The forty years from 1880 to 1920 marked the golden age of the American theatre as a national institution, a time when actors moved from being players outside the boundaries of respectable society to being significant figures in the social landscape. As the only book that provides an overview of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theatre,Actors and American Culture is also the only study of the legitimate stage that overtly attempts to connect actors and their work to the wider aspects of American life.
Charity has been a pervasive and influential concept in American culture, and has also served an important ideological purpose, helping people articulate their sense of individual and national identity. But what, exactly, compels our benevolence? In a social moment when countless worthy causes and deserving groups clamor for attention, it is worth examining how our culture generates the exchange of sympathy commonly experienced as “charity.” Acts of Conspicuous Compassion investigates the historical and continuing relationship between performance culture and the cultivation of charitable sentiment, exploring the distinctive practices that have evolved to make the plea for charity legible and compelling. From the work of 19th-century melodramas to the televised drama of transformation and redemption in reality TV’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the book charts the sophisticated strategies that various charity movements have employed to make organized benevolence seem attractive, exciting, and seemingly uncomplicated.
Sheila C. Moeschen sheds new light on the legacy and involvement of disabled people within charity—specifically, the articulation of performance culture as a vital theoretical framework for discussing issues of embodiment and identity, a framework that dislodges previously held notions of the disabled existing as passive “objects” of pity. This work gives rise to a more complicated and nuanced discussion of the participation of the disabled community in the charity industry, of the opportunities afforded by performance culture for disabled people to act as critical agents of charity, and of the new ethical and political issues that arise from employing performance methodology in a culture with increased appetites for voyeurism, display, and complex spectacle.
Aesthetic Citizenship is an ethnographic study of the role of theatrical performance in questions regarding immigration, citizenship, and the formation of national identity. Focusing on Paris in the twenty-first century, Emine Fisek analyzes the use of theater by immigrant-rights organizations there and examines the relationship between aesthetic practices and the political personhoods they negotiate.
From neighborhood associations and humanitarian alliances to arts organizations both large and small, Fisek traces how theater has emerged as a practice with the perceived capacity to address questions regarding immigrant rights, integration, and experience. In Aesthetic Citizenship, she explores how the stage, one of France’s most evocative cultural spaces, has come to play a role in contemporary questions about immigration, citizenship and national identity. Yet Fisek’s insightful research also illuminates Paris’s broader historical, political, and cultural through-lines that continue to shape the relationship between theater and migration in France.
By focusing on how French public discourses on immigration are not only rendered meaningful but also inhabited and modified in the context of activist and arts practice, Aesthetic Citizenship seeks to answer the fundamental question: is theater a representational act or can it also be a transformative one?
In the dark of the blackout before the curtain rises, the theater holds its many worlds suspended on the verge of appearance. How can a performance sustain this sense of potentiality that grounds all live production? Or if a stage-world does begin, what kinds of future might appear within its frame? Conceiving of the theater as a cultural institution devoted to experimenting with the future, this book begins and ends on the dramatic stage; in between it traverses literature, dance, sculpture, and performance art to explore the various futures we make in a live event.
After Live conceives of traditional dramatic theater as a place for taming the future and then conceptualizes how performance beyond this paradigm might stage the unruly nature of futurity. Chapters offer insights into the plays of Beckett, Churchill, Eno, and Gombrowicz, devised theater practices, and include an extended exploration of the Italian director Romeo Castellucci. Through the lens of potentiality, other chapters present novel approaches to minimalist sculpture and dance, then reflect on how the beholder him or herself is called upon to perform when confronted by such work.
From the earliest Puritan displays of piety and rectitude to the present-day epidemic of staged school massacres, the history of America has been characterized by a dual impulse: to cast public event and character as high drama, and to dismiss theater and theatricalization as un-American, even evil. This book rethinks American history as theater, and theater as the ethos and substance of American life, ironically repudiated at every turn by the culture it produces.
Beginning with the writings of John Winthrop and others, through the Federalist and "romantic" stages of American cultural life, and into the modern and contemporary periods, Anthony Kubiak finds an America not usually discovered by traditional or materialist approaches to history. He deploys the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, the cultural theory of SlavojZizek, and the performance theory of Herbert Blau in an unparalleled reappraisal of dominant American identity, culture, and history.
Anthony Kubiak is Associate Professor of English, University of South Florida. He is also author of Stages of Terror: Terrorism, Ideology, and Coercion as Theatre History.
Examines the strengths and weaknesses of both the dramatic and cinematic arts
Is theater really dead? Does the theater, as its champions insist, really provide a more intimate experience than film? If so, how have changes in cinematic techniques and technologies altered the relationship between stage and film? What are the inherent limitations of representing three-dimensional spaces in a two-dimensional one, and vice versa?
American Drama in the Age of Film examines the strengths and weaknesses of both the dramatic and cinematic arts to confront the standard arguments in the film-versus-theater debate. Using widely known adaptations of ten major plays, Brietzke seeks to highlight the inherent powers of each medium and draw conclusions not just about how they differ, but how they ought to differ as well. He contrasts both stage and film productions of, among other works, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Sam Shepard’s True West, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Margaret Edson’s Wit, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. In reading the dual productions of these works, Brietzke finds that cinema has indeed stolen much of theater’s former thunder, by making drama more intimate, and visceral than most live events.
But theater is still vital and matters greatly, Brietzke argues, though for reasons that run counter to many of the virtues traditionally attributed to it as an art form, such as intimacy and spontaneity. Brietzke seeks to revitalize perceptions of theater by challenging those common pieties and offering a new critical paradigm, one that champions spectacle and simultaneity as the most, not least, important elements of drama.
Jonathan Shandell provides the first in-depth study of the historic American Negro Theatre (ANT) and its lasting influence on American popular culture. Founded in 1940 in Harlem, the ANT successfully balanced expressions of African American consciousness with efforts to gain white support for the burgeoning civil rights movement. The theatre company featured innovative productions with emerging artists—Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and many others—who would become giants of stage, film, and television. In 1944, the ANT made theatrical history by creating the smash hit Anna Lucasta, the most popular play with an African American cast ever to perform on Broadway. Starting from a shoestring budget, the ANT grew into one of the most important companies in the history of African American theatre. Though the group folded in 1949, it continued to shape American popular culture through the creative work of its many talented artists.
Examining oral histories, playbills, scripts, production stills, and journalistic accounts, Shandell gives us the most complete picture to date of the theatre company by analyzing well-known productions alongside groundbreaking and now-forgotten efforts. Shedding light on this often-overlooked chapter of African American history, which fell between the New Negro Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, Shandell reveals how the ANT became a valued community institution for Harlem—an important platform for African American artists to speak to racial issues—and a trailblazer in promoting integration and interracial artistic collaboration in the U.S. In doing so, Shandell also demonstrates how a small amateur ensemble of the 1940s succeeded in challenging, expanding, and transforming how African Americans were portrayed in the ensuing decades. The result is a fascinating and entertaining examination that will be of interest to scholars and students of African American and American studies and theatre history, as well as popular culture enthusiasts.
