Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • REHEARSING "THE SOUTH" SICILIAN CONSTRUCTS OF REPRESENTATION ON THE STAGE 1860-1917

    Author:
    Janice Capuana
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Marvin Carlson
    Abstract:

    My dissertation examines how theatre in Sicily after the Risorgimento may have contributed to the construction of a Sicilian identity that is considered different and other to that of northern Italy. I analyze the role that Sicilian theatre and the verismo movement played, between 1863 and 1917, in the building of a regional versus national identity through artistic cultural representations. By considering key works from this period, I posit that old and new stereotypes were reaffirmed and developed, and that native artists participated in the othering of their paesani. I also contend that the touring Sicilian acting companies in the early twentieth century, based in improvisation and folk theatre, furthered the perception of the island as exotic and different. In chapter one, I suggest that the popular play, I mafiusi, was the beginning of the mafioso anti-hero, and of the fetishization of the mafia. I focus on the context of the play and the events around its production and success, and its influence on Sicilian verismo. In chapter two, I look at how verismo, as epitomized by Giovanni Verga's Cavalleria Rusticana, created an industry for the representation of the Sicilian peasant. Using Orientalism as a lens, I argue that the parallel development of the North/South divide and meridionalismo in the new Italian state, at the same time that we see successful representations of the Sicilian in literature and theatre, helped to solidify certain negative and positive stereotypes. I also analyze Capuana's articulation of versimo as it appears in some of his theoretical works and in his play Malià. In chapter three, I turn to Sicilian dialect theatre and the famous regional actors who inspired Nino Martoglio and Luigi Pirandello to write some of their most famous characters. I argue that Martoglio's L'aria del continente and Pirandello's Liolà, while using some of the same stereotypes and tropes found in verismo just a few years earlier, now offered a lighter, gentler, comic Sicilian figure. In addition, I address the performance of these works by the actors Giovanni Grasso and Angelo Musco, and suggest that audiences perceived them as the embodiment of Sicilianness.

  • Rhythmic Juggling: Tracing the Disembodied Voice of Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Productions, 1968-2009

    Author:
    Patricia Coleman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    David Savran
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is concerned with the genealogies of the disembodied voice in Richard Foreman's Ontological Hysteric Theater. Each of the first three chapters posits a genealogy in which the disembodied voice is elaborated: first by the discovery of the unconscious, the historical avant-gardes, and finally by the neo-avant-gardes that return to the disembodied voice as a device with a difference, through technology and theorization. The final chapter demonstrates that these genealogies are essential to an understanding of Foreman's uses of the disembodied voice. The final chapter divides Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric productions into four sections, which trace the particular uses of disembodied voice of each period. Each section demonstrates how the disembodied voice gives form to Foreman's intellectual and aesthetic preoccupations. The disembodied voice allows Foreman to position himself as a literary critic with his own works of art as the object of his criticism and to "echo" the abyss that is left by the voice's retreat from the body.

  • "A Spectacle to the World": The Performance of Christian Virgins and Monks in Late Antiquity

    Author:
    William Conte
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Pamela Sheingorn
    Abstract:

    A commonplace in the history of western theatre is the antipathy of the Church towards the "theatrum," long evident in the writings of the Greek and Latin Fathers. In this dissertation I argue that although "theatre" was anathema to Orthodox Christianity, the idea of performance was embraced, albeit covertly, as a means by which late-ancient Christians could express a new kind of subjectivity, of which the first exemplum is Paul. Activated by their "Christian subjectivity," the Fathers of the early Church constructed Christian identity in terms of behaviors and habits that would make orthodoxy "visible," and thus performative. The practices of virginity and monastic asceticism represent the border of the performance of Christian identity as live, embodied praxis during this period. Based on my close reading from a performance-theoretical perspective of select early Christian apologetics, polemics, and vitae, the dissertation demonstrates that performance was essential to the formation, expansion, and "triumph" of orthodox Christianity in late antiquity.

