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{ 249 } BOOK REV IEWS lates far beyond its relatively small size. In particular, playwrights will find inspiration in the African-American women writers they meet in this book. —KIRK WOODWARD Artistic Director Troupe of Vagabonds Theater \ Querying Difference in Theatre History. Edited by Scott Magelssen and Ann Haugo. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007. 190 pp. $59.99 cloth. Scott Magelssen and Ann Haugo’s Querying Difference in Theatre History is an exciting volume of short essays ideally suited to teaching in the theatre history classroom. As Haugo and Magelssen explain in the critical introduction, the essays , which began as conference papers for the 2006 Mid-America Theatre Conference meeting with the same theme, were written to “draw out the dilemmas that emerge when attempting to constitute ideas about difference from ideological or scientific points of view, and offer new modes of inquiry and critical vocabulary for contemporary scholars of theatre history” (1). The “differences” the volume engages include sexuality, gender, class, and ethnic identity. In essence , the volume opens up discussions of the “how” as well as the “what” in the increasingly diverse field of theatre history studies. Rather than organizing the book according to the types of differences the essays elucidate, the editors have arranged the essays methodologically, with sections on historiography, performance and cultural exchange, and imagined communities and the performance of cultural identity. The historiographical section includes essays on anti-queer performance and radical democracy (John Fletcher); the use of theatre reviews in theatre historiography (Henry Bial); British restoration theatre historiography (Robert Shimko); and intersections of radical politics of sexuality and class in French theatre (Alan Sikes). The next, and considerably longer, section on theatre and cultural exchange includes essays on gender in antebellum performance (Shauna Vey); Ira Aldridge and the politics of British theatre censorship (Kate Roark); British productions of “Chineseness” on the early-twentieth-century stage (Dongshin Chang); the theatrical construction of California’s Mexican past (Andrew Gibb); and the historiographical imaginings of East-West exchanges in the work of Ping Chong (Kay Martinovich). The third section on imagined communities and the performance of cultural identity brings to- { 250 } BOOK REV IEWS gether essays on the representation of African Americans in brothel plays (Katie Johnson); a reconsideration of “American” optimism in the plays of Serbianborn playwright Steven Tesich (Michael Rothmeyer); 1970s Native American performance (Julie Pearson-Little Thunder); the vagaries of representations of Native Americans in Barrie’s Peter Pan (Jodi Van Horn-Gibson); Timberlake Wertenbaker’s diasporic poetics (Sara Freeman); non-San Juan-based Puerto Rican theatre (Elena Garcia-Martín); and the complex performative politics of battle reenactments (Leigh Clemons). Many of the essays use methodologies germinal to performance studies, gender studies, political theory, and critical race studies, whose emergence in theatre historiography over the last twenty years has radically changed our field. Yet, some of the most intriguing essays clearly elucidate ethical, theoretical, and historiographical dilemmas our field struggled with before these sea changes in methodology, such as the decentering of Euro-American perspectives, positivist history, and the addition of gender, race, and class analysis. For instance, Henry Bial’s examination of reviews of the New York production of Angels in America asks us to consider exactly what we do with theatre reviews when we attempt to write histories of reception of particular performances. Going beyond simply acknowledging the bias and so-called expertise of reviewers as ideal spectators, Bial demonstrates how reviewers often produce categories of difference rather than merely reflecting them. Bial calls for theatre scholars to enjoin Althusserian and Butlerian theories of the interpolation of the subject when these reviews hail difference, maintaining awareness of the fact that these cultural objects are not subjects. Ultimately, this critical stance requires a double movement in which these reviews may be taken as evidence of spectatorship , even as we must historicize whom the reviewers were speaking to as part of the process. Katie Johnson brings up a common dilemma, at least for those of us who write about historical artists of color. Her essay on David Belasco’s 1926 Lulu Belle asks how and when we can recover agency for the African-American extras in a production that used racist modes of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9953
Print ISSN
0733-2033
Pages
pp. 249-251
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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