The history of the American entertainment industry and the history of the Jewish people in the United States are inextricably intertwined. Jews have provided Broadway and Hollywood with some of their most enduring talent, from writers like Arthur Miller, Wendy Wasserstein, and Tony Kushner; to directors like Jerome Robbins and Woody Allen; to performers like Gertrude Berg, John Garfield, Lenny Bruce, and Barbra Streisand. Conversely, show business has provided Jews with a means of upward mobility, a model for how to "become American," and a source of cultural pride.
Acting Jewish documents this history, looking at the work of Jewish writers, directors, and actors in the American entertainment industry with particular attention to the ways in which these artists offer behavioral models for Jewish-American audiences. The book spans the period from 1947 to the present and takes a close look at some of America's favorite plays (Death of a Salesman, Fiddler on the Roof, Angels in America), films (Gentleman's Agreement, AnnieHall), and television shows (The Goldbergs, Seinfeld), identifying a double-coding by which performers enact, and spectators read, Jewishness in contemporary performance-and, by extension, enact and read other minority identities. The book thus explores and illuminates the ever-changing relationship between Jews and mainstream American culture.
"Fascinating and original . . . Bial's command of sources is impressive, and his concept of 'double-coding' is convincing . . . the book should have no trouble finding a large audience."
-Barbara Grossman, author of Funny Woman: The Life and Times of Fanny Brice
Henry Bial is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Film, University of Kansas. He is editor of the Performance Studies Reader and co-editor of the Brecht Sourcebook.
Once called "America's greatest actress," renowned for the passion and power of her performances, Clara Morris (1847-1925) has been largely forgotten. A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage is the first full-length study of the actress's importance as a feminist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Detailing her daunting health problems and the changing tastes in entertainment that led to her retirement from the stage, Barbara Wallace Grossman explores Morris's dramatic reinvention as an author. During a second robust career, she published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and nine books—six works of fiction and three memoirs.
Grossman draws on the fifty-four-volume diary that Morris kept from 1868 until 1924, as well as on the manuscript fragments and notes of journalist George T. MacAdam, who died in 1929 before completing the actress's biography. Grossman provides a dramatic account of Morris's life and work from her troubled early years, through an unhappy marriage, morphine addiction, and invalidism, to the challenges of touring, the decline of her artistic reputation, and the demands of the writing career she pursued so tenaciously. A Spectacle of Suffering reveals how Morris, even after experiencing blindness and the loss of her home, livelihood, and family, did not succumb to despair and found comfort in the small pleasures of her circumscribed life.
A Spectacle of Suffering recovers an important figure in American theatre and ensures that Morris will be remembered not simply as an actress but as a respected writer and beloved public figure, admired for her courage in dealing with adversity. The book, which is enhanced by twenty-four illustrations, is the only published biography of Clara Morris. It is as much a tribute to the power of the human spirit as it is an effective means of exploring American theatre and society in the Gilded Age.
Theaters of the Everyday: Aesthetic Democracy on the American Stage reveals a vital but little-recognized current in American theatrical history: the dramatic representation of the quotidian and mundane. Jacob Gallagher-Ross shows how twentieth-century American theater became a space for negotiating the demands of innovative form and democratic availability.
Offering both fresh reappraisals of canonical figures and movements and new examinations of theatrical innovators, Theaters of the Everyday reveals surprising affinities between artists often considered poles apart, such as John Cage and Lee Strasberg, and Thornton Wilder and the New York experimentalist Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Gallagher-Ross persuasively shows how these creators eschew conventional definitions of dramatic action and focus attention on smaller but no less profound dramas of perception, consciousness, and day-to-day life.
Gallagher-Ross traces some of the intellectual roots of the theater of the everyday to American transcendentalism, with its pragmatic process philosophy as well as its sense of ordinary experience as the wellspring of aesthetic awareness.
Once a wildly popular form of Spanish entertainment, the zarzuela boasts a long history of bridging classical and popular art. Yet its contradictions make it a theatrical chameleon. Neither opera nor serious drama, the staging still requires trained singers and good actors. Neither purely folkloric nor high art, the music is too popular for some and too classical for others.
Janet L. Sturman traces the zarzuela's colorful history from its origins as a Spanish court entertainment to Cuba's pivotal role in transmitting it to Latin America and the Caribbean. Ranging from Argentina, Mexico, and Puerto Rico to El Paso, Miami, and New York, Sturman draws distinctions among the ways various Spanish-speaking communities have reformulated zarzuela by combining the traditional model with local characters, music, dances, and politics. She also explores two theaters in New York, Repertorio Español and the Thalia Spanish Theatre, that have fostered the zarzuela by mounting innovative productions that cultivate both audiences and a network of donors.
Vivid and revealing, Zarzuela recognizes the enduring cultural and social relevance of a genre at once resilient, adaptable, and temptingly elusive.