Parlour Conflagrations: Science and Special Effects in Amateur Theatricals Guidebooks

Eileen Curley


The article analyzes the special effects advice contained in nineteenth-century guidebooks for amateur theatricals. Most of the guidebooks include instructions for potentially explosive effects while simultaneously steering amateurs away from technologically complex productions. The article thus analyzes the guidebooks within commercial theatrical and popular science publishing traditions, arguing that the technological advice is included to appeal to a broader popular science readership as well as theatre patrons who are interested in the technology of the stage.

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303