Modern Theatres 1950 – 2020: an idea for a book

As with many ideas, the concept for Modern Theatres developed out of a good lunch – more specifically, a lunch between David Staples and Robin Townley, the Chief Executive of the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT). We were discussing the forthcoming International Theatre Engineering & Architecture Conference (ITEAC2018) and the possibility of encouraging potential speakers to focus on specific topics and theatres, to tie in with the conference theme, ‘Places for Performance: New Directions’. 

Modern Theatres has since grown into an international collaboration involving over 40 people from 14 countries. I am exceptionally grateful to all those who have been involved with and contributed their time and expertise to this unique and exciting initiative.

The overall goal is to share knowledge of theatres, concert halls, opera houses and their technologies completed between 1950 and 2020.

Collaborators agreed to research subjects for presentation at the conference, which would also have the potential to evolve into articles for magazines and eventually to be published as chapters within a major new book.

International Theatre Engineering and Architecture Conference (ITEAC2018)

ITEAC is a series of meetings held at four yearly intervals. The fifth conference was held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in June 2018. Over 350 delegates attended, from 36 countries. The Modern Theatres research and analysis was used to inform many of the conference sessions.


Three journals have been hugely supportive of Modern Theatres and published articles by collaborators as they became available, from 2015 to 2021 – over 30 articles have now appeared in English, German and American publications:

  • Bühnentechnische Rundschau (BTR) is the journal of Deutsche Theatertechnische Gesellschaft e.v. (DTHG) the German Association devoted to theatre, its technicians, and technologies. DTHG was founded in 1907.
  • Sightline is the journal of the Association of British Theatre Technicians and carries articles about theatre technologies, theatre buildings, safety, and other significant issues.
  • Theatre Design & Technology Journal (TD&T) has been published quarterly for more than 50 years by the United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT), an organization that promotes dialogue, research, and learning among practitioners of theatre design and technology.

Modern Theatres 1950 to 2020

The research, analysis and articles generated by the Modern Theatres initiative have now been brought together in a 586-page book, with 385 colour photographs and 66 drawings, published by Routledge in April 2021.

David Staples
March 2021