  • Synesthetic Landscapes in Harold Pinter's Theatre: A Symbolist Legacy

    Author:
    Graca Correa
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Daniel Gerould
    Abstract:

    In the light of recent interdisciplinary critical approaches to landscape and space, and adopting phenomenological methods of sensory analysis, this dissertation explores interconnected or synesthetic sensory "scapes" in contemporary British playwright Harold Pinter's theatre. By studying its dramatic landscapes and probing into their multi-sensory manifestations in line with Symbolist theory and aesthetics, I argue that Pinter's theatre articulates an ecocritical stance and a micropolitical critique. Chapter One explains the dissertation's theoretical framework (landscape theory, Symbolist theory, ecocriticism, phenomenology, and sensory analysis), while arguing for an ecophilosophical reading of Pinter's landscapes that engages not only with spatial patterns but also with the bodyscapes and psychic ecology of his characters. Chapter Two examines the theoretical/aesthetic Symbolist qualities of Pinter's dramaturgy. Chapter Three connects Pinter's sensory scapes to the theories of space and time developed by Henri Bergson, revealing how they are concerned with subjective time as it is lived, with the spatiotemporal circularity of past, present, and future (related to the ouroboros symbol), and with the way one can imaginatively re/create one's own self through life. Chapter Four discusses how Pinter's apocalyptic landscapes evoke the horror of the Holocaust, and denounce the tradition of oppression (or the structures of uncontrolled violence) that repeatedly produces new social and ecological catastrophes. Chapter Five draws upon feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray's concepts of sexual difference to demonstrate the negative ecological effects of a monological patriarchal system of moral values upon family and conjugal life, as expressed in Pinter's oppressive and abusive homescapes. Throughout this study I activate an interdisciplinary dialogue between Pinter's landscapes and those found in works by Symbolist (and Decadent) artists/thinkers (Mallarmé, Rilke, Briusov, Maeterlinck, Rachilde, Patrício, Yeats, Munch, Sacher-Masoch, and Kafka.). Adopting phenomenological views of subjectivity (suggested by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gaston Bachelard, and Stanton Garner, among others), I invoke Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's notion of micropolitics, as well as the latter's concept of a combined ecology--mental, social, and environmental--to discuss how a study of sensory scapes reveals the presence of ecophilosophical and political concerns all through Pinter's dramatic oeuvre.

  • Performance and Spectatorship in United States International Expositions, 1876-1893

    Author:
    Robert Davis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    Abstract Performance and Spectatorship in United States International Expositions, 1876-1893 by Robert Davis Between 1876 and 1893, nearly forty million visitors attended International Expositions, or world's fairs, in the United States. At each fair, planners, guidebook authors, and boosters attempted to teach spectators "ways of seeing" that instilled intellectual, economic, and cultural ideas of American superiority. This dissertation examines how United States audiences experienced three world's fairs in the late-nineteenth-century: the Centennial Exhibition (Philadelphia, 1876), the World's Industrial and Cotton Exposition (New Orleans, 1884-1885), and the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 1893). By comparing official discourse with audience response, this project considers how fairgoers can be said to have embodied, or performed, concepts such as "America" and "Civilization." While scholars have studied expositions as hegemonic spectacles, this dissertation examines how individuals wielded increasing agency throughout the Gilded Age. In the first chapter, I survey guidebooks, publicity materials, and architecture to establish how fair officials attempted to frame the exposition experience as an educational duty. By acting as an orderly spectator, fairgoers were promised they would contribute to the continual evolution of United States society. In the following two chapters, I highlight the tension between educational and entertaining displays in major exposition halls. Even while officials strove to present uplifting exhibits, fairgoers were captivated by entertaining, performative displays. I look at how expositions affected the theatre cultures of their host cities, even while they were being shaped by an increasingly pervasive theatrical sensibility. The final chapter provides an account of first-person responses and experiences, paying particular attention to how tourists constructed their itineraries and engaged official rhetoric. This project argues for the necessity of a democratized approach to thinking about fairs from the perspective of the tourist rather than the planner. By looking at international expositions within a framework informed by audience studies, geographical theory, and visual culture, I open up space for historians to consider fairs as subjective, personal spaces, rather than strictly coercive cultural forces.

