Polish Theatre Revisited: Theatre Fans in the Nineteenth Century, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City 2023. Studies in Theatre History and Culture, editor Heather S. Nathans, design by Ashley Muehlbauer.

Fan culture has longer history than it is often assumed. Discover what it meant to be a fan in the nineteenth century.

A brilliant example of how theatre is not only a national history repository, but of how the conversations across the footlights between actors and audiences can be highly provocative, political, and empathetic concurrently. Łuksza’s vivid descriptions of nineteenth-century Polish theatremania celebrate and apotheosize fan and actor practices in this long overdue, illuminating book. — Caroline Heim, author, Audience as Performer: The Changing Role of Theatre Audiences in the Twenty-first Century

Polish Theatre Revisited explores nineteenth-century Polish theatre through the lens of theatre audiences. I place special emphasis on the most engaged spectators, known as “theatremaniacs” — from what they wore, to what they bought, to what they ate. My source material is elusive ephemera from fans’ lives, such as notes scribbled on a weekly list of shows in the Warsaw theatres, collections of theatre postcards, and recipes for sweets named after famous actors.

The fannish behavior of theatremaniacs was usually deemed excessive or in poor taste by people in positions of power, as it clashed with the ongoing embourgeoisement of the theatre and the disciplining of audiences. Nevertheless, the theatre was one of the key areas where early fan cultures emerged, and theatremaniacs indulged in diverse fan practices in opposition to the forces reforming the theatre and its spectatorship.

(Publisher’s description)

The future of fan studies lies in new historical and cross-cultural scholarship; and here, Łuksza boldly offers both. Through imaginative research, Łuksza excavates hidden elements of nineteenth-century Polish theatre life, shaped by charismatic stars, rival audiences, and resistance politics, establishing Warsaw’s ‘theatremaniacs’ as a definitive example of historical fandom. — Daniel Cavicchi, author, Listening and Longing: Music Lovers in the Age of Barnum

Helena Marcello in a stage costume, a famous Warsaw actress, carte de visite, before 1892, Atelier Karoli & Pusch. National Library in Warsaw: polona.pl

This book dates back to 2016, when at the Fan Studies Network Conference held at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, I first ventured to discuss historical theatre audiences as fans and presented a paper titled Recovering Fandom History: Nineteenth-Century „Actormania” in the Light of Fan Studies.

Polish Theatre Revisited has a twin sister in Polish – Tort Marcello. Kultury fanowskie w teatrze XIX wieku [Tort Marcello: Fan Cultures in the Nineteenth-Century Theatre], published simultaneously by Polish publishing house UNIVERSITAS. You can read more about my research on the history of theatre fandom here.

The National Science Centre, Poland, supported this research under grant number 2017/26/D/HS2/00003, Nineteenth-Century Polish Theatre Audience Revisited: The History of Theatre Spectators from the Perspective of Fan Studies.

In conversation with Philip Rowe