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The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance
From the trolley scene in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers's last dance on the silver screen (The Barkleys of Broadway, 1949) to Judy Garland's timeless, tuxedo-clad performance of "Get Happy" (Summer Stock, 1950), Charles Walters staged the iconic musical sequences of Hollywood's golden age. During his career, this Academy Award--nominated director and choreographer showcased the talents of stars such as Gene Kelly, Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds, and Frank Sinatra. However, despite his many critical and commercial triumphs, Walters's name often goes unrecognized today.
In the first full-length biography of Walters, Brent Phillips chronicles the artist's career, from his days as a featured Broadway performer and protégé of theater legend Robert Alton to his successes at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He takes readers behind the scenes of many of the studio's most beloved musicals, including Easter Parade (1948), Lili (1953), High Society (1956), and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). In addition, Phillips recounts Walters's associations with Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, and Gloria Swanson, examines the director's uncredited work on several films, including the blockbuster Gigi (1958), and discusses his contributions to musical theater and American popular culture.
This revealing book also considers Walters's personal life and explores how he navigated the industry as an openly gay man. Drawing on unpublished oral histories, correspondence, and new interviews, this biography offers an entertaining and important new look at an exciting era in Hollywood history.
The Actor's Craft
Chinese opera embraces over 360 different styles of theatre that make one of the richest performance arts in the world. It combines music, speech, poetry, mime, acrobatics, stage fighting, vivid face-painting and exquisite costumes. First experiences of Chinese opera can be baffling because its vocabulary of stagecraft is familiar only to the seasoned aficionado. Chinese Opera: The Actor’s Craft makes the experience more accessible for everyone. This book uses breath-taking images of Chinese opera in performance by Hong Kong photographer Siu Wang-Ngai to illustrate and explain Chinese opera stage technique. The book explores costumes, gestures, mime, acrobatics, props and stage techniques. Each explanation is accompanied by an example of its use in an opera and is illustrated by in-performance photographs. Chinese Opera: The Actor’s Craft provides the reader with a basic grammar for understanding uniquely Chinese solutions to staging drama.
Contemporary Southeast Asian Theatres
Asian theatre is usually studied from the perspective of the major traditions of China, Japan, India, and Indonesia. Now, in this wide-ranging look at the contemporary theatre scene in Southeast Asia, Catherine Diamond shows that performance in some of the lesser known theatre traditions offers a vivid and fascinating picture of the rapidly changing societies in the region. Diamond examines how traditional, modern, and contemporary dramatic works, with their interconnected styles, stories, and ideas, are being presented for local audiences. She not only places performances in their historical and cultural contexts, but also connects them to the social, political, linguistic, and religious movements of the last two decades.
Each chapter addresses theatre in a different country and highlights performances exhibiting the unique conditions and concerns of a particular place and time. Most performances revolve in some manner around “contemporary modernity,” questioning what it means—for good or ill—to be a part of the globalized world. In addition, chapters are grouped by three general and overlapping themes. The first, which includes Thailand, Vietnam, and Bali, is defined by the increased participation of women in the performing arts—not only as performers, but also as playwrights and directors. Cambodia, Singapore, and Myanmar are linked by a shared concern with the effects of censorship on theatre production. A third group, the Philippines, Laos, and Malaysia, is characterized by their focus on nationalism: theatres are either contributing to official versions of historical and political events or creating alternative narratives that challenge those interpretations.
Communities of Imagination shows the many influences of the past and how it continues to affect cultural perceptions. It addresses major trends, suggesting why they have developed and why they are popular with the public. It also underscores how theatre continues to attract new practitioners and reflect the changing aspirations and anxieties of societies in immediate and provocative ways even as it is being marginalized by television, film, and the internet. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of theatre and performance, Asian literature, Southeast Asian studies, cultural studies, and gender studies. Travelers who view attending local performances as important to their experience abroad will find it an essential reference to theatres of the region.
Vol. 34 (2000) through current issue
Comparative Drama is a scholarly journal devoted to studies international in spirit and interdisciplinary in scope. Essay submissions are invited from scholars in all areas of drama.
In Contemporary Latina/o Theater, Jon D. Rossini explores the complex relationship between theater and the creation of ethnicity in an unprecedented examination of six Latina/o playwrights and their works: Miguel Piñero, Luis Valdez, Guillermo Reyes, Octavio Solis, José Rivera, and Cherríe Moraga. Rossini exposes how these writers use the genre as a tool to reveal and transform existing preconceptions about their culture. Through “wrighting”—the triplicate process of writing plays, righting misconceptions about ethnic identity, and creating an entirely new way of understanding Latina/o culture—these playwrights directly intervene in current conversations regarding ethnic identity, providing the tools for audiences to reexplore their previously held perspectives outside the theater.
Examining these writers and their works in both cultural and historical contexts, Rossini reveals how playwrights use the liminal space of the stage—an area on the thresholds of both theory and reality—to “wright” new insights into Latina/o identity. They use the limits of the theater itself to offer practical explorations of issues that could otherwise be discussed only in highly theoretical terms.
Rossini traces playwrights’ methods as they address some of the most challenging issues facing contemporary Latinas/os in America: from the struggles for ethnic solidarity and the dangers of a community based in fear, to stereotypes of Latino masculinity and the problematic fusion of ethnicity and politics. Rossini discusses the looming specter of the border in theater, both as a conceptual device and as a literal reality—a crucial subject for modern Latinas/os, given recent legislation and other actions. Throughout, the author draws intriguing comparisons to the cultural limbo in which many Latinas/os find themselves today.
