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Popular Front Ideals and Aethetics in Children's Plays of the Federal Theatre Project
Dreaming America: Popular Front Ideals and Aesthetics in Children’s Plays of the Federal Theatre Project by Leslie Elaine Frost traces how the tumultuous politics of the late 1930s shaped the stories and staging of federally funded plays for children. Indeed, children’s theater was central to the Federal Theatre Project’s vision of building a national theater. Frost argues that representations of the child and childhood in the FTP children’s plays stage the hopes and anxieties of a nation destabilized by both economic collapse and technological advances. A declining economy and the first stagnant birthrate in three centuries yoked the national economy to the individual family. Profound disagreements over appropriate models of education and parenting, as well as over issues of ethnicity and class, constituted fundamental arguments over democratic values and social norms. Frost locates these plays within the immediate context of the production materials in the FTP archives, as well as within the broader culture of the Great Depression, drawing on disparate primary materials—from parenting magazines to strike literature to political journals—and referencing a range of popular events—from the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fights to Hollywood movies. As the focus of Depression-era adult anxieties and hopes and as the embodiment of vigor, dynamism, and growth, children carried symbolic value both as the future of America and as the America of the future. Frost examines representative plays’ connections to other media, culture, and politics to situate their singular trajectories in the social history of the Federal Theatre Project and Popular Front culture.
A Play by Oscar Ryan et al.
This volume comprises a reprinting and gloss of the original text of the 1933 Communist play Eight Men Speak. The play was banned by the Toronto police after its first performance, banned by the Winnipeg police shortly thereafter and subsequently banned by the Canadian Post Office. The play can be considered as one stage – the published text – of a meta-text that culminated in 1934 at Maple Leaf Gardens when the (then illegal) Communist Party of Canada celebrated the release of its leader, Tim Buck, from prison. Eight Men Speak had been written and staged on behalf of the campaign to free Buck by the Canadian Labour Defence League, the public advocacy group of the CPC. In its theatrical techniques, incorporating avant-garde expressionist staging, mass chant, agitprop and modernist dramaturgy, Eight Men Speak exemplified the vanguardist aesthetics of the Communist left in the years before the Popular Front. It is the first instance of the collective theatrical techniques that would become widespread in subsequent decades and formative in the development of modern Canadian drama. These include a decentred narrative, collaborative authorship and a refusal of dramaturgical linearity in favour of theatricalist demonstration. As such it is one of the most significant Canadian plays of the first half of the century, and, on the evidence of the surviving photograph of the mise-en-scene, one of the earliest examples of modernist staging in Canada.
Stillness, Critical Memory, and the Black Body
Young's linkage between critical race theory, historical inquiry, and performance studies is a necessary intersection. Innovative, creative, and provocative. ---Davarian Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Trinity College In 1901, George Ward, a lynching victim, was attacked, murdered, and dismembered by a mob of white men, women, and children. As his lifeless body burned in a fire, enterprising white youth cut off his toes and, later, his fingers and sold them as souvenirs. In Embodying Black Experience, Harvey Young masterfully blends biography, archival history, performance theory, and phenomenology to relay the experiences of black men and women who, like Ward, were profoundly affected by the spectacular intrusion of racial violence within their lives. Looking back over the past two hundred years---from the exhibition of boxer Tom Molineaux and Saartjie Baartman (the "Hottentot Venus") in 1810 to twenty-first century experiences of racial profiling and incarceration---Young chronicles a set of black experiences, or what he calls, "phenomenal blackness," that developed not only from the experience of abuse but also from a variety of performances of resistance that were devised to respond to the highly predictable and anticipated arrival of racial violence within a person's lifetime. Embodying Black Experience pinpoints selected artistic and athletic performances---photography, boxing, theater/performance art, and museum display---as portals through which to gain access to the lived experiences of a variety of individuals. The photographs of Joseph Zealy, Richard Roberts, and Walker Evans; the boxing performances of Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali; the plays of Suzan-Lori Parks, Deal McCauley, and Dael Orlandersmith; and the tragic performances of Bootjack McDaniels and James Cameron offer insight into the lives of black folk across two centuries and the ways that black artists, performers, and athletes challenged the racist (and racializing) assumptions of the societies in which they lived. Blending humanistic and social science perspectives, Embodying Black Experience explains the ways in which societal ideas of "the black body," an imagined myth of blackness, get projected across the bodies of actual black folk and, in turn, render them targets of abuse. However, the emphasis on the performances of select artists and athletes also spotlights moments of resistance and, indeed, strength within these most harrowing settings. Harvey Young is Assistant Professor of Theatre, Performance Studies, and Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University. A volume in the series Theater: Theory/Text/Performance
Less than twenty years after asserting global dominance in the Seven Years' War, Britain suffered a devastating defeat when it lost the American colonies. Daniel O'Quinn explores how the theaters and the newspapers worked in concert to mediate the events of the American war for British audiences and how these convergent media attempted to articulate a post-American future for British imperial society. Building on the methodological innovations of his 2005 publication Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperialism in London, 1770-1800, O’Quinn demonstrates how the reconstitution of British imperial subjectivities involved an almost nightly engagement with a rich entertainment culture that necessarily incorporated information circulated in the daily press. Each chapter investigates different moments in the American crisis through the analysis of scenes of social and theatrical performance and through careful readings of works by figures such as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Cowper, Hannah More, Arthur Murphy, Hannah Cowley, George Colman, and Georg Friedrich Handel. Through a close engagement with this diverse entertainment archive, O'Quinn traces the hollowing out of elite British masculinity during the 1770s and examines the resulting strategies for reconfiguring ideas of gender, sexuality, and sociability that would stabilize national and imperial relations in the 1780s. Together, O'Quinn's two books offer a dramatic account of the global shifts in British imperial culture that will be of interest to scholars in theater and performance studies, eighteenth-century studies, Romanticism, and trans-Atlantic studies.
