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Theatrical Spectacle in America, 1830–1910
Before phonographs and moving pictures, live performances dominated American popular entertainment. Carnivals, circuses, dioramas, magicians, mechanical marvels, musicians, and theatrical troupes—all visited rural fairgrounds, small-town opera houses, and big-city palaces around the country, giving millions of people an escape from their everyday lives for a dime or a quarter. In From Traveling Show to Vaudeville, Robert M. Lewis has assembled a remarkable collection of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century primary sources that document America's age of theatrical spectacle. In eight parts, Lewis explores, in turn, dime museums, minstrelsy, circuses, melodramas, burlesque shows, Wild West shows, amusement parks, and vaudeville. Included in this compendium are biographies, programs, ephemera produced by theatrical entrepreneurs to lure audiences to their shows, photographs, scripts, and song lyrics as well as newspaper accounts, reviews, and interviews with such figures as P. T. Barnum and Buffalo Bill Cody. Lewis also gives us reminiscences about and reactions to various shows by members of audiences, including such prominent writers as Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, O. Henry, and Maxim Gorky. Each section also includes a concise introduction that places the genre of spectacle into its historical and cultural context and suggests major interpretive themes. The book closes with a bibliographic essay that identifies relevant scholarly works. Many of the pieces collected here have not been published since their first appearance, making From Traveling Show to Vaudeville an indispensable resource for historians of popular culture, theater, and nineteenth-century American society.
The Story of Broadway Producer Cheryl Crawford
A Gambler’s Instinct offers a rare glimpse of one of the first female producers in American theater. Active in the Group Theatre, the Actors Studio, and on Broadway, her success with Tennessee Williams plays and the musicals of Kurt Weill and Marc Blitzstein, among others, highlight her persistence and expertise.
An Intimate Portrait
George Gershwin lived with purpose and gusto, but with melancholy as well, for he was unable to make a place for himself--no family of his own and no real home in music._x000B__x000B_He and his siblings received little love from their mother and no direction from their father. The closest George came to domesticity was his longtime affair with fellow composer Kay Swift. But she remained married to another man while he went endlessly from woman to woman. Only in the final hours of his life did he realize how much he needed her. Fatally ill, unprotected by (and perhaps estranged from) his older brother Ira, he was exiled by Ira's hard-edged wife Leonore from the house that she and the brothers shared, and he died horribly and alone at the age of thirty-eight._x000B__x000B_Nor did Gershwin find a satisfying musical harbor. For years his genius could be expressed only in the ephemeral world of show business, as his brilliance as a composer of large-scale works went unrecognized by highbrow music critics. When he resolved this quandary with his opera Porgy and Bess, critics were unable to understand or validate it. Decades would pass before his most ambitious composition was universally regarded as one of music's lasting treasures and before his stature as a great composer became secure._x000B__x000B_In this book, Walter Rimler makes use of fresh sources, including newly discovered letters by Kay Swift as well as correspondence between and interviews with intimates of Ira and Leonore Gershwin. It is written with spirited prose and contains more than two dozen photographs.
An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy
Ghost Light introduces undergraduates to the practice of dramaturgy in the United States. The book emphasizes play analysis and writing proficiency, and is divided into three sections that deal with philosophy, analysis, and practice of dramaturgy. Exercises for each chapter and appendices of useful resources are included.
Kanyasulkam, a Play from Colonial India
First staged in 1892, the South Indian play Girls for Sale (Kanyasulkam) is considered the greatest modern work of Telugu literature and the first major drama written in an Indian language that critiqued British colonialism's effects on Indian society. Filled with humor, biting social commentary, parody, and masquerade, the plot revolves around a clever courtesan, a young widow, and a very old man who wants to buy as his wife a very young girl. Velcheru Narayana Rao has prepared the first idiomatic English translation, with notes and a critical essay. Itself a masterpiece of Indian literature in translation, this edition makes Apparao's work available to new audiences.
Opening a window on a storied past, longtime Indianapolis television journalist and lifelong theatergoer Howard Caldwell presents the story of the magnificent theaters of Indianapolis. Caldwell shares with us the pleasure these majestic spaces brought to thousands of Hoosiers during their glory days -- when an outing to the theater was a special event and film was still a marvel of technology. He discusses the roles played by the greatest stars of the day and relates the origins of Indy's famous theaters: the Murat, the Circle, the Indiana, the English, and the Lyric, to name a few. Caldwell points out which theaters featured burlesque shows and vaudeville routines, explores the traditions of regional and national theater productions, notes when the first motion pictures and talkies came to town, and highlights old time musical reviews and symphonic performances. Vividly illustrated with rare photos and anecdotes, The Golden Age of Indianapolis Theaters celebrates the city's rich theater tradition.
This collection of five award-winning plays by Charles Smith includes Jelly Belly, Free Man of Color, Pudd’nhead Wilson, Knock Me a Kiss, and The Gospel According to James. Powerful, provocative, and entertaining, these plays have been produced by professional theater companies across the country and abroad. Four of the plays are based on historical people and events from W.E.B. Du Bois and Countee Cullen to the Harlem Renaissance.