Edited by Sandra Umathum and Benjamin Wihstutz Diaphanes, 2015 Library of Congress PN1590.H36D57 2015
Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater, a dance piece featuring eleven actors with cognitive disabilities from Zurich’s Theater Hora, has polarized audiences worldwide. Some have celebrated the performance as an outstanding exploration of presence and representation; others have criticized it as a contemporary freak show. This impassioned reception provokes important questions about the role of people with cognitive disabilities within theater and dance—and within society writ large. Using Disabled Theater as the basis for a broad, interdisciplinary discussion of performance and disability, this volume explores the intersections of politics and aesthetics, inclusion and exclusion, and identity and empowerment. Can the stage serve as a place of emancipation for people with disabilities? To what extent are performers with disabilities able to challenge and subvert the rules of society? What would a performance look like without an ideology of ability? The book includes contributions by Jérôme Bel, Kai van Eikels, Kati Kroß, André Lepecki, Lars Nowak, Yvonne Rainer, Gerald Siegmund, Yvonne Schmidt, Sandra Umathum, Scott Wallin, Benjamin Wihstutz, and the actors of Theater Hora.
Nearly all residents of England and its colonies between 1860 and 1914 were active theatergoers, and many participated in the amateur theatricals that defined late Victorian life. The Victorian theater was not an abstract figuration of the world as a stage, but a media system enmeshed in mass lived experience that fulfilled in actuality the concept of a theatergoing nation. Everyone’s Theater turns to local history, the words of everyday Victorians found in their diaries and production records, to recover this lost chapter of theater history in which amateur drama domesticates the stage. Professional actors and playwrights struggled to make their productions compatible with ideas and techniques that could be safely reproduced in the home—and in amateur performances from Canada to India. This became the first true English national theater: a society whose myriad classes found common ground in theatrical display. Everyone’s Theater provides new ways to extend Victorian literature into the dimension of voice, sound, and embodiment, and to appreciate the pleasures of Victorian theatricality.
In the first half of the twentieth century, a number of American theatres and theatre artists fostered interracial collaboration and socialization on stage, behind the scenes, and among audiences. In an era marked by entrenched racial segregation and inequality, these artists used performance to bridge America’s persistent racial divide and to bring African American, Latino/Latina, Asian American, Native American, and Jewish American communities and traditions into the nation’s broader cultural conversation.
In Experiments in Democracy, edited by Cheryl Black and Jonathan Shandell, theatre historians examine a wide range of performances—from Broadway, folk plays and dance productions to scripted political rallies and radio dramas. Contributors look at such diverse groups as the Theatre Union, La Unión Martí-Maceo, and the American Negro Theatre, as well as individual playwrights and their works, including Theodore Browne’s folk opera Natural Man, Josefina Niggli’s Soldadera, and playwright Lynn Riggs’s Cherokee Night and Green Grow the Lilacs (the basis for the musical Oklahoma!). Exploring the ways progressive artists sought to connect isolated racial and cultural groups in pursuit of a more just and democratic society, contributors take into account the blind spots, compromised methods, and unacknowledged biases at play in their practices and strategies. Essays demonstrate how the gap between the ideal of American democracy and its practice—mired in entrenched systems of white privilege, economic inequality, and social prejudice—complicated the work of these artists.
Focusing on questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality on the stage in the decades preceding the Civil Rights era, Experiments in Democracy fills an important gap in our understanding of the history of the American stage—and sheds light on these still-relevant questions in contemporary American society.
The idea that actors are hypocrites and fakes and therefore dangerous to society was widespread in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Fangs of Malice examines the equation between the vice of hypocrisy and the craft of acting as it appears in antitheatrical tracts, in popular and high culture, and especially in plays of the period. Rousseau and others argue that actors, expert at seeming other than they are, pose a threat to society; yet dissembling seems also to be an inevitable consequence of human social intercourse. The “antitheatrical prejudice” offers a unique perspective on the high value that modern western culture places on sincerity, on being true to one's own self.
Taking a cue from the antitheatrical critics themselves, Matthew Wikander structures his book in acts and scenes, each based on a particular slander against actors. A prologue introduces his main issues. Act One deals with the proposition “They Dress Up”: foppish slavery to fashion, cross-dressing, and dressing as clergy. Act Two treats the proposition “They Lie” by focusing on social dissembling and the phenomenon of the self-deceiving hypocrite and the public, princely hypocrite. Act Three, “They Drink,” examines a wide range of antisocial behavior ascribed to actors, such as drinking, gambling, and whoring. An epilogue ties the ancient ideas of possession and the panic that actors inspire to contemporary anxieties about representation not only in theatre but also in the visual and literary arts.
Fangs of Malice will be of great interest to scholars and students of drama as well as to theatre professionals and buffs.
New media are often greeted with suspicion by older media. The Fourth Estate at the Fourth Wall explores how, when the commercial press arrived in France in 1836, popular theater critiqued its corruption, its diluted politics, and its tendency to orient its content toward the lowest common denominator.
July Monarchy plays, which provided affordable entertainment to a broad section of the public, constitute a large, nearly untapped reservoir of commentary on the arrival of the forty-franc press. Vaudevilles and comedies ask whether journalism that benefits from advertisement can be unbiased. Dramas explore whether threatening to spread false news is an acceptable way for journalists to exercise their influence. Hollinshead-Strick uses both plays and novels to show that despite their claims to enlighten their readers, newspapers were often accused of obscuring public access to information. Balzac’s interventions in this media sphere reveal his utopian views on print technology. Nerval’s and Pyat’s demonstrate the nefarious impact that corrupt theater critics could have on authors and on the public alike.
Scholars of press and media studies, French literature, theater, and nineteenth-century literature more generally will find this book a valuable introduction to a cross-genre debate about press publicity that remains surprisingly resonant today.
The figure of the freak as perceived by the Western gaze has always been a part of the Latin American imaginary, from the letters that Columbus wrote about his encounters with dog-faced people to Shakespeare's Caliban. The freak acquires greater significance in a globalized, neoliberal world that defines the "abnormal" as one who does not conform mentally, physically, or emotionally and is unable or unwilling to follow the economic and cultural norms of the institutions in power. Freak Performances examines the continuing effects of colonialism on modern Latin American identities, with a particular focus on the way it has constructed the body of the other through performance. Theater questions the representations of these bodies, as it enables the empowerment of the silenced other; the freak as a spectacle of otherness finds in performance an opportunity for re-appropriation by artists resisting the dominant authority. Through an analysis of experimental theater, dance theater, performance art, and gallery-based installation art across eight countries, Analola Santana explores the theoretical issues shaped by the encounters and negotiations between different bodies in the current Latin American landscape.
In 1764 the first printing press was established in the French Caribbean colonies, launching the official documentation of operas and plays performed there, and marking the inauguration of the first theatre in the colonies. A rigorous study of pre–French Revolution performance practices in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Powers’s book examines the elaborate system of social casting in these colonies; the environments in which nonwhite artists emerged; and both negative and positive contributions of the Catholic Church and the military to operas and concerts produced in the colonies. The author also explores the level of participation of nonwhites in these productions, as well as theatre architecture, décor, repertoire, seating arrangements, and types of audiences. The status of nonwhite artists in colonial society; the range of operas in which they performed; their accomplishments, praise, criticism; and the use of créole texts and white actors/singers à visage noirs (with blackened faces) present a clear picture of French operatic culture in these colonies. Approaching the French Revolution, the study concludes with an examination of the ways in which colonial opera was affected by slave uprisings, the French Revolution, the emergence of “patriotic theatres,” and their role in fostering support for the king, as well as the impact on subsequent operas produced in the colonies and in the United States.
Carolyn Grattan Eichin’s From San Francisco Eastward explores the dynamics and influence of theater in the West during the Victorian era. San Francisco, Eichin argues, served as the nucleus of the western theatrical world, having attained prominence behind only New York and Boston as the nation’s most important theatrical center by 1870. By focusing on the West’s hinterland communities, theater as a capitalist venture driven by the sale of cultural forms is illuminated against the backdrop of urbanization.