  • Going on the Offensive: Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in American Stage Comedy from 1881 to 1932

    Author:
    Rick DesRochers
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    James Wilson
    Abstract:

    Abstract Going on the Offensive: Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in American Stage Comedy from 1881 to 1932 by Rick DesRochers Advisor: Dr. James Wilson Going on the Offensive: Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in American Stage Comedy from 1881 to 1932 defines the new humor and how it was practiced by comic vaudevillians with an emphasis on the historical and cultural significance of their acts. The performers discussed in this project include the comedy team of Joe Weber and Lew Fields; the family act of the Three Keatons; medicine show stump speeches of W.C. Fields and Will Rogers; the school acts of the Marx Brothers; and the burlesque-inspired comedy of Mae West. Performances will be examined in relationship to progressive era reformers and their attempts to control and regulate popular entertainments on the vaudeville stage, as well as the divide between high and lowbrow American entertainments from the 1880s through the early 1930s. The new humorists will be evaluated with regard to their engagement and challenges to Americanization driven by such reformers as Jane Addams, Elbridge Thomas Gerry, E.A. Ross, and John Dewey. This analysis of comic vaudevillians serves to illustrate that the new humor of vaudeville comedy was intentionally disruptive to Anglo-American values through satire, broad physicality, and the mockery of middle-class propriety. Audience and critic's responses to the new humor on the vaudeville stage provide an understanding of how significant comedy became as an art form that critiqued the divisions of class, ethnicity, and gender, during this period. This dissertation concentrates on the conflicts that progressives wanted to exploit in order to promote an Anglo-American agenda. Going on the Offensive is a unique study in that it compares popular comic stage entertainment forms in relationship to suppression through sociocultural reform and censure. This is an area that needs further examination with consideration to the political and social pressures put on comic stage performers during the modernist era. By examining iconic and lesser-known comedic performing artists, Going on the Offensive seeks to reclaim an important part of American theatrical and cultural history that requires additional attention in United States performance studies and its influences on Americanness during the early twentieth century.

  • THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN IMPROVISATION: PLAY, PROCESS, AND PEDAGOGY

    Author:
    Margaret Duffy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Jane Bowers
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the ways in which the art of American improvisation, as it developed in Chicago, operates as a catalyst for liberating creativity in the individual. I have traced its historical roots to the work and theories of three first-generation American women: Neva Boyd, Viola Spolin, and Josephine Raciti Forsberg. Boyd was a kindergarten teacher at the beginning of the twentieth century who championed the significant role that "directed play," particularly in the form of games, takes in the personal and social development of the individual. Viola Spolin, also known as "the high priestess" of improvisation, was trained as a social group worker by Boyd. Spolin built on Boyd's theories and created games, known as the "Spolin Games," for teaching improvisation. In 1963, she published Improvisation for the Theater, a foundational text for acting and improvisation teachers. Josephine Raciti Forsberg, who was trained by Spolin, is a theatre practitioner and teacher, whose contributions to the art of American improvisation have been greatly overlooked. Forsberg also established the first, and for many years the only school, dedicated to teaching the art of American improvisation, The Players Workshop of The Second City. In this dissertation, I have particularly focused on Forsberg's influences, curriculum, and exercises. In creating this narrative, I have used personal interviews with Forsberg and her unpublished notes, Something from Nothing,/italic>. Forsberg's notes do not provide a theoretical perspective, so I have supplied a framework, making the connections between her exercises and the theories and individuals who influenced her and her work. Lastly, in extending the discussion of the transformative nature of improvisation, I explore the link between creativity and improvisation from a cognitive process perspective.

  • "This Theatre is a Battlefield": Political Performance and Jewish-American Identity, 1933-1948

    Author:
    Garrett Eisler
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    David Savran
    Abstract:

    "THIS THEATRE IS A BATTLEFIELD": POLITICAL PERFORMANCE AND JEWISH-AMERICAN IDENTITY, 1933-1948 by Garrett Eisler Advisor: Professor David Savran This dissertation explores the effect of political performance on Jewish-American cultural identity during the World War II era. With the rise of Hitler, many previously secular and assimilated Jewish theatre and film artists embraced their ethnic heritage and used their work as vehicles for, first, antifascist and, subsequently, Zionist mobilization. This cultural work, I argue, proved instrumental in effecting a postwar shift in Jewish-American identity from assimilation to "hyphenation." I begin by tracing Jewish artists' involvement in the prewar antifascist activism of the Popular Front. At a time when isolationist sentiment engendered American complacency towards Hitler and when Jewish concerns were marginalized, even demonized, as "warmongering," producing and exhibiting antifascist narratives was difficult. But by exploiting various genres of the popular stage (agitprop, musical satire, social realism) and film (espionage thriller, historical allegory), these artist-activists gradually influenced the public sphere regarding intervention into the European crisis. For many artists who had hitherto masked their Jewish identity (by changing their names, for instance), these projects marked a process of "coming out" that paved the way for greater acceptance of Jewishness in the postwar era. I then turn to the 1940s to show how, after Pearl Harbor, many of these same Jewish-American artists continued their activism by enthusiastically joining the U.S. war propaganda effort, and, after victory, campaigning for a Jewish state in Palestine. My main focus is on close readings, based on archival research, of three propaganda pageants by the playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht in collaboration with émigré composer Kurt Weill: Fun to be Free (1941), We Will Never Die (1943), and A Flag is Born (1946). By intervening into public debates over isolationism, America's response to the Holocaust, and the birth of the State of Israel, these works asserted Jewish agency more overtly than anything previously on the American stage. Such cultural work, I argue, anticipated and influenced a postwar shift to a more openly professed Jewish-American identity--something reflected in other cultural products of the era such as the 1947 film, Gentleman's Agreement. As the United States' swift recognition of Israel in 1948 indicated, something had changed in Americans' attitudes towards Jews. This project argues that the work of this Jewish-American "cultural front" throughout the war era was instrumental in bringing that about.

  • Contemporary Site-Specific Theatre in New York City: Performance, the City, and Spatial Politics

    Author:
    Bertie Ferdman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    This project examines contemporary site-specific theatre (works intimately connected to the spaces in which they are performed) in New York City and asks: Can site-based theatre have an impact on the transformation and development of cities? Can this kind of theatre change our perception and use of public space? The dissertation explores how site-specific artists use alternative urban spaces outside the traditional theatre building and engage the experience of space and place as integral to their work's content. By formulating an understanding of site-specific theatre as inherently linked to urban spatial practices and politics, I argue that site-specific theatre reveals the inner workings of a city's spatial politics (and therefore who gets access to space and when), and the power dynamics involved in the creation and use of space as a public forum. How can we engage in a conversation about the city via site-specific theatre? By examining urban site specificity in contemporary theatrical practice in New York City, I address its connections and potential contributions to the urban setting, to urban dialogue, and to urban space. I discuss site-specific theatre's potential to engage with city space in ways that can actually affect-- positively and negatively-- urban planning, real estate values, and gentrification. My purpose in this dissertation is two-fold: (1) to highlight a genre within theatrical performance that should stand on its own (within the field of theatre studies); and (2) to provide a theoretical framework in which to discuss this genre in the conversations regarding theatre and urban studies, and therefore problematize theatre's potential for intervention in both private and public space in the creation of cities.

  • Without Papers: Legal Identity, Legal Consciousness, and Performance

    Author:
    Gad Guterman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Jean Graham-Jones
    Abstract:

    The undocumented immigrant is a recurring figure in the legal and cultural fields. By examining various stagings of this figure in contemporary US theatre, I analyze the intricate relationship between cultural and legal production and also observe law's capacity to shape identity and practices of belonging. My dissertation relies on developments in legal anthropology and employs concepts of legal identity and legal consciousness to consider theatre's engagement with unauthorized immigration. An explicit focus on law and its material consequences allows me to problematize theatre scholarship's privileging of ethnic/racial categories when approaching the overdetermined issue of identity. Importantly, as I investigate theatre's contribution to the immigration debates, I theorize how performance intersects with legal categorization and, in particular, how performance can counteract the legal nonexistence that characterizes life without papers.