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Film, Theater, and Performing Arts > Theater and Performance Studies

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Cultural Struggles

Performance, Ethnography, Praxis

Dwight Conquergood

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Cutting Performances

Collage Events, Feminist Artists, and the American Avant-Garde

James M. Harding

"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.

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Dark Matter

Invisibility in Drama, Theater, and Performance

Andrew Sofer

Dark Matter maps the invisible dimension of theater whose effects are felt everywhere in performance. Examining phenomena such as hallucination, offstage character, offstage action, sexuality, masking, technology, and trauma, Andrew Sofer engagingly illuminates the invisible in different periods of postclassical western theater and drama. He reveals how the invisible continually structures and focuses an audience’s theatrical experience, whether it’s black magic in Doctor Faustus, offstage sex in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, masked women in The Rover, self-consuming bodies in Suddenly Last Summer, or surveillance technology in The Archbishop’s Ceiling. Each discussion pinpoints new and striking facets of drama and performance that escape sight. Taken together, Sofer’s lively case studies illuminate how dark matter is woven into the very fabric of theatrical representation. Written in an accessible style and grounded in theater studies but interdisciplinary by design, Dark Matter will appeal to theater and performance scholars, literary critics, students, and theater practitioners, particularly playwrights and directors.

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Dashiell Hammett and the Movies

William H. Mooney

As the father of the hardboiled detective genre, Dashiell Hammett had a huge influence on Hollywood. Yet, it is easy to forget how adaptable Hammett’s work was, fitting into a variety of genres and inspiring generations of filmmakers.


Dashiell Hammett and the Movies offers the first comprehensive look at Hammett’s broad oeuvre and how it was adapted into films from the 1930s all the way into the 1990s. Film scholar William H. Mooney reveals the wide range of films crafted from the same Hammett novels, as when The Maltese Falcon was filmed first as a pre-Code sexploitation movie, then as a Bette Davis screwball comedy, and finally as the Humphrey Bogart classic. He also considers how Hammett rose to Hollywood fame not through the genre most associated with him, but through a much fizzier concoction, the witty murder mystery The Thin Man. To demonstrate the hold Hammett still has over contemporary filmmakers, the book culminates in an examination of the Coen brothers’ pastiche Miller’s Crossing

Mooney not only provides us with an in-depth analysis of Hammett adaptations, he also chronicles how Hollywood enabled the author’s own rise to stardom, complete with a celebrity romance and a carefully crafted public persona. Giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the complex power relationships, cultural contexts, and production concerns involved in bringing Hammett’s work from the page to the screen, Dashiell Hammett and the Movies offers a fresh take on a literary titan. 

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David Belasco

Lise-Lone Marker

A pioneer of stage naturalism, David Belasco has come to be universally recognized as one of the first important directors in the history of the American stage. Lise-Lone Marker's book is a full-length stylistic analysis and re-evaluation of his scenic art.

Based on a rich body of primary sources, among which are Belasco's promptbooks and papers, the book synthesizes the aims, methods, and techniques inherent in the naturalistic production style that Belasco developed during the six decades of his career. The elements of that style—the magic reality of his stage settings, his innovations in plastic lighting, his directorial method—are also seen in the context of theatrical developments elsewhere.

On the basis of this synthesis. Professor Marker reconstructs and analyzes four of Belasco's most important productions, each representative of a distinct phase of his directorial art. Her explorations uncover much new information about Belasco and the American theatre around the turn of the century.

Originally published in 1975.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Deaf Side Story

Deaf Sharks, Hearing Jets, and a Classic American Musical

Mark Rigney

This telling book reveals the critical role played by a little-known group called the “Ducks,” a tight-knit band of six alumni determined to see a deaf president at Gallaudet. Deaf President Now! details how they urged the student leaders to ultimate success, including an analysis of the reasons for their achievement in light of the failure of many other student movements. This fascinating study also scrutinizes the lasting effects of this remarkable episode in “the civil rights movement of the deaf.” Deaf President Now! tells the full story of the insurrection at Gallaudet University, an exciting study of how deaf people won social change for themselves and all disabled people everywhere through a peaceful revolution.