Using the vagaries of the West’s notorious boom-bust economic cycles, Eichin traces the fiscal, demographic, and geographic influences that shaped western theater. With an emphasis on the 1860s and 70s, this thoroughly researched work uses distinct notions of ethnicity, class, and gender to examine a cultural institution driven by a market economy. From San Francisco Eastward is a thorough analysis of the ever-changing theatrical personalities and strategies that shaped Victorian theater in the West, and the ways in which theater as a business transformed the values of a region.
Rich connections between gaming and theater stretch back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when England's first commercial theaters appeared right next door to gaming houses and blood-sport arenas. In the first book-length exploration of gaming in the early modern period, Gina Bloom shows that theaters succeeded in London's new entertainment marketplace largely because watching a play and playing a game were similar experiences. Audiences did not just see a play; they were encouraged to play the play, and knowledge of gaming helped them become better theatergoers. Examining dramas written for these theaters alongside evidence of analog games popular then and today, Bloom argues for games as theatrical media and theater as an interactive gaming technology.
Gaming the Stage also introduces a new archive for game studies: scenes of onstage gaming, which appear at climactic moments in dramatic literature. Bloom reveals plays to be systems of information for theater spectators: games of withholding, divulging, speculating, and wagering on knowledge. Her book breaks new ground through examinations of plays such as The Tempest, Arden of Faversham, A Woman Killed with Kindness, and A Game at Chess; the histories of familiar games such as cards, backgammon, and chess; less familiar ones, like Game of the Goose; and even a mixed-reality theater videogame.
While battling negative stereotypes, American Jews carved out new roles for themselves within the first theatrical entertainments in America. Jewish citizens were active as performers, playwrights, critics, managers, and theatrical shareholders, and often tied their involvement in these endeavors to the patriotic rhetoric of the young republic as they struggled to establish themselves in the new nation. Examining play texts, theatrical reviews, political discourse, and public performances of Jewish rights and rituals, Hideous Characters and Beautiful Pagans argues that Jewish stage types shed light on our understanding of the status of Jewish Americans during a critical historical period.
Using an eclectic range of sources including theatrical reviews, diaries, letters, cartoons, portraiture, tax records, rumors flying around the tavern, and more, Heather S. Nathans has listened for the echoes of vanished audiences who witnessed and responded to these stereotypes onstage, from the earliest appearance of Shylock on an American stage in 1752 to Jewish theater artists on the eve of the Civil War. The book integrates social, political, and cultural histories, with an examination of those texts (both dramatic and literary) that shaped the stage Jew.
"North Korea is not just a security or human rights problem (although it is those things) but a real society. This book gets us closer to understanding North Korea beyond the usual headlines, and does so in a richly detailed, well-researched, and theoretically contextualized way."
---Charles K. Armstrong, Director, Center for Korean Research, Columbia University
"One of this book's strengths is how it deals at the same time with historical, geographical, political, artistic, and cultural materials. Film and theatre are not the only arts Kim studies---she also offers an excellent analysis of paintings, fashion, and what she calls 'everyday performance.' Her analysis is brilliant, her insights amazing, and her discoveries and conclusions always illuminating."
---Patrice Pavis, University of Kent, Canterbury
No nation stages massive parades and collective performances on the scale of North Korea. Even amid a series of intense political/economic crises and international conflicts, the financially troubled country continues to invest massive amounts of resources to sponsor unflinching displays of patriotism, glorifying its leaders and revolutionary history through state rituals that can involve hundreds of thousands of performers. Author Suk-Young Kim explores how sixty years of state-sponsored propaganda performances---including public spectacles, theater, film, and other visual media such as posters---shape everyday practice such as education, the mobilization of labor, the gendering of social interactions, the organization of national space, tourism, and transnational human rights. Equal parts fascinating and disturbing, Illusive Utopia shows how the country's visual culture and performing arts set the course for the illusionary formation of a distinctive national identity and state legitimacy, illuminating deep-rooted cultural explanations as to why socialism has survived in North Korea despite the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and China's continuing march toward economic prosperity. With over fifty striking color illustrations, Illusive Utopia captures the spectacular illusion within a country where the arts are not only a means of entertainment but also a forceful institution used to regulate, educate, and mobilize the population.
Suk-Young Kim is Associate Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and coauthor with Kim Yong of Long Road Home: A Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor.
A little over a century ago, the Irish in America were the targets of intense xenophobic anxiety. Much of that anxiety centered on their mobility, whether that was traveling across the ocean to the U.S., searching for employment in urban centers, mixing with other ethnic groups, or forming communities of their own. Granshaw argues that American variety theatre, a precursor to vaudeville, was a crucial battleground for these anxieties, as it appealed to both the fears and the fantasies that accompanied the rapid economic and social changes of the Gilded Age.
Originating in 1891 in the port city of Surabaya, the Komedie Stamboel, or Istanbul-style theater, toured colonial Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia by rail and steamship. The company performed musical versions of the Arabian Nights, European fairy tales and operas such as Sleeping Beauty and Aida, as well as Indian and Persian romances, Southeast Asian chronicles, true crime stories, and political allegories. The actors were primarily Eurasians, the original backers were Chinese, and audiences were made up of all races and classes. The Komedie Stamboel explores how this new hybrid theater pointed toward possibilities for the transformation of self in a colonial society and sparked debates on moral behavior and mixed-race politics.
While audiences marveled at spectacles involving white-skinned actors, there were also racial frictions between actors and financiers, sexual scandals, fights among actors and patrons, bankruptcies, imprisonments, and a murder.
Matthew Isaac Cohen's evocative social history situates the Komedie Stamboel in the culture of empire and in late nineteenth-century itinerant entertainment. He shows how the theater was used as a symbol of cross-ethnic integration in postcolonial Indonesia and as an emblem of Eurasian cultural accomplishment by Indische Nederlanders. A pioneering study of nineteenth-century Southeast Asian popular culture, The Komedie Stamboel gives a new picture of the region's arts and culture and explores the interplay of currents in global culture, theatrical innovation, and movement in colonial Indonesia.ABOUT THE AUTHOR---Matthew Isaac Cohen is senior lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway University of London. His articles on Southeast Asian performance have appeared in New Theatre Quarterly, Asian Theatre Journal, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, and Archipel. As a practicing shadow puppeteer, he has performed in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Latinx Theater in the Times of Neoliberalism traces how Latinx theater in the United States has engaged with the policies, procedures, and outcomes of neoliberal economics in the Americas from the 1970s to the present.
Patricia A. Ybarra examines IMF interventions, NAFTA, shifts in immigration policy, the escalation of border industrialization initiatives, and austerity programs. She demonstrates how these policies have created the conditions for many of the most tumultuous events in the Americas in the last forty years, including dictatorships in the Southern Cone; the 1994 Cuban Rafter Crisis; femicides in Juárez, Mexico; the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico; and the rise of narcotrafficking as a violent and vigorous global business throughout the Americas.
Latinx artists have responded to these crises by writing and developing innovative theatrical modes of representation about neoliberalism. Ybarra analyzes the work of playwrights María Irene Fornés, Cherríe Moraga, Michael John Garcés, Caridad Svich, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Victor Cazares, Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Tanya Saracho, and Octavio Solis. In addressing histories of oppression in their home countries, these playwrights have newly imagined affective political and economic ties in the Americas. They also have rethought the hallmark movements of Latin politics in the United States—cultural nationalism, third world solidarity, multiculturalism—and their many discontents.
