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  • Introduction
  • Sara Freeman

Theatre History Studies is an annual journal. We print one issue per year, and we assemble it almost a year in advance. I write this introduction in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election and I find it hard to project what commentary might be the most applicable in the fall of 2017. The scholarship in this issue resonates with several developments that dominate the global political sphere, such as upheaval in conservative and liberal social positions and tactics, ongoing debates about national identity, new contours of generational conflict, upsurges in student activism, and resistance to or embrace of change, in any format.

Laura Ferdinand Feldmeyer's documentation and analysis about a key line of dialogue in the play adaptation of Peter Pan—"to die will be an awfully big adventure"—unfolds J. M. Barrie's history of writing war propaganda during World War I and his change of heart about the project of war in relationship to the Western cultural imaginary about masculinity and adventure. Feldmeyer tracks how the line was included or excluded from performances of the play and the treatment of the line both onstage and off while investigating the great generational divide operative in both the experiences of the Great War and its aftermath. Attending to that divide transforms Peter Pan from a delightful, uplifting piece of theatre to an elegiac one. That unsettled, simultaneously childish and mournful status of Peter Pan is still reflected in contemporary theatre made in adaptational dialogue with Barrie's tale, including Peter and the Starcatcher, Sarah Ruhl's 2016 play For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, and Sally Cookson's production of Peter Pan appearing at the Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre in London across the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. It is still unclear, in the wake of a UK vote to "Brexit" the European Union and of the election of [End Page 1] Donald Trump to the US presidency, what masculinity means and if our societies are willing to grow up.

Feldmeyer begins her article by considering a 1922 address Barrie gave to students at St. Andrew's University about youth and age. La Donna Forsgren's Schanke Award-winning paper from the 2016 Mid-America Theatre Conference also takes college campuses as the loci of its analysis and makes a diachronic link between black student activism in the 1960s and the 2010s, especially as such activism used performative demonstrations at Northwestern in 1968 and the University of Missouri (Mizzou) in 2015. In doing so, Forsgren also recovers the history of Black Folks's Theatre at Northwestern University, which was formed as the artistic branch of For Members Only, the Northwestern black student union founded in the wake of 1968 campus protests. Forsgren connects Black Folks's Theatre to the Black Arts Movement, strengthening our theatre-historical sense of how the artistic branches of social movements participate to bring about institutional change.

Julie Jackson's article explicating the practices of "Chicago-style theatre" and what the phrase denotes about acting technique, approach to staging, or audience experience follows not only how theatre interacts with institutional change but also how insurgent theatres become institutions. Her history of the Chicago theatre as "not just rock 'n' roll" gives new depth of understanding to the style characteristic of the artist-operated ensemble theatres that define Chicago's scene. At once a close reading of press discourse about Chicago theatre, a personal history drawn from four decades of watching and making theatre in Chicago, and a cataloging of key companies in Chicago theatre beyond the highly mythologized Step-penwolf, Jackson's scholarship provides a sophisticated analysis of the dynamics of realism and artifice at work in Chicago theatre aesthetics.

Likewise, Gabrielle Houle wrestles with "style"—a combination of realism and artifice in performance techniques—while revealing the struggles with mask work experienced by twentieth-century commedia dell'arte star Marcello Moretti. Houle's masterful set of propositions about the challenges a mask presents a performer and her materialist attention to the role of mask-makers and mask-making techniques in helping performers reclaim the mask culminates with insight about the role...


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