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

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Entertaining the Nation

American Drama in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Tice L. Miller

In this survey of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American drama, Tice L. Miller examines American plays written before a canon was established in American dramatic literature and provides analyses central to the culture that produced them. Entertaining the Nation: American Drama in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries evaluates plays in the early years of the republic, reveals shifts in taste from the classical to the contemporary in the 1840s and 1850s, and considers the increasing influence of realism at the end of the nineteenth century.

Miller explores the relationship between American drama and societal issues during this period. While never completely shedding its English roots, says Miller, the American drama addressed issues important on this side of the Atlantic such as egalitarianism, republicanism, immigration, slavery, the West, Wall Street, and the Civil War.

In considering the theme of egalitarianism, the volume notes Alexis de Tocqueville’ s observation in 1831 that equality was more important to Americans than liberty. Also addressed is the Yankee character, which became a staple in American comedy for much of the nineteenth century.

Miller analyzes several English plays and notes how David Garrick’ s reforms in London were carried over to the colonies. Garrick faced an increasingly middle-class public, offers Miller, and had to make adjustments to plays and to his repertory to draw an audience.

The volume also looks at the shift in drama that paralleled the one in political power from the aristocrats who founded the nation to Jacksonian democrats. Miller traces how the proliferation of newspapers developed a demand for plays that reflected contemporary society and details how playwrights scrambled to put those symbols of the outside world on stage to appeal to the public. Steamships and trains, slavery and adaptations of Uncle Tom’ s Cabin, and French influences are presented as popular subjects during that time.

Entertaining the Nation effectively outlines the civilizing force of drama in the establishment and development of the nation, ameliorating differences among the various theatergoing classes, and provides a microcosm of the changes on and off the stage in America during these two centuries.

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The Epic of Kelefaa Saane

Sirifo Camara. Edited and translated by Sana Camara

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.

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Essential Cinema

On the Necessity of Film Canons

Jonathan Rosenbaum

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

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Estrangement and the Somatics of Literature

Tolstoy, Shklovsky, Brecht

Douglas Robinson

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.

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Eugene O'Neill Review

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.

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Euripides and the Tragic Tradition

Ann Norris Michelini

“The most extensive scholarship to appear on this Greek dramatist in many years, Michelini’s work will be important to specialists and students of classical literature, literary theory, and both English and comparative literature.”—Modern Greek Studies

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Evita, Inevitably

Performing Argentina's Female Icons Before and After Eva Perón

Jean Graham-Jones

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Experiments in Democracy

Interracial and Cross-Cultural Exchange in American Theatre, 1912-1945

Edited by Cheryl Black and Jonathan Shandell

In the first half of the twentieth century, a number of American theatres and theatre artists fostered interracial collaboration and socialization on stage, behind the scenes, and among audiences. In an era marked by entrenched racial segregation and inequality, these artists used performance to bridge America’s persistent racial divide and to bring African American, Latino/Latina, Asian American, Native American, and Jewish American communities and traditions into the nation’s broader cultural conversation.
 
In Experiments in Democracy, edited by Cheryl Black and Jonathan Shandell, theatre historians examine a wide range of performances—from Broadway, folk plays and dance productions to scripted political rallies and radio dramas. Contributors look at such diverse groups as the Theatre Union, La Unión Martí-Maceo, and the American Negro Theatre, as well as individual playwrights and their works, including Theodore Browne’s folk opera Natural Man, Josefina Niggli’s Soldadera, and playwright Lynn Riggs’s Cherokee Night and Green Grow the Lilacs (the basis for the musical Oklahoma!). Exploring the ways progressive artists sought to connect isolated racial and cultural groups in pursuit of a more just and democratic society, contributors take into account the blind spots, compromised methods, and unacknowledged biases at play in their practices and strategies. Essays demonstrate how the gap between the ideal of American democracy and its practice—mired in entrenched systems of white privilege, economic inequality, and social prejudice—complicated the work of these artists.
 
Focusing on questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality on the stage in the decades preceding the Civil Rights era, Experiments in Democracy fills an important gap in our understanding of the history of the American stage—and sheds light on these still-relevant questions in contemporary American society. 

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Fangs Of Malice

Hypocrisy, Sincerity, and Acting

Matthew H. Wikander

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.

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Fantasies of Empire

The Empire Theatre of Varieties and the Licensing Controversy of 1894

In the London summer of 1894, members of the National Vigilance Society, led by the well-known social reformer Laura Ormiston Chant, confronted the Empire Theatre of Varieties, Leicester Square, and its brilliant manager George Edwardes as he applied for a routine license renewal. On grounds that the Empire's promenade was the nightly resort of prostitutes, that the costumes in the theatre's ballets were grossly indecent, and that the moral health of the nation was imperiled, Chant demanded that the London County Council either deny the theatre its license or require radical changes in the Empire's entertainment and clientele before granting renewal. The resulting license restriction and the tremendous public controversy that ensued raised important issues--social, cultural, intellectual, and moral--still pertinent today.Fantasies of Empire is the first book to recount in full the story of the Empire licensing controversy in all its captivating detail. Contemporaneous accounts are interwoven with Donohue's identification and analysis of the larger issues raised: What the controversy reveals about contemporary sexual and social relations, what light it sheds on opposing views regarding the place of art and entertainment in modern society, and what it says about the pervasive effect of British imperialism on society's behavior in the later years of Queen Victoria's reign. Donohue connects the controversy to one of the most interesting developments in the history of modern theatre, the simultaneous emergence of a more sophisticated, varied, and moneyed audience and a municipal government insistent on its right to control and regulate that audience's social and cultural character and even its moral behavior.Rich in illustrations and entertainingly written, Fantasies of Empire will appeal to theatre, dance, and social historians and to students of popular entertainment, the Victorian period, urban studies, gender studies, leisure studies, and the social history of architecture.

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