An eclectic mix of art, theatre, dance, politics, experimentation, and ritual,community-based performance has become an increasingly popular art movement in the United States. Forged by the collaborative efforts of professional artists and local residents, this unique field brings performance together with a range of political, cultural, and social projects, such as community-organizing, cultural self-representation, and education. Local Acts presents a long-overdue survey of community-based performance from its early roots, through its flourishing during the politically-turbulent 1960s, to present-day popular culture. Drawing on nine case studies, including groups such as the African American Junebug Productions, the Appalachian Roadside Theater, and the Puerto Rican Teatro Pregones, Jan Cohen-Cruz provides detailed descriptions of performances and processes, first-person stories, and analysis. She shows how the ritual side of these endeavors reinforces a sense of community identification while the aesthetic side enables local residents to transgress cultural norms, to question group habits, and to incorporate a level of craft that makes the work accessible to individuals beyond any one community. The book concludes by exploring how community-based performance transcends even national boundaries, connecting the local United States with international theater and cultural movements.
Today’s celebrity charity work has deep historical roots. In the 1880s and 1890s, the stars of fin-de-siècle London’s fashionable stage culture—particularly the women—transformed theatre’s connection with fundraising. They refreshed, remolded, and reenergized celebrity charity work at a time when organized benevolence and women’s public roles were also being transformed. In the process, actresses established a model and set of practices that persist today among the stars of both London’s West End and Hollywood.
In the late nineteenth century, theatre’s fundraising for charitable causes shifted from male-dominated and private to female-directed and public. Although elite women had long been involved in such enterprises, they took on more authority in this period. At the same time, regular, high-profile public charity events became more important and much more visible than private philanthropy. Actresses became key figures in making the growing number of large and heavily publicized fundraisers successful. By 1920, the attitude was “Get an actress first. If you can’t get an actress, then get a duchess.” Actresses’ star power, their ability to orchestrate large events quickly, and their skill at performing a kind of genteel extortion made them essential to this model of charity. Actresses also benefited from this new role. Taking a prominent, public, offstage position was crucial in making them, individually and collectively, respectable professionals.
Author Catherine Hindson reveals this history by examining the major types of charity events at the turn of the twentieth century, including fundraising matinees, charity bazaars and costume parties, theatrical tea and garden parties, and benefit performances. Her study concludes with a look at the involvement of actresses in raising funds for British soldiers serving in the Anglo-Boer War and the First World War.
Lothario’s Corpse unearths a performance history, on and off the stage, of Restoration libertine drama in Britain’s eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. While standard theater histories emphasize libertine drama’s gradual disappearance from the nation’s acting repertory following the dispersal of Stuart rule in 1688, Daniel Gustafson traces its persistent appeal for writers and performers wrestling with the powers of the emergent liberal subject and the tensions of that subject with sovereign absolutism. With its radical, absolutist characters and its scenarios of aristocratic license, Restoration libertine drama became a critical force with which to engage in debates about the liberty-loving British subject’s relation to key forms of liberal power and about the troubling allure of lawless sovereign power that lingers at the heart of the liberal imagination. Weaving together readings of a set of literary texts, theater anecdotes, political writings, and performances, Gustafson illustrates how the corpse of the Restoration stage libertine is revived in the period’s debates about liberty, sovereign desire, and the subject’s relation to modern forms of social control. Ultimately, Lothario’s Corpse suggests the “long-running” nature of Restoration theatrical culture, its revived and revised performances vital to what makes post-1688 Britain modern.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
In 1936 Orson Welles directed a celebrated all-black production of Macbeth that was hailed as a breakthrough for African Americans in the theater. For over a century, black performers had fought for the right to perform on the American stage, going all the way back to an 1820s Shakespearean troupe that performed Richard III, Othello, and Macbeth, without relying on white patronage.
"Macbeth" in Harlem tells the story of these actors and their fellow black theatrical artists, from the early nineteenth century to the dawn of the civil rights era. For the first time we see how African American performers fought to carve out a space for authentic black voices onstage, at a time when blockbuster plays like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Octoroon trafficked in cheap stereotypes. Though the Harlem Renaissance brought an influx of talented black writers and directors to the forefront of the American stage, they still struggled to gain recognition from an indifferent critical press.
Above all, "Macbeth" in Harlem is a testament to black artistry thriving in the face of adversity. It chronicles how even as the endemic racism in American society and its theatrical establishment forced black performers to abase themselves for white audiences’ amusement, African Americans overcame those obstacles to enrich the nation’s theater in countless ways.
The Media Players: Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of News builds a case for the central, formative function of Shakespeare’s theater in the news culture of early modern England. In an analysis that combines historical research with recent developments in public sphere theory, Dr. Stephen Wittek argues that the unique discursive space created by commercial theater helped to foster the conceptual framework that made news possible.
Dr. Wittek’s analysis focuses on the years between 1590 and 1630, an era of extraordinary advances in English news culture that begins with the first instance of serialized news in England and ends with the emergence of news as a regular, permanent fixture of the marketplace. Notably, this period of expansion in news culture coincided with a correspondingly extraordinary era of theatrical production and innovation, an era that marks the beginning of commercial theater in London, and has left us with the plays of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton.
The middle years of the nineteenth century were a time of dynamic artistic and social changes in America. Now, Melodramatic Formations is the first study to trace these changes in popular stage melodrama's production, dramatic form, and audience reception. Bruce McConachie shows how the theatrical mutability that characterized the years 1820 to 1870 is inextricably tied to the decline of elite paternalism and republicanism and the rise of bourgeois rationalism and respectability.
Taking a rigorous interdisciplinary approach, McConachie examines several historical regularities of production, genre, and audience. Here theatre (and its drama) has at long last been returned to its general culture, rather than being treated as an isolated phenomenon. Ultimately, he develops a new notion of a theatrical formation—a construct where groups of spectators and theatre performers produce each other as artists-to-be-experienced and audiences-to-be-entertained.
Throughout Melodramatic Formations McConachie illustrates how theatre both maintains and produces various ideologies; he convincingly shows that theatre is a major player in our social and cultural history. This book will be of interest to all in American studies, theatre history, and American cultural history.
Author Noe Montez considers how theatre, as a site of activism, produces memory narratives that change public reception to a government’s transitional justice policies. Drawing on contemporary research in memory studies and transitional justice, Montez examines the Argentine theatre’s responses to the country’s transitional justice policies—truth and reconciliation hearings, trials, amnesties and pardons, and memorial events and spaces—that have taken place in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first century.
Montez explores how the sociohistorical phenomenon of the Teatroxlaidentidad—an annual showcase staged with the support of Argentina’s Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo—acted as a vehicle for drawing attention to the hundreds of children kidnapped from their families during the dictatorship and looks at why the memory narratives regarding the Malvinas Islands (also known as the Falklands) range from ideological appropriations of the islands, to absurdist commentaries about the failed war that signaled the dictatorship’s end, to the islands’ heavily contested status today.
Memory, Transitional Justice, and Theatre in Postdictatorship Argentina explores the vibrant role of theatrical engagement in postdictatorship Argentina, analyzes plays by artists long neglected in English-language articles and books, and explores the practicalities of staging performances in Latin America.
The idea of staging a nation dates from the Enlightenment, but the full force of the idea emerges only with the rise of mass politics. Comparing English, French, and American attempts to establish national theatres at moments of political crisis—from the challenge of socialism in late nineteenth-century Europe to the struggle to "salvage democracy" in Depression America—Kruger poses a fundamental question: in the formation of nationhood, is the citizen-audience spectator or participant?