This powerful and popular epic honors the legendary warrior prince of Kaabu and Mandinka cultural hero, Kelefaa Saane. A standard of the griot repertoire, the epic of Kelefaa Saane is customarily taught to young performers at the beginning of their careers. Sirifo Camara's masterful recitation was recorded in Dakar in 1987. It has been transcribed in Mandinka and is translated into English here for the first time. The epic, as it describes Kelefaa's life and exploits, relates what it means to be Mandinka. Kelefaa's extraordinary prowess and virtue derive from the political, social, moral, and theological founding myths of the Mandinka people. This beautiful and engaging performance provides a unique perspective on the intellectual and literary heritage of West Africa.
On the Necessity of Film Canons
In his astute and deeply informed film reviews and essays, Jonathan Rosenbaum regularly provides new and brilliant insights into the cinema as art, entertainment, and commerce. Guided by a personal canon of great films, Rosenbaum sees, in the ongoing hostility toward the idea of a canon shared by many within the field of film studies, a missed opportunity both to shape the discussion about cinema and to help inform and guide casual and serious filmgoers alike. In Essential Cinema, Rosenbaum forcefully argues that canons of great films are more necessary than ever, given that film culture today is dominated by advertising executives, sixty-second film reviewers, and other players in the Hollywood publicity machine who champion mediocre films at the expense of genuinely imaginative and challenging works. He proposes specific definitions of excellence in film art through the creation a personal canon of both well-known and obscure movies from around the world and suggests ways in which other canons might be similarly constructed. Essential Cinema offers in-depth assessments of an astonishing range of films: established classics such as Rear Window, M, and Greed; ambitious but flawed works like The Thin Red Line and Breaking the Waves; eccentric masterpieces from around the world, including Irma Vep and Archangel; and recent films that have bitterly divided critics and viewers, among them Eyes Wide Shut and A.I. He also explores the careers of such diverse filmmakers as Robert Altman, Ra
Tolstoy, Shklovsky, Brecht
Drawing together the estrangement theories of Viktor Shklovsky and Bertolt Brecht with Leo Tolstoy's theory of infection, Douglas Robinson studies the ways in which shared evaluative affect regulates both literary familiarity—convention and tradition—and modern strategies of alienation, depersonalization, and malaise. This book begins with two assumptions, both taken from Tolstoy's late aesthetic treatise What Is Art? (1898): that there is a malaise in culture, and that literature's power to "infect" readers with the moral values of the author is a possible cure for this malaise. Exploring these ideas of estrangement within the contexts of earlier, contemporary, and later critical theory, Robinson argues that Shklovsky and Brecht follow Tolstoy in their efforts to fight depersonalization by imbuing readers with the transformative guidance of collectivized feeling. Robinson's somatic approach to literature offers a powerful alternative to depersonalizing structuralist and poststructuralist theorization without simply retreating into conservative rejection and reaction. Both a comparative study of Russian and German literary-theoretical history and an insightful examination of the somatics of literature, this groundbreaking work provides a deeper understanding of how literature affects the reader and offers a new perspective on present-day problems in poststructuralist approaches to the human condition.
Vol. 33 (2012) through current issue
Eugene O’Neill’s entire life revolved around the stage, and his productivity as a dramatist—some twenty long plays in less than twenty-five years (1920–1943)—remains a remarkable achievement. O’Neill’s plays are known for their intensely personal qualities, their dark realism, and their tragic honesty. O’Neill is the only American playwright ever to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature and is recognized as having helped to establish America as a center of theatrical output and creativity.
Hypocrisy, Sincerity, and Acting
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.