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Academie/musee/theatre BOURASSA ANDRE G



Bonjour!
Un message qui nous a été adressé s'interrogeait sur l'origine des
rapports entre musées et théâtres. Je reviendrai sur le concept
contemporain, mais le rapport académie/musée/théâtre est très ancien.
Une liste de discussion américaine a été le lieu d'un débat, en novembre
1997, à l'occasion de la restauration d'une "Académie", avec la
collaboration de Kate  Gray, qui annonçait qu'on y prévoyait un musée du
théâtre. Les académies de l'époque étaient en principe des lieux de
diffusion des sciences et des arts, comprenant souvent des salles de
lecture et d'enseignement et des musées, mais, en pratique, c'étaient
surtout des salles de spectacles, que les milieux puritains acceptaient
mieux sous sous le nom d'académie.
Ceci pour vous dire que le rapport académie/musée/théâtre est une pratique
ancienne en Amérique.  Je vous transborde un des messages, en espérant que
vous lisez l'anglais. 
Cordialement, André G. Bourassa.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 7 Nov 1997 10:15:52 -0500 (EST)
From: BOURASSA ANDRE G <r10005@er.uqam.ca>
Subject: Re: Academy of Music Theatre, Lynchburg VA

The oldest use of "Academy" as pretext for a theatre in North America is
the one of Alexandre Quesnay de Beaurepaire, who came to fight for the
United States in April 1777. He was the  grand'son of the king Louis's
surgeon and fomrer Gendarme de la Garde du Roi. He is known to have
money for a branch in the U.S.A. of the French Academy (arts and science)
with the help of Condorcet and Lavoisier in France, as well as Jefferson
and Lafayette, and even the king of France. Yhe Academy fficially opened
22 oct. 1782, but the add in _Pennsylvania Journal_ (30 oct. 1782, p. 4)
says "The Dancing Schools are kept in the lower room of the Freemason's
Lodge" and "The Languages and Drawing Schools shall be continued at the
Director's Lodging, as formerly", which implies that section might be one
year older or more than the Fencing School, which "will be kept by Mr.
Ouvartelle, lately Provost of the Academy".
Difficulties of Beaurepaire with the Philadelphia authorities to have a
theatre for the Academy inciteded him to move the Academy to Richmond,
Virginia in 1785, and you will find information on Richmond Academy in
Brooks McNamara, _The American Playhouse in the Eignteen Century (H.U.P.,
1969, p. 76-79). He presented a _Memoire_ in 1788 in order to raise money
in France, but the French Revolution in 1789 slowed down his project. 
You will find a lot of information the Academy at the Historical Society
of Richmond, in the Waddell files, including a lettre of Quesnay de
Beauvoir to his brother Quesnay de Beaurepaire winh leaves no doubt on the
real intentions of the latter: "Je ne saurais vous dissimuler que quelque
riante que soit la peinture que vous en faites, quelqu'apparence que vous
cherchiez a donner a votre etablissement, nous n'y voyons rien de plus
honorable qu'une entreprise de spectacle, a laquelle vous donnez le nom
d'Ecole Nationale, tandis que cela ne nous apparait autre chose que
l'asile et le foyer d'une troupe de musiciens et de danseuses de tous les
pays, faits pour devenir la risee d'un peuple grave et sage [...]"
Versailles, 1er sept. 1785).
American historians of education wrote a lot on Richmond Academy as one
the first ideas of a university in the United States. Indeed it was more
than a theatre, but the first aim of the first enterprise, in
Philadelphia, seems to have been theatre and dance. As McNamara wisely
points it p. 76: 
"In 1782 he had arrived in Philadelphia and opened the "Academy of Polite
Science" after being refused the right to produce a French comedy and an
English farce in the city. It is evident that the Academy was nothing more
than a device designed to skirt Philadelphia's theatrical prohibition".
The Academy at Richmond seems to have been a more complex enterprise,
even if Quenay's brother didn't beleive in it.
Cordialement, Andre G. Bourassa.

On Tue, 28 Oct 1997, Kate Gray wrote:

> I am working on the restoration of an American Academy of Music theatre built
> in 1905 in what was a small town in Virginia (Lynchburg).  It is a beaux arts
> gem and when restored will be again  a fully functioning theatre with a
> museum of American theatre and performance in its lower level---we plan major
> exhibits on African American performance and women in performance in addition
> to an installation on Academies of Music in the history of American theatre.
>  Does this interest anyone?
> 
> Kate Gray
>