The National Stage answers this question by tracing the relation between theatre institution and public sphere in the discourses of national identity in Britain, France, and the United States. Exploring the boundaries between history and theory, text and performance, this book speaks to theatre and social historians as well as those interested in the theoretical range of cultural studies.
In Negotiating Performance, major scholars and practitioners of the theatrical arts consider the diversity of Latin American and U. S. Latino performance: indigenous theater, performance art, living installations, carnival, public demonstrations, and gender acts such as transvestism. By redefining performance to include such events as Mayan and AIDS theater, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, and Argentinean drag culture, this energetic volume discusses the dynamics of Latino/a identity politics and the sometimes discordant intersection of gender, sexuality, and nationalisms. The Latin/o America examined here stretches from Patagonia to New York City, bridging the political and geographical divides between U.S. Latinos and Latin Americans. Moving from Nuyorican casitas in the South Bronx, to subversive street performances in Buenos Aires, to border art from San Diego/Tijuana, this volume negotiates the borders that bring Americans together and keep them apart, while at the same time debating the use of the contested term "Latino/a." In the emerging dialogue, contributors reenvision an inclusive "América," a Latin/o America that does not pit nationality against ethnicity—in other words, a shared space, and a home to all Latin/o Americans. Negotiating Performance opens up the field of Latin/o American theater and performance criticism by looking at performance work by Mayans, women, gays, lesbians, and other marginalized groups. In so doing, this volume will interest a wide audience of students and scholars in feminist and gender studies, theater and performance studies, and Latin American and Latino cultural studies.
Contributors. Judith Bettelheim, Sue-Ellen Case, Juan Flores, Jean Franco, Donald H. Frischmann, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Jorge Huerta, Tiffany Ana López, Jacqueline Lazú, María Teresa Marrero, Cherríe Moraga, Kirsten F. Nigro, Patrick O’Connor, Jorge Salessi, Alberto Sandoval, Cynthia Steele, Diana Taylor, Juan Villegas, Marguerite Waller
"No Safe Spaces opens up a conversation beyond narrow polemics . . . Although cross-racial casting has been the topic of heated discussion, little sustained scholarship addresses both the historical precedents and theoretical dimensions. Pao illustrates the tensions and contradictions inherent not only in stage representations, but also in the performance of race in everyday life. A wonderful book whose potential readership goes well beyond theater and performance scholars."
---Josephine Lee, University of Minnesota
"Non-traditional casting, increasingly practiced in American theater, is both deeply connected to our country's racial self-image(s) and woefully under-theorized. Pao takes on the practice in its entirety to disentangle the various strands of this vitally important issue."
---Karen Shimakawa, New York University
No Safe Spaces looks at one of the most radical and enduring changes introduced during the Civil Rights era---multiracial and cross-racial casting practices in American theater. The move to cast Latino/a, African American, and Asian American actors in classic stage works by and about white Europeans and Americans is viewed as both social and political gesture and artistic innovation. Nontraditionally cast productions are shown to have participated in the national dialogue about race relations and ethnic identity and served as a source of renewed creativity for the staging of the canonical repertory.
Multiracial casting is explored first through its history, then through its artistic, political, and pragmatic dimensions. Next, the book focuses on case studies from the dominant genres of contemporary American theater: classical tragedy and comedy, modern domestic drama, antirealist drama, and the Broadway musical, using a broad array of archival source materials to enhance and illuminate its arguments.
Angela C. Pao is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University.
A volume in the series Theater: Theory/Text/Performance
Occupying the Stage: the Theater of May '68 tells the story of student and worker uprisings in France through the lens of theater history, and the story of French theater through the lens of May '68. Based on detailed archival research and original translations, close readings of plays and historical documents, and a rigorous assessment of avant-garde theater history and theory, Occupying the Stage proposes that the French theater of 1959–71 forms a standalone paradigm called "The Theater of May '68."
The book shows how French theater artists during this period used a strategy of occupation-occupying buildings, streets, language, words, traditions, and artistic processes-as their central tactic of protest and transformation. It further proposes that the Theater of May '68 has left imprints on contemporary artists and activists, and that this theater offers a scaffolding on which to build a meaningful analysis of contemporary protest and performance in France, North America, and beyond.
At the book's heart is an inquiry into how artists of the period used theater as a way to engage in political work and, concurrently, questioned and overhauled traditional theater practices so their art would better reflect the way they wanted the world to be. Occupying the Stage embraces the utopic vision of May '68 while probing the period's many contradictions. It thus affirms the vital role theater can play in the ongoing work of social change.
Taking a cue from influential French philosopher Jacques Rancière, who in The Emancipated Spectator rejects the idea of the passive, ignorant, duped spectators in need of instruction to become active, Stuart A. Day’s goal in Outside Theater is to highlight written words and performances that exemplify effective strategies, past and present, to reveal and promote civic engagement, to provoke disruptions, or to highlight fissures—and opportunities—in oppressive social structures.
Through the study of one or two primary models per chapter, as well as multiple examples in the introduction and conclusion, Day presents Mexican plays from 1905 to 2015, including the 2010 Mexico City performance of Zoot Suit by Chicano playwright Luis Valdez. Using these plays, Day explores the concept of “outside theater,” where people or groups translate the tools of the theatrical trade to a different stage, outside the walls of the theater, and play the part of fictional or real life Celestinas—matchmakers who unite seemingly disparate entities to promote social awareness and social action by working the borders between life and art.
Each work in this innovative analysis reveals productive social connections that, with the help of crucial artistic alliances, contradict the perception that art is somehow secondary to or disconnected from the public sphere of influence and the struggles of everyday life. With this book, Day shows that Mexican theater can and does bolster civil society and thus the country’s fragile democracy.
Passionate Amateurstells a new story about modern theater: the story of a romantic attachment to theater’s potential to produce surprising experiences of human community. It begins with one of the first great plays of modern European theater—Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Moscow—and then crosses the 20th and 21st centuries to look at how its story plays out in Weimar Republic Berlin, in the Paris of the 1960s, and in a spectrum of contemporary performance in Europe and the United States. This is a work of historical materialist theater scholarship, which combines a materialism grounded in a socialist tradition of cultural studies with some of the insights developed in recent years by theorists of affect, and addresses some fundamental questions about the social function and political potential of theater within modern capitalism. Passionate Amateurs argues that theater in modern capitalism can help us think afresh about notions of work, time, and freedom. Its title concept is a theoretical and historical figure, someone whose work in theater is undertaken within capitalism, but motivated by a love that desires something different. In addition to its theoretical originality, it offers a significant new reading of a major Chekhov play, the most sustained scholarly engagement to date with Benjamin’s “Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” the first major consideration of Godard’s La chinoise as a “theatrical” work, and the first chapter-length discussion of the work of The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, an American company rapidly gaining a profile in the European theater scene.
Passionate Amateurscontributes to the development of theater and performance studies in a way that moves beyond debates over the differences between theater and performance in order to tell a powerful, historically grounded story about what theater and performance are for in the modern world.
Performing America provides fresh perspectives on the development of visions of both America and "America"--that is, the actual community and the constructed concept--on a variety of theatrical stages. It explores the role of theater in the construction of American identity, highlighting the tension between the desire to categorize American identity and the realization that such categorical uniformity may neither be desirable nor possible.
The topics covered include the links between politics and the stage during the Federalist period, the appropriation of "Indian" artifacts, an exploration of early gender roles, and the metaphorical connections between the theater and western expansion. Other essays treat vaudeville's artistically colonized cultures; Chautauqua's attempt to homogenize culture and commercialize American ideals; W. E. B. Du Bois's pageant, The Star of Ethiopia, as a strategy for constructing "African-American" as "Other" in an attempt to promote a vision of black nationalism; and how theater was used to help immigrants form a new sense of community while joining the resident culture.
