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

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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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Fashioning Celebrity

Eighteenth-Century British Actresses and Strategies for Image Making

This volume takes a new approach to the study of late eighteenth-century British actresses by examining the significance of leading actresses’ autobiographical memoirs, portraits, and theatrical roles together as significant strategies for shaping their careers. In an era when acting was considered a suspicious profession for women, eighteenth-century actresses were “celebrities” in a society obsessed with fashion, gossip, and intrigue. Fashioning Celebrity: Eighteenth-Century British Actresses and Strategies for Image Making, by Laura Engel, considers the lives and careers of four actresses: Sarah Siddons, Mary Robinson, Mary Wells, and Fanny Kemble. Using conventions of the era’s portraiture, fashion, literature, and the theater in order to create their personas on and off stage, these actresses provided a series of techniques for fashioning celebrity that still survive today. By emphasizing the importance of reading narratives through visual and theatrical frameworks and visual and theatrical representations through narrative models, Engel demonstrates the ways in which actresses’ identities were imagined through a variety of discourses that worked dialectically to construct their complex self-representations.

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Federal Theatre, 1935-1939: Plays, Relief, and Politics

Jane DeHart Mathews

The WPA Theatre Project-conceived as a relief measure, a work program, and an artistic experiment-enjoyed a brief but lively existence. With skill and sensitivity Mrs. Mathews explores its turbulent history from its ambiguous origins in 1935 to its tragic demise in 1939. The book recreate: the atmosphere of the era, and conveys a vivid sense of the Joys, frustrations, and personal sacrifices undergone by those dedicated few who recognized the need for an American People's Theatre.. Mrs. Mathews also provides a detailed account of the Congressional hearings which occasioned the disbanding of the. Project, and a fascinating portrait of Hallie Flanagan, the Projects colorful National Director.

Originally published in 1967.

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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The Feminist Spectator as Critic

The Feminist Spectator as Critic broke new ground as one of the pioneering books on feminist spectatorship, encouraging resistant readings to generate feminist meanings in performance. Approaching live spectatorship through a range of interdisciplinary methods, the book has been foundational in theater studies, performance studies, and gender/sexuality/women's studies. This updated and enlarged second edition celebrates the book's twenty-fifth anniversary with a substantial new introduction and up-to-the-moment bibliography, detailing the progress to date in gender equity in theater and the arts, and suggesting how far we have yet to go.

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Fictions of the Bad Life

The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880–2010

The first comprehensive and interdisciplinary study of the prostitute in Latin American literature, Claire Thora Solomon’s book The Naturalist Prostitute and Her Avatars in Latin American Literature, 1880–2010 shows the gender, ethnic, and racial identities that emerge in the literary figure of the prostitute during the consolidation of modern Latin American states in the late nineteenth century in the literary genre of Naturalism. Solomon first examines how legal, medical, and philosophical thought converged in Naturalist literature of prostitution. She then traces the persistence of these styles, themes, and stereotypes about women, sex, ethnicity, and race in the twentieth and twenty-first century literature with a particular emphasis on the historical fiction of prostitution and its selective reconstruction of the past. Fictions of the Bad Life illustrates how at very different moments—the turn of the twentieth century, the 1920s–30s, and finally the turn of the twenty-first century—the past is rewritten to accommodate contemporary desires for historical belonging and national identity, even as these efforts inevitably re-inscribe the repressed colonial history they wish to change.

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Fields of Play in Modern Drama

Thomas R. Whitaker

Starting from the assumption that all theater is at least implicitly participatory, Professor Whitaker approaches thirteen plays, from Ibsen's Rosmersholm to Beckett's Endgame and Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He asks the reader to commit himself to a variety of points of view—those of witnesses, actors, directors, and characters—as a series of "critical fictions" lead him toward the experience of each play in performance.

The author supplies detailed readings of the plays in various modes. The styles of the chapters vary according to the issues dominant in the plays discussed, and the reader experiences simultaneously a sense of approaching the meaning of performance and of gaining a deeper understanding of the play through a subtle and allusive commentary.

Originally published in 1977.

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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Film Adaptation and Its Discontents

From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ

Thomas Leitch

Most books on film adaptation—the relation between films and their literary sources—focus on a series of close one-to-one comparisons between specific films and canonical novels. This volume identifies and investigates a far wider array of problems posed by the process of adaptation. Beginning with an examination of why adaptation study has so often supported the institution of literature rather than fostering the practice of literacy, Thomas Leitch considers how the creators of short silent films attempted to give them the weight of literature, what sorts of fidelity are possible in an adaptation of sacred scripture, what it means for an adaptation to pose as an introduction to, rather than a transcription of, a literary classic, and why and how some films have sought impossibly close fidelity to their sources. After examining the surprisingly divergent fidelity claims made by three different kinds of canonical adaptations, Leitch's analysis moves beyond literary sources to consider why a small number of adapters have risen to the status of auteurs and how illustrated books, comic strips, video games, and true stories have been adapted to the screen. The range of films studied, from silent Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes to The Lord of the Rings, is as broad as the problems that come under review.

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Focus on Playwrights

Portraits and Interviews

Susan Johann

In 1989 Susan Johann was hired to photograph Christopher Durang for a magazine article about his play Naomi in Her Living Room. The playwright was known for his outrageous comedy, so Johann anticipated a session with a rather wild, young eccentric. To her surprise, the man who came to her studio was mild mannered and buttoned down. Johann found this twist captivating, and it was then that this project was born. Over the ensuing twenty-year period, she photographed more than ninety playwrights, including many winners of the Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious awards. Johann photographed Wendy Wasserstein, Anna Deavere Smith, August Wilson, and Nilo Cruz in the weeks after they won the Pulitzer. Tony Kushner sat for his portrait between the productions of part 1 and part 2 of Angels in America. Eve Ensler came to Johann’s studio during the week she was previewing her famous one-woman show, The Vagina Monologues, and George C. Wolfe sat for her the morning after his play Spunk opened at the Public Theater. Each playwright was photographed in Johann’s studio using the same film, a single light, and a plain backdrop, creating a portrait that captures and distills something essential—an intimate view. Her interviews explore the writers’ personal and creative journeys including their inspirations, roadblocks, and obsessions, which influenced their work on paper and on the stage. Even those who know Edward Albee’s plays intimately, for example, may be surprised by his incisive wit and inimitable voice as revealed in his interview with Johann. Beyond the book, Focus on Playwrights is also a live, multimedia presentation in which Johann narrates an inside look at creativity—the theater and photography. It has been given at such venues as the New Dramatists in New York, the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the Tryon Fine Arts Center and at the Photo Expo in New York.

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