In remembrance of IFTR founding member, Eric Alexander: 1932-2018.
26 November, 2018 by Chris Collins | 0 comments
Eric Alexander (1932 – 2018)
As earlier announced, the former Secretary General of IFTR Eric Alexander died on 2 November 2018. This news has saddened the members of IFTR, especially those who were part of the Federation in the earlier period of its development. The undersigned of this obituary have known him since the 1970s.
Eric Alexander studied Classical Greek and Latin at the University of Leiden, enabling him to enter any branch of the humanities. His choice was theatre history, and in 1965 he became a conservator at the Dutch Toneelmuseum (later the Dutch Theatre Institute). He not only became this Institute’s director, but he coordinated no fewer than 89 exhibitions on Dutch and international theatre history during the two decades he was in charge of the museum’s collection. These exhibitions covered all genres of theatre history including puppet theatre, cabaret, dance and juggling. After 1984, when he left the museum, he became lecturer at the Reinwardt Academy, teaching museology to future curators.
In 1977 he published a Dutch volume on The 19th century: Theatre in the Netherlands, and from 1977 to 1985 he edited the journal Scenarium – a journal for academic research in theatre history. His special interest was scenography, and as early as 1968 he organized an exhibition of the celebrated Czech scenographer Josef Svoboda, who created the IFTR image of converging perspectives that still graces the imprint of the Federation. Erik Alexander’s passion for scenography was also reflected in his involvement in the Prague Quadrennial, the biggest event in the area of theatre architecture and stage design, where he served as a member of the international jury between 1975 and 1995.
Eric Alexander’s interest in the International Federation for Theatre Research dates back to 1977, when he, together with Liliana Alexandrescu, created the FIRT/IFTR-SIBMAS Bulletin, a joint publication of the theatre researchers’ federation and the international association of theatre museums, SIBMAS. In this bulletin in English and French, which appeared three times per year until 2002, members could learn about publications, conferences and upcoming events, long before such information was available on the internet. The Bulletin reflects Eric Alexander’s profound engagement with all aspects of international theatre research. It was therefore no wonder that he took upon himself the responsibilities of a Secretary General of IFTR in the years 1982 – 1989.
His loyal services to IFTR included a critical view of the Federation’s old-fashioned constitution, which reflected the cold-war period of the 1950s. He became a prolific supporter of the 1990s changes to the constitution, which transformed IFTR into a democratic and truly international organisation. Although by then no longer the Federation’s Secretary, he was instrumental in IFTR’s transition to a modern NGO-organisation under the auspices of UNESCO. For his many contributions he was named an honorary member of both SIBMAS and IFTR.
During the IFTR congress in Moscow in 1994, Eric Alexander initiated the Working Group on Scenography, an effort which was highly praised by Christine White in her preface to the group’s book Directors and Designers (2009). After his retirement he co-edited the volume Theaters in Nederland sinds de zeventiende eeuw (Dutch theatre since the 17th century, 2007), and together with Nico van der Krogt he published Openluchttheaters in Nederland (Openair theatres in the Netherlands, 2011).
With Eric Alexander, the International Federation for Theatre Studies misses one of its devoted honorary members, who has served the Federation over decades, always having the best of international research in mind, tirelessly informing on central and marginal events and books, never asking for remuneration, always present as long as the circumstances permitted, honouring past members as well as promoting the younger generations. In all these ways, he personally embodied the profound ideas of an International Federation for Theatre Research.