


Moving Pictures, Music and Theatrical Exhibition in London, 1914–1930


After many years of reading silent cinema as an evolution away from theatrical practices (Sadoul 1947, Vardac 1949, Salt 1992), film scholarship in recent decades has begun recognizing and celebrating the many ways filmgoing experiences were inherently live and theatrical throughout the silent era (Altman 2004, Mayer 2009, Brown 2013, Waltz 2015, Lowe 2020). Within this emerging theorisation is a need to look further into the backgrounds and methods of the creative professionals, including actors and musicians, who delivered these intermedial experiences. Faced with constantly evolving local government regulations and decisions pertaining to film exhibition, alongside new technologies and differently organized performing spaces, to what extent did such professionals call upon specific practices they had acquired in previous stage work – and how did these adapted practices, in turn, shape and affect the development of the new form?

Unexplored film-related materials at the London Metropolitan Archive are likely to provide extensive witness to how licensing and legislations interacted with the intertwined British lineages of stage work and silent cinema. This PhD project uses these holdings, augmented by additional textual and on-site research, to investigate case studies of British creative workers whose experience straddled theatre and film, applying a practical performance-based perspective to shed new light on how these workers’ theatrical ‘embodied knowledges’ (Johnson 1989) interacted with new regulations, spaces, and technologies. Reading historical theatre practices as ‘pattern languages’ (Alexander 1979) will allow the project to question and complicate existing models of film history with theoretical rigour, with potential to inform both film and theatre studies.

Outcomes of the project will include a dissertation; new assessment and indexing of LMA holdings; academic presentations and publications; public-facing creative outreach, including a demonstrative performance; and, above all and throughout, fresh and detailed recognition of little-known British creative practitioners and their intermedial achievements.