The first two paragraphs from my forthcoming Master's Thesis:
"The story is a familiar one: a city of a certain size decides it wants to increase the cultural offerings available for its residents. The city’s appointed leaders, or perhaps its unappointed ones, the businessmen or philanthropically-minded independently wealthy, look at the neighboring city, and the flow of people and money into and out of the beautiful new theater located there, and decide they should build one too. Capital is raised, land is acquired, and up goes a towering cultural institution, featuring the finest in touring performers and appealing to the patricians and the bourgeoisie.
“For tens of thousands of urban theatergoers these local playhouses would become their most immediate--and for some their only--point of reference for experiencing French theater” (Clay 770). In the mid to late 1700s, France experienced just such a theater building explosion. By the end of the century, over seventy French cities “had inaugurated at least one new playhouse” (738). Traveling shows flowed from one end of the country to the other (767). The new merchant middle class could enjoy the cultural cachet of attending the theater: “provincial audiences, too, could imagine that they were part of a national cultural community” (769)."