Accurate in the way they capture the political and cultural milieu of their historical settings, and courageous in the way they grapple with difficult questions such as race, education, religion, and social class, these plays jump off the page just as powerfully as they come to life on stage. This first-ever collection from one of the nation’s leading African American playwrights is a journey down the complex road of race and history.
Seven Works of Marathon Theater
"Reading this book is certainly a vigorous experience. Kalb's sense of nuance, unpredictability, and the complexity of perception brings these productions to life. He is our surrogate, our scapegoat even, enduring the length of these productions so that he can convey the essence of their power." ---Stanton B. Garner, Jr., University of Tennessee "Jonathan Kalb takes us on a tour of monumental theater events, which flaunt the rules of economy, Aristotelian and otherwise. Kalb captures these unwieldy marathon productions by skillfully mixing personal experience and scholarly analysis. I read this engaging book in a single sitting---and came away ready to join the first theater marathon I could find." ---Martin Puchner, Harvard University "Jonathan Kalb's Great Lengths leaps to the head of any class in theatre history. Rich with critical perspective of 'marathon' works by Peter Brook, Tony Kushner, Robert Wilson, and others, and written with panache and lucidity, Kalb's book is filled with suspense as he describes and demystifies more than the post-modern and post-dramatic haunting recent theatre. This is history as present event, embracing the Greeks, Shakespeare, and even Charles Dickens." ---Gordon Rogoff, Yale University We know that size matters in many areas of human endeavor, but what about works of the imagination? Why do some dramatic creations extend to five hours or more, and how does their extreme length help them accomplish extraordinarily ambitious aims? In Great Lengths, theater critic and scholar Jonathan Kalb addresses these and other questions through a close look at seven internationally prominent theater productions, including Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach, and the Royal Shakespeare Company's Nicholas Nickleby. This is a book about extreme length, monumental scope, and intensive immersion in the theater in general, written by a passionate spectator reflecting on selected pinnacles of his theatergoing over thirty years. The book's examples, deliberately chosen for their diversity, range from adapted novels and epics, to dramatic chronicles with macrohistorical and macropolitical implications, to stagings of super-size classic plays, to "postdramatic" works that negotiate the border between life and art. Kalb reconstructs each of the works, re-creating the experience of seeing it while at the same time explaining how it maintained attention and interest over so many hours, and then expanding the scope to embrace a wider view and ask broader questions. The discussion of Nicholas Nickleby, for example, considers melodrama as a basic tool of theatrical communication, and the section on Peter Brook's The Mahabharata explores the ethical problems surrounding theatrical exoticism. The chapter on Einstein on the Beach grows into a reflection on the media-age status of the much-debated Gesamtkunstwerk (or "total artwork") and a reassessment of the long avant-gardist tradition of challenging the primacy of rational language in theater. The essay on Peter Stein's Faust I + II becomes a reflection on the interpretive role of theater directors and the theatrical viability of antitheatrical closet drama. Great Lengths thus offers a remarkable panorama of the surprisingly broad field of contemporary marathon theater---an art form that diverse audiences of savvy, screen-weaned spectators continue to seek out, for the increasingly rare experiences of awe, transcendence, and sustained immersion that it provides. Great Lengths will appeal to general readers as well as theater specialists. It situates the chosen productions in various historical and critical contexts and engages with the many lively scholarly debates that have swirled around them. At the same time, it uses the productions as springboards for wide-ranging reflections on the basic purpose and enduring power of theater in an attention-challenged, media-saturated era.
Race and the Broadway Musical
Broadway musicals are one of America’s most beloved art forms and play to millions of people each year. But what do these shows, which are often thought to be just frothy entertainment, really have to say about our country and who we are as a nation?The Great White Way is the first book to reveal the racial politics, content, and subtexts that have haunted musicals for almost one hundred years from Show Boat (1927) to The Scottsboro Boys (2011). Musicals mirror their time periods and reflect the political and social issues of their day. Warren Hoffman investigates the thematic content of the Broadway musical and considers how musicals work on a structural level, allowing them to simultaneously present and hide their racial agendas in plain view of their audiences. While the musical is informed by the cultural contributions of African Americans and Jewish immigrants, Hoffman argues that ultimately the history of the American musical is the history of white identity in the United States.Presented chronologically, The Great White Way shows how perceptions of race altered over time and how musicals dealt with those changes. Hoffman focuses first on shows leading up to and comprising the Golden Age of Broadway (1927–1960s), then turns his attention to the revivals and nostalgic vehicles that defined the final quarter of the twentieth century. He offers entirely new and surprising takes on shows from the American musical canon—Show Boat (1927), Oklahoma! (1943), Annie Get Your Gun (1946), The Music Man (1957), West Side Story (1957), A Chorus Line (1975), and 42nd Street (1980), among others.New archival research on the creators who produced and wrote these shows, including Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, and Edward Kleban, will have theater fans and scholars rethinking forever how they view this popular American entertainment.