The collection then turns to questions of how various ethnic minorities through their recent theatrical work have struggled to argue their identities, especially in relation to the dominant white culture. Two final essays offer critiques of contrasting aspects of the American male.
Throughout, the collection addresses questions of marginality and community, exclusion and inclusion, colonialism and imperialism, heterogeneity and homogeneity, conflict and negotiation, repression and opportunity, failure and success, and, above all, the relationship of American stages at large. It will appeal to readers of a wide range of disciplines including history, American culture, gender studies, and theater studies.
Jeffrey D. Mason is Professor of Theatre, California State University, Bakersfield. J. Ellen Gainor is Associate Professor of Theatre Studies and Women's Studies, Cornell University.
In Performing Loss: Rebuilding Community through Theater and Writing, author Jodi Kanter explores opportunities for creativity and growth within our collective responses to grief. Performing Loss provides teachers, students, and others interested in performance with strategies for reading, writing, and performing loss as communities— in the classroom, the theater, and the wider public sphere.
From an adaptation of Jose Saramago’ s novel Blindness to a reading of Suzan-Lori Parks’ s The America Play, from Kanter’ s own experience creating theater with terminally ill patients and federal prisoners to a visual artist’ s response to September 11th, Kanter shows in practical, replicable detail how performing loss with community members can transform experiences of isolation and paralysis into experiences of solidarity and action.
Drawing on academic work in performance, cultural studies, literature, sociology, and anthropology, Kanter considers a range of responses to grief in historical context and goes on to imagine newer, more collaborative, and more civically engaged responses. Performing Loss describes Kanter’ s pedagogical and artistic processes in lively and vivid detail, enabling the reader to use her projects as models or to adapt the techniques to new communities, venues, and purposes. Kanter demonstrates through each example the ways in which writing and performing can create new possibilities for mourning and living together.
In 1971, Canada became the first country to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism. Performing the Intercultural City explores how Toronto—a representative global city in this multicultural country—stages diversity through its many intercultural theater companies and troupes. The book begins with a theoretical introduction to theatrical interculturalism. Subsequent chapters outline the historical and political context within which intercultural performance takes place; examine the ways in which Indigenous, Filipino, and Afro-Caribbean Canadian theater has developed play structures based on culturally specific forms of expression; and explore the ways that intercultural companies have used intermediality, modernist form, and intercultural discourse to mediate across cultures. Performing the Intercultural City will appeal to scholars, artists, and the theater-going public, including those in theater and performance studies, urban studies, critical multiculturalism studies, diaspora studies, critical cosmopolitanism studies, critical race theory, and cultural studies.
As any devoted theatregoer will attest, watching a performance is a unique experience, as the social setting, rules, and standards of theatre often combine to create a feeling of liberation from the everyday world. This book explores the phenomenon of theatre as simultaneously distinct from and yet connected to society as a whole. Combining theoretical reflections with materials from European case studies, the authors offer intriguing new methods for the sociological study of theatre while contributing equally to theatre and performance studies.
In the mid-19th century, rhetoric surrounding slavery was permeated by violence. Slavery’s defenders often used brute force to suppress opponents, and even those abolitionists dedicated to pacifism drew upon visions of widespread destruction. Provocative Eloquence recounts how the theater, long an arena for heightened eloquence and physical contest, proved terribly relevant in the lead up to the Civil War. As antislavery speech and open conflict intertwined, the nation became a stage. The book brings together notions of intertextuality and interperformativity to understand how the confluence of oratorical and theatrical practices in the antebellum period reflected the conflict over slavery and deeply influenced the language that barely contained that conflict. The book draws on a wide range of work in performance studies, theater history, black performance theory, oratorical studies, and literature and law to provide a new narrative of the interaction of oratorical, theatrical, and literary histories of the nineteenth-century U.S.
Part of a larger project to examine the Elizabethan politics of representation, Louis Montrose's The Purpose of Playing refigures the social and cultural context within which Elizabethan drama was created.
Montrose first locates the public and professional theater within the ideological and material framework of Elizabethan culture. He considers the role of the professional theater and theatricality in the cultural transformation that was concurrent with religious and socio-political change, and then concentrates upon the formal means by which Shakespeare's Elizabethan plays called into question the absolutist assertions of the Elizabethan state. Drawing dramatic examples from the genres of tragedy and history, Montrose finally focuses his cultural-historical perspective on A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The Purpose of Playing elegantly demonstrates how language and literary imagination shape cultural value, belief, and understanding; social distinction and interaction; and political control and contestation.
How, why, and according to whose definitions and requirements does a culture self-consciously create memory and project its fate? In this remarkable book—the first in English to treat Russian history as theatre and cultural performance—Spencer Golub reveals the performative nature of Russian history in the twentieth century and the romantic imprisonment/self-imprisonment of the creative intelligentsia within this scenario.
In this ambitious project, historian Katrina Thompson examines the conceptualization and staging of race through the performance, sometimes coerced, of black dance from the slave ship to the minstrel stage. Drawing on a rich variety of sources, Thompson explicates how black musical performance was used by white Europeans and Americans to justify enslavement, perpetuate the existing racial hierarchy, and mask the brutality of the domestic slave trade. Whether on slave ships, at the auction block, or on plantations, whites often used coerced performances to oppress and demean the enslaved.
As Thompson shows, however, blacks' "backstage" use of musical performance often served quite a different purpose. Through creolization and other means, enslaved people preserved some native musical and dance traditions and invented or adopted new traditions that built community and even aided rebellion.
Thompson shows how these traditions evolved into nineteenth-century minstrelsy and, ultimately, raises the question of whether today's mass media performances and depictions of African Americans are so very far removed from their troublesome roots.
Traditional theater in the Roman world depicted powerful emotions and political ideals that were often the norm in Roman society. Although modern historians have only a hazy perception of performances during both Republic and Empire, testimony to the greatness of the epoch's theater lies in the ruins that stretch across the expanse of the great "vanished empire."
William Slater's new volume Roman Theater and Society brings an important perspective to the much-maligned status of the Roman theater, which has only recently been reappraised and appreciated as uniquely Roman rather than criticized for not being Greek. From this point of embarkation, William Slater and the nine contributors discuss theater in Rome and the Greek east with a definition of performance incorporating not only stage performances but also dinnertime entertainment, sporting events, and political events. Contributors are T. D. Barnes, K. M. Coleman, J. C. Edmonson, E. R. Gebhard, J. R. Green, E. J. Jory, W. D. Lebek, and D. S. Potter.
Individual chapters combine literary evidence with archaeological, thereby engendering a deeper appreciation for the social and political roles of Roman theater. It becomes clear that these roles were of great influence in giving voice to the popular demands of the average Roman. In examining the roles of theater the contributors turn to the players and audience themselves for deeper understanding.
Roman Theater and Society will be of great interest to classicists, theater specialists, and anyone interested in the interplay among plays, theaters, and the people on stage and in the audience.
William J. Slater is Professor of Classics, McMaster University.
Originally published in 2003 in Portuguese, The Sorcery of Color argues that there are longstanding and deeply-rooted relationships between racial and gender inequalities in Brazil. In this pioneering book, Elisa Larkin Nascimento examines the social and cultural movements that have attempted, since the early twentieth century, to challenge and eradicate these conjoined inequalities.
The book's title describes the social sleight-of-hand that disguises the realities of Brazilian racial inequity. According to Nascimento, anyone who speaks of racism—or merely refers to another person as black—traditionally is seen as racist. The only acceptably non-racist attitude is silence. At the same time, Afro-Brazilian culture and history have been so overshadowed by the idea of a general "Brazilian identity" that to call attention to them is also to risk being labeled racist.
Incorporating leading international scholarship on Pan Africanism and Afrocentric philosophy with the writing of Brazilian scholars, Nascimento presents a compelling feminist argument against the prevailing policy that denies the importance of race in favor of a purposefully vague concept of ethnicity confused with color.
In the nineteenth century, long before film and television brought us explosions, car chases, and narrow escapes, it was America's theaters that thrilled audiences, with “sensation scenes” of speeding trains, burning buildings, and endangered bodies, often in melodramas extolling the virtues of temperance, abolition, and women's suffrage. Amy E. Hughes scrutinizes these peculiar intersections of spectacle and reform, revealing the crucial role that spectacle has played in American activism and how it has remained central to the dramaturgy of reform.
Hughes traces the cultural history of three famous sensation scenes—the drunkard with the delirium tremens, the fugitive slave escaping over a river, and the victim tied to the railroad tracks—assessing how these scenes conveyed, allayed, and denied concerns about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. These images also appeared in printed propaganda, suggesting that the coup de théâtre was an essential part of American reform culture. Additionally, Hughes argues that today’s producers and advertisers continue to exploit the affective dynamism of spectacle, reaching an even broader audience through film, television, and the Internet.
To be attuned to the dynamics of spectacle, Hughes argues, is to understand how we see. Her book will interest not only theater historians, but also scholars and students of political, literary, and visual culture who are curious about how U.S. citizens saw themselves and their world during a pivotal period in American history.
Drawing on underexplored and only recently available archives, author Chrystyna Dail examines the influence of Stage for Action, a theatre group founded in 1943, on social activist theatre in the 1940s, early 1950s, and beyond. The group embraced subjects not taken up by earlier activist theatre companies—advocating for the rights of Puerto Ricans, calling attention to the lack of child care for working mothers, and demanding the cessation of all nuclear warfare.
Exploring the intersection between performance and politics and the direct impact of the arts on social activism, Dail argues Stage for Action is a theatrical reflection of progressivism and the pro-working-class theatrical aesthetic of the 1940s. The theatre group, which used performance to encourage direct action and personal responsibility for change, eventually would function as the theatrical voice of the United States Progressive Party in the failed presidential campaign of former vice president Henry A. Wallace.
Calling into question the widely held belief that U.S. theatre in the early years of the Cold War was indifferent to activism, Stage for Action offers historians a new interpretation of social activist performance at midcentury.
A study of the lives of popular theater artists, Stigmas of the Tamil Stage is the first in-depth analysis of Special Drama, a genre of performance unique to the southernmost Indian state of Tamilnadu. Held in towns and villages throughout the region, Special Drama performances last from 10 p.m. until dawn. There are no theatrical troupes in Special Drama; individual artists are contracted “specially” for each event. The first two hours of each performance are filled with the kind of bawdy, improvisational comedy that is the primary focus of this study; the remaining hours present more markedly staid dramatic treatments of myth and history. Special Drama artists themselves are of all ages, castes, and ethnic and religious affiliations; the one common denominator in their lives is their lower-class status. Artists regularly speak of how poverty compelled their entrance into the field.
Special Drama is looked down upon by the middle- and upper-classes as too popular, too vulgar, and too “mixed.” The artists are stigmatized: people insult them in public and landlords refuse to rent to them. Stigma falls most heavily, however, on actresses, who are marked as “public women” by their participation in Special Drama. As Susan Seizer’s sensitive study shows, one of the primary ways the performers deal with such stigma is through humor and linguistic play. Their comedic performances in particular directly address questions of class, culture, and gender deviations—the very issues that so stigmatize them. Seizer draws on extensive interviews with performers, sponsors, audience members, and drama agents as well as on careful readings of live Special Drama performances in considering the complexities of performers’ lives both on stage and off.
A pioneer of American modern drama and founding member of the Provincetown Players, Susan Glaspell (1876–1948) wrote plays of a kind that Robert Brustein defines as a “drama of revolt,” an expression of the dramatists’ discontent with the prevailing social, political, and artistic order. Her works display her determination to put an end to the alienating norms that, in her eyes and those of her bohemian peers, were stifling American society. This determination both to denounce infringements on individual rights and to reform American life through the theatre shapes the political dimension of her drama of revolt.
Analyzing plays from the early Trifles (1916) through Springs Eternal (1943) and the undated, incomplete Wings, author Emeline Jouve illustrates the way that Glaspell’s dramas addressed issues of sexism, the impact of World War I on American values, and the relationship between individuals and their communities, among other concerns. Jouve argues that Glaspell turns the playhouse into a courthouse, putting the hypocrisy of American democracy on trial. In staging rebels fighting for their rights in fictional worlds that reflect her audience’s extradiegetic reality, she explores the strategies available to individuals to free themselves from oppression. Her works envisage a better future for both her fictive insurgents and her spectators, whom she encourages to consider which modes of revolt are appropriate and effective for improving the society they live in. The playwright defines social reform in terms of collaboration, which she views as an alternative to the dominant, alienating social and political structures. Not simply accusing but proposing solutions in her plays, she wrote dramas that enacted a positive revolt.
A must for students of Glaspell and her contemporaries, as well as scholars of American theatre and literature of the first half of the twentieth century.
From the colonial period to independence and into the twenty-first century, Latin American culture has been mapped as a subordinate “other” to Europe and the United States. This collection reconsiders geographical space and power and the ways in which theatrical and performance histories have been constructed throughout the Americas. Essays bridge political, racial, gender, class, and national divides that have traditionally restricted and distorted our understanding of Latin American theatre and performance. Contributors—scholars and artists from throughout the Americas, including well-known playwrights, directors, and performers—imagine how to reposition the Latina/o Americas in ways that offer agency to its multiple peoples, cultures, and histories. In addition, they explore the ways artists can create new maps and methods for their creative visions.
Building on hemispheric and transnational models, this book demonstrates the capacity of theatre studies to challenge the up-down/North-South approach that dominates scholarship in the United States and presents a strong case for a repositioning of the Latina/o Americas in theatrical histories and practices.
Taking to heart Thomas Heywood’s claim that plays “persuade men to humanity and good life, instruct them in civility and good manners, showing them the fruits of honesty, and the end of villainy,” Mark Bayer’s captivating new study argues that the early modern London theatre was an important community institution whose influence extended far beyond its economic, religious, educational, and entertainment contributions. Bayer concentrates not on the theatres where Shakespeare’s plays were performed but on two important amphitheatres, the Fortune and the Red Bull, that offer a more nuanced picture of the Jacobean playgoing industry. By looking at these playhouses, the plays they staged, their audiences, and the communities they served, he explores the local dimensions of playgoing.
Focusing primarily on plays and theatres from 1599 to 1625, Bayer suggests that playhouses became intimately engaged with those living and working in their surrounding neighborhoods. They contributed to local commerce and charitable endeavors, offered a convivial gathering place where current social and political issues were sifted, and helped to define and articulate the shared values of their audiences. Bayer uses the concept of social capital, inherent in the connections formed among individuals in various communities, to construct a sociology of the theatre from below—from the particular communities it served—rather than from the broader perspectives imposed from above by church and state. By transacting social capital, whether progressive or hostile, the large public amphitheatres created new and unique groups that, over the course of millions of visits to the playhouses in the Jacobean era, contributed to a broad range of social practices integral to the daily lives of playgoers.
In lively and convincing prose that illuminates the significant reciprocal relationships between different playhouses and their playgoers, Bayer shows that theatres could inform and benefit London society and the communities geographically closest to them.
Theatres of Independence is the first comprehensive study of drama, theatre, and urban performance in post-independence India. Combining theatre history with theoretical analysis and literary interpretation, Aparna Dharwadker examines the unprecedented conditions for writing and performance that the experience of new nationhood created in a dozen major Indian languages and offers detailed discussions of the major plays, playwrights, directors, dramatic genres, and theories of drama that have made the contemporary Indian stage a vital part of postcolonial and world theatre.The first part of Dharwadker's study deals with the new dramatic canon that emerged after 1950 and the variety of ways in which plays are written, produced, translated, circulated, and received in a multi-lingual national culture. The second part traces the formation of significant postcolonial dramatic genres from their origins in myth, history, folk narrative, sociopolitical experience, and the intertextual connections between Indian, European, British, and American drama. The book's ten appendixes collect extensive documentation of the work of leading playwrights and directors, as well as a record of the contemporary multilingual performance histories of major Indian, Western, and non-Western plays from all periods and genres. Treating drama and theatre as strategically interrelated activities, the study makes post-independence Indian theatre visible as a multifaceted critical subject to scholars of modern drama, comparative theatre, theatre history, and the new national and postcolonial literatures.
Toward a Theater of the Oppressed is an engaging study of the dramaturgy of contemporary British playwright John Arden and the political implications of his work. Arden made his debut on the London stage in the wake of a powerful new wave of young, "angry" drama in England during the late 1950s. Javed Malick argues that in contrast to contemporaries like John Osborne, Harold Pinter, and Arnold Wesker, Arden offered a radically different approach to drama and theater, employing a long-neglected writing style that derived from pre-bourgeois popular traditions.
Malick situates Arden's dramaturgy in the wider context of the radical alternative tradition in Western drama, drawing connections to Brecht, Piscator, the radical playwrights of the 1960s. He then explores the formal structure, ideological implications, and historical significance of Arden's work, treating his stage plays as one dramaturgically coherent opus- from the early Waters of Babylon to his and Margaretta D'Arcy's ambitious trilogy, The Island of the Mighty. Finally, he discusses the last phase of Arden and D'Arcy's political and artistic development, which led them to turn their backs on the professional theater circuit. He argues that Arden's rejection of the institutional stage was the logical outcome of his persistent search for alternative forms of political theater.
Toward a Theater of the Oppressed will be invaluable reading for those interested in modern drama, political theater, and popular performance, as well as students of contemporary British drama.
Javed Malick is Reader in English, Khalsa College, University of Delhi, India.
The great nineteenth-century tragedienne known simply as Rachel was the first dramatic actress to achieve international fame. Composing her own persona with the same brilliance and passion she demonstrated on stage, she virtually invented the role of "star." Rumors of her extravagant life offstage delighted the audiences who flocked to theaters in Boston and Paris, London and Moscow, to see her perform in the tragedies of Racine and Corneille. In Tragic Muse, Rachel M. Brownstein reveals the life of la grande Rachel and explores—at the boundary of biography, fiction, and cultural history—the connections between this self-dramatizing woman and her image. Born to itinerant Jewish peddlers in 1821, Rachel arrived on the Paris stage at the age of fifteen. She became both a symbol of her culture’s highest art and a clue to its values and obsessions. Fascinated with all things Napoleonic, she was the mother of Napoleon’s grandson and the lover of many men connected to the emperor. Her story—the rise from humble beginnings to queen of the French state theater—echoes and parodies Napoleon’s own. She decisively controlled her career, her time, and finances despite the actions and claims of managers, suitors, and lovers. A woman of exceptional charisma, Rachel embodied contradiction and paradox. She captured the attention of her time and was memorialized in the works of Matthew Arnold, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Henry James. Richly illustrated with portraits, photographs, and caricatures, Tragic Muse combines brilliant literary analysis and exceptional historical research. With great skill and acuity, Rachel M. Brownstein presents Rachel—her brief intense life and the image that was both self-fashioned and, outliving her, fashioned by others. First published by Knopf (1993), this book will attract a broad audience interested in matters as wide ranging as the construction of character, the cult of celebrity, women’s lives, and Jewish history. It will also be of enduring interest to readers concerned with nineteenth-century French culture, history, literature, theater, and Romanticism. Tragic Muse won the 1993 George Freedley Award presented by the Theater Library Association.
A certain idea of the avant-garde posits the possibility of a total rupture with the past. The Unfinished Art of Theater pulls back on this futuristic impulse by showing how theater became a key site for artists on the semiperiphery of capitalism to reconfigure the role of the aesthetic between 1917 and 1934. The book argues that this “unfinished art”—precisely because of its historic weakness as a representative institution in Mexico and Brazil, where the bourgeois stage had not (yet) coalesced—was at the forefront of struggles to redefine the relationship between art and social change.
Drawing on extensive archival research, Sarah J. Townsend reveals the importance of projects and texts that belie the rhetoric of rupture and immediacy associated with the avant-garde: ethnographic operas with ties to the recording industry, populist puppet plays, children’s radio programs about the wonders of technology, a philosophical drama about the birth of a new race, and an antifascist spectacle written for (but never performed at) a theater shut down by the police. Ultimately, the book makes the case that the very category of avant-garde art is bound up in the experience of dependency, delay, and the uneven development of capitalism.
Digital culture has occasioned a seismic shift in the discourse around contagion, transmission, and viral circulation. Yet theater, in the cultural imagination, has always been contagious. Viral Performance proposes the concept of the viral as an essential means of understanding socially engaged and transmedial performance practices since the mid-twentieth century. Its chapters rethink the Living Theatre’s Artaudian revolution through the lens of affect theory, bring fresh attention to General Idea’s media-savvy performances of the 1970s, explore the digital-age provocations of Franco and Eva Mattes and Critical Art Ensemble, and survey the dramaturgies and political stakes of global theatrical networks.
Viral performance practices testify to the age-old—and ever renewed—instinct that when people gather, something spreads. Performance, an art form requiring and relying on live contact, renders such spreading visible, raises its stakes, and encodes it in theatrical form. The artists explored here rarely disseminate their ideas or gestures as directly as a viral marketer or a political movement would; rather, they undermine simplified forms of contagion while holding dialogue with the philosophical and popular discourses, old and new, that have surrounded viral culture.
Viral Performance argues that the concept of the viral is historically deeper than immediate associations with the contemporary digital landscape might suggest, and far more intimately linked to live performance
In this bold, innovative work, Dorinne Kondo theorizes the racialized structures of inequality that pervade theater and the arts. Grounded in twenty years of fieldwork as dramaturg and playwright, Kondo mobilizes critical race studies, affect theory, psychoanalysis, and dramatic writing to trenchantly analyze theater's work of creativity as theory: acting, writing, dramaturgy. Race-making occurs backstage in the creative process and through economic forces, institutional hierarchies, hiring practices, ideologies of artistic transcendence, and aesthetic form. For audiences, the arts produce racial affect--structurally over-determined ways affect can enhance or diminish life. Upending genre through scholarly interpretation, vivid vignettes, and Kondo's original play, Worldmaking journeys from an initial romance with theater that is shattered by encounters with racism, toward what Kondo calls reparative creativity in the work of minoritarian artists Anna Deavere Smith, David Henry Hwang, and the author herself. Worldmaking performs the potential for the arts to remake worlds, from theater worlds to psychic worlds to worldmaking visions for social transformation.