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The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother
Hers is the show business saga you think you already know--but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Rose Thompson Hovick, mother of June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee, went down in theatrical history as "The Stage Mother from Hell" after her immortalization on Broadway in Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Yet the musical was 75 percent fictionalized by playwright Arthur Laurents and condensed for the stage. Rose's full story is even more striking.
Born fearless on the North Dakota prairie in 1892, Rose Thompson had a kind father and a gallivanting mother who sold lacy finery to prostitutes. She became an unhappy teenage bride whose marriage yielded two entrancing daughters, Louise and June. When June was discovered to be a child prodigy in ballet, capable of dancing en pointe by the age of three, Rose, without benefit of any theatrical training, set out to create onstage opportunities for her magical baby girl--and succeeded.
Rose followed her own star and created two more in dramatic and colorful style: "Baby June" became a child headliner in vaudeville, and Louise grew up to be the well-known burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. The rest of Mama Rose's remarkable story included love affairs with both men and women, the operation of a "lesbian pick-up joint" where she sold homemade bathtub gin, wild attempts to extort money from Gypsy and June, two stints as a chicken farmer, and three allegations of cold-blooded murder--all of which was deemed unfit for the script of Gypsy. Here, at last, is the rollicking, wild saga that never made it to the stage.
A megamusical is an epic, dramatic show featuring recurring melodies in a sung-through score; huge, impressive sets; and grand ideas. These qualities are accompanied by intensive marketing campaigns, unprecedented international financial success, and a marked disjunction between critical reaction and audience reception. Audiences adore megamusicals; they flock to see them when they open, and return again and again, helping long-lived shows to become semi-permanent tourist attractions. Yet generally speaking, critics either dismiss megamusicals as superficial entertainment, or rail against them as offensively simple-minded money-making scams. This audience/critic division lies at the heart of The Megamusical.
Jessica Sternfeld's long-awaited study of some of the most popular megamusicals is an important contribution to knowledge of American musical culture. Sternfeld discusses the history of the megamusical, examining both its internal, performative qualities and its external, market reception to reveal why it is so popular. She concentrates on Lloyd Webber's Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, the two longest-running musicals on Broadway, and Schoenberg and Boublil's Les Misérables, the most popular and internationally successful piece of music theater of all time. Each of these musicals receives in-depth treatment, including an examination of how they were created and received, as well as an analysis of their scores and staging. She also interprets several other megamusicals of the 1980s and 1990s, with an eye toward their competition and influence on other musical theater genres.
Spectacle and Political Culture in Modern France
In France, both political culture and theatrical performances have drawn upon melodrama. This "melodramatic thread" helped weave the country's political life as it moved from monarchy to democracy. By examining the relationship between public ceremonies and theatrical performance, James R. Lehning sheds light on democratization in modern France. He explores the extent to which the dramatic forms were present in the public performance of political power. By concentrating on the Republic and the Revolution and on theatrical performance, Lehning affirms the importance of examining the performative aspects of French political culture for understanding the political differences that have marked France in the years since 1789.
Reflector and Conscience of a Nation
The story of Czech theatre in the twentieth century involves generations of mesmerizing players and memorable productions. Beyond these artistic considerations, however, lies a larger story: a theatre that has resonated with the intense concerns of its audiences acquires a significance and a force beyond anything created by striking individual talents or random stage hits. Amid the variety of performances during the past hundred years, that basic and provocative reality has been repeatedly demonstrated, as Jarka Burian reveals in his extraordinary history of the dramatic world of Czech theatre.
Following a brief historical background, Burian provides a chronological series of perspectives and observations on the evolving nature of Czech theatre productions during this century in relation to their similarly evolving social and political contexts. Once Czechoslovak independence was achieved in 1918, a repeated interplay of theatre with political realities became the norm, sometimes stifling the creative urge but often producing even greater artistry. When playwright Václav Havel became president in 1990, this was but the latest and most celebrated example of the vital engagement between stage and society that has been a repeated condition of Czech theatre for the past two hundred years. In Jarka Burian's skillful hands, Modern Czech Theatre becomes an extremely important touchstone for understanding the history of modern theatre within western culture.
Vol. 1 (1958) through current issue (with gaps in vols. 5, 8, and 32)
Modern Drama was founded in 1958 and is the most prominent journal in English to focus on dramatic literature. The terms, "modern" and "drama," are the subject of continuing and fruitful debate, but the journal has been distinguished by the excellence of its close readings of both canonical and lesser known dramatic texts through a range of methodological perspectives. The journal features refereed articles that enhance our understanding of plays in both formal and historical terms, largely treating literature of the past two centuries from diverse geo-political contexts, as well as an extensive book review section. Published quarterly.
An Expanded Edition
In Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies (Iowa, 1992), Mary Maher examined how modern actors have chosen to perform Hamlet’s soliloquies, and why they made the choices they made, within the context of their specific productions of the play.
Adding to original interviews with, among others, Derek Jacobi, David Warner, Kevin Kline, and Ben Kingsley, Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies: An Expanded Edition offers two new and insightful interviews, one with Kenneth Branagh, focusing on his 1997 film production of the play, and one with Simon Russell Beale, discussing his 2000-2001 run as Hamlet at the Royal National Theatre.
In 1983, a group of citizens in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, formed Sna Jtz’ibajom, the Tzotzil-Tzeltal Maya writers’ cooperative. In the two decades since, this group has evolved from writing and publishing bilingual booklets to writing and performing plays that have earned them national and international renown. Anthropologist Robert M. Laughlin has been a part of the group since its beginnings, and he offers a unique perspective on its development as a Mayan cultural force. The Monkey Business Theatre, or Teatro Lo’il Maxil, as this branch of Sna Jtz’ibajom calls itself, has presented plays in virtually every corner of the state of Chiapas, as well as in Mexico City, Guatemala, Honduras, Canada, and in many museums and universities in the United States. It has presented to the world, for the first time in drama, a view of the culture of the Mayas of Chiapas. In this work, Laughlin presents a translation of twelve of the plays created by Sna Jtz’ibajom, along with an introduction for each. Half of the plays are based on myths and half on the social, political, and economic problems that have confronted—and continue to confront—the Mayas of Chiapas.
Circuit Chautauqua as Performance