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The Death of Character

Perspectives on Theater after Modernism

Elinor Fuchs

"Extremely well written, and exceedingly well informed, this is a work that opens a variety of important questions in sophisticated and theoretically nuanced ways. It is hard to imagine a better tour guide than Fuchs for a trip through the last thirty years of, as she puts it, what we used to call the ‘avant-garde.’" —Essays in Theatre

"... an insightful set of theoretical ‘takes’ on how to think about theatre before and theatre after modernism." —Theatre Journal

"In short, for those who never experienced a ‘postmodern swoon,’ Elinor Fuchs is an excellent informant." —Performing Arts Journal

"... a thoughtful, highly readable contribution to the evolving literature on theatre and postmodernism." —Modern Drama

"A work of bold theoretical ambition and exceptional critical intelligence.... Fuchs combines mastery of contemporary cultural theory with a long and full participation in American theater culture: the result is a long-needed, long-awaited elaboration of a new theatrical paradigm." —Una Chaudhuri, New York University

"What makes this book exceptional is Fuchs’ acute rehearsal of the stranger unnerving events of the last generation that have—in the cross-reflections of theory—determined our thinking about theater. She seems to have seen and absorbed them all." —Herbert Blau, Center for Twentieth Century Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

"Surveying the extraordinary scene of the postmodern American theater, Fuchs boldly frames key issues of subjectivity and performance with the keenest of critical eyes for the compelling image and the telling gesture." —Joseph Roach, Tulane University

"... Fuchs makes an exceptionally lucid and eloquent case for the value and contradictions in postmodern theater." —Alice Rayner, Stanford University

"Arguably the most accessible yet learned road map to what remains for many impenetrable territory…an obligatory addition to all academic libraries serving upper-division undertgraduates and above." —Choice

"A systematic, comprehensive and historically-minded assessment of what, precisely, ‘post-modern theatre’ is, anyway." —American Theatre

In this engrossing study, Elinor Fuchs explores the multiple worlds of theater after modernism. While The Death of Character engages contemporary cultural and aesthetic theory, Elinor Fuchs always speaks as an active theater critic. Nine of her Village Voice and American Theatre essays conclude the volume. They give an immediate, vivid account of contemporary theater and theatrical culture written from the front of rapid cultural change.

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The Director's Prism

E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Russian Theatrical Avant-Garde

The Director's Prism investigates how and why three of Russia's most innovative directors— Vsevolod Meyerhold, Alexander Tairov, and Sergei Eisenstein—used the fantastical tales of German Romantic writer E. T. A. Hoffmann to reinvent the rules of theatrical practice. Because the rise of the director and the Russian cult of Hoffmann closely coincided, Posner argues, many characteristics we associate with avant-garde theater—subjective perspective, breaking through the fourth wall, activating the spectator as a co-creator—become uniquely legible in the context of this engagement. Posner examines the artistic poetics of Meyerhold's grotesque, Tairov's mime-drama, and Eisenstein's theatrical attraction through production analyses, based on extensive archival research, that challenge the notion of theater as a mirror to life, instead viewing the director as a prism through whom life is refracted. A resource for scholars and practitioners alike, this groundbreaking study provides a fresh, provocative perspective on experimental theater, intercultural borrowings, and the nature of the creative process.

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The Director Within

Storytellers of Stage and Screen

Rose Eichenbaum

In Rose Eichenbaum’s latest book on the confluence of art making and human expression, she sits down with thirty-five modern day storytellers—the directors of theater, film, and television. Eichenbaum’s subjects speak with revealing clarity about the entertainment industry, the role and life of the director, and how theatrical and cinematic storytelling impacts our culture and our lives. The Director Within includes interviews with Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show), Julie Taymor (The Lion King), Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles), Tim Van Patten (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire), Hal Prince (The Phantom of the Opera), Barry Levinson (Rain Man), and many others. The interviews are skillfully crafted, sensitively executed, and brimming with honesty and insight. The accompanying portraits demonstrate Eichenbaum’s mastery of photography and convey the truth, depth, and intimacy of their subjects. The Director Within is an inspirational, informative, and entertaining resource for anyone interested in creativity, art making, and artistic collaboration. The book includes a listing of works from each of the directors.

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Discipline and Desire

Surveillance Technologies in Performance

Elise Morrison

Discipline and Desire examines how surveillance technologies, when placed within the frames of theater and performance, can be used to critique and critically reimagine the politics of surveillance in everyday life. In this way, the rapid proliferation of surveillance technology including drones, CCTV cameras, GPS tracking systems, medical surveillance equipment, and a host of other commercially available technologies can be repurposed through performance to become technologies of ethical witnessing, critique, and action.

While the subject of surveillance continues to provoke fascination and debate in mainstream media and academia, opportunities to critically reflect upon and, more importantly, to imagine alternative, creative responses to living in a rapidly expanding surveillance society have been harder to find. Author Elise Morrison argues that such opportunities are being created through the growing genre of “surveillance art and performance,” defined as works that centrally employ technologies and techniques of surveillance to create theater, installation, and performance art. Introducing readers to a broad range of surveillance art works, including the work of artists and activists such as Surveillance Camera Players, Jill Magid, Steve Mann, Hasan Elahi, Wafaa Bilal, Blast Theory, Electronic Disturbance Theater, George Brant, Janet Cardiff, Mona Hatoum, and Zach Blas, Discipline and Desire provides a practical and analytical framework that can aid the diverse pursuits of new media-arts practitioners, performance scholars, activists, and hobbyists interested in critical and creative uses of surveillance technologies.

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