An indispensable volume for anyone interested in drama and ethnic studies, Contemporary Latina/o Theater underscores the power of theatricality in exploring and rethinking ethnicity. Rossini provides the most in-depth analysis of these plays to date, offering a groundbreaking look at the ability of playwrights to correct misconceptions and create fresh perspectives on diversity, culture, and identity in Latina/o America.
Revolution and Contemporary Theatre
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 drastically altered life in Cuba. Theatre artists were faced with new economic and social realities that changed their day-to-day experiences and ways of looking at the world beyond the island. The Cuban Revolution’s resistance to and intersections with globalization, modernity, emigration and privilege are central to the performances examined in this study. The first book-length study in English of Cuban and Cuban American plays, Cuba Inside Out provides a framework for understanding texts and performances that support, challenge, and transgress boundaries of exile and nationalism. Prizant reveals the intricacies of how revolution is staged theatrically, socially, and politically on the island and in the Cuban diaspora. This close examination of seven plays written since 1985 seeks to alter how U.S. audiences perceive Cuba, its circumstances, and its theatre.
Race, Identity, and the Performance of Popular Verse in America
Finally, a clear, accurate, and thoroughly researched examination of slam poetry, a movement begun in 1984 by a mixed bag of nobody poets in Chicago. At conception, slam poetry espoused universal humanistic ideals and a broad spectrum of participants, and especially welcome is the book's analysis of how commercial marketing forces succeeded in narrowing public perception of slam to the factionalized politics of race and identity. The author's knowledge of American slam at the national level is solid and more authentic than many of the slammers who claim to be. ---Marc Kelly Smith, founder/creator of the International Poetry Slam movement The cultural phenomenon known as slam poetry was born some twenty years ago in white working-class Chicago barrooms. Since then, the raucous competitions have spread internationally, launching a number of annual tournaments, inspiring a generation of young poets, and spawning a commercial empire in which poetry and hip-hop merge. The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry is the first critical book to take an in-depth look at slam, shedding light on the relationships that slam poets build with their audiences through race and identity performance and revealing how poets come to celebrate (and at times exploit) the politics of difference in American culture. With a special focus on African American poets, Susan B. A. Somers-Willett explores the pros and cons of identity representation in the commercial arena of spoken word poetry and, in doing so, situates slam within a history of verse performance, from blackface minstrelsy to Def Poetry. What's revealed is a race-based dynamic of authenticity lying at the heart of American culture. Rather than being mere reflections of culture, Somers-Willett argues, slams are culture---sites where identities and political values get publicly refigured and exchanged between poets and audiences. Susan B. A. Somers-Willett is a decade-long veteran of slam and holds a PhD in American Literature and an MA in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. She has taught at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Texas and is the author of two books of poetry, Quiver and Roam. Visit the author's website at: http://www.susansw.com/. Photo by Jennifer Lacy.
Collage Events, Feminist Artists, and the American Avant-Garde
"A thoughtful and engaging contribution to the field that will have a sustained and lasting impact on the way feminist performance is defined and understood, as well as on how feminist histories and historiographies continue to challenge and transform the larger field of performance." ---Charlotte Canning, The University of Texas at Austin "Harding forcefully challenges and destabilizes the male-centered Eurocentric genealogy of the avant-garde, which he claims is an uncontested, linear, positivistic history, unproblematized by theory. Then he argues that this gendered biased version of the European avant-garde is carried over into American historiography . . . A forceful case for a revisionist history." ---Daniel Gerould, The City University of New York Graduate Center Cutting Performances challenges four decades' worth of scholarship on the American avant-garde by offering a provocative reconceptualization of the history of avant-garde performance along feminist lines. Focusing on five women artists (Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Gertrude Stein, Yoko Ono, Carolee Schneemann, and Valerie Solanas) whose performance aesthetics made prominent use of collage techniques, James M. Harding sheds light on the cultural history of the avant-garde and the role that experimental women artists played in that history. He investigates the prominent position that collage technique occupied within the artists' performance aesthetic, and the decisively feminist inflection that their work gives to collage as a mode of avant-garde expression. The radical juxtapositions in their works produce the powerful effects of making the familiar strange and establishing contexts from which new understandings may emerge. Harding examines the performative dimensions of collage in experimental, feminist redefinitions of the literary, graphic, and theatrical arts, filling a void in a scholarly discourse that, while ostensibly about the vanguard, has lagged well behind other significant theoretical and historiographical currents. Cutting Performances not only challenges assumptions that have governed scholarship on the American avant-garde but also establishes a context to rethink the history of American avant-garde performance along feminist lines. It will appeal to audiences interested in theater history and performance studies as well as those interested in the cultural history of the avant-garde and the role that feminist experimental artists have played in it. James M. Harding is Professor of English at the University of Mary Washington. His other books include Not the Other Avant-Garde: Transnational Foundations of Avant-Garde Performance (with John Rouse); Restaging the Sixties: Radical Theaters and Their Legacies (with Cindy Rosenthal); and Contours of the Theatrical Avant-Garde: Performance and Textuality. Illustration: Carolee Schneemann in Eye Body-36 Transformative Actions (1963) Action for camera (Photograph by Erró). Reproduced by permission of Carolee Schneemann.