Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Cologne Carnival's "Alternative" Stunksitzung: Carnivalization? Meta-Carnival? Or Bakhtinian Restoration?

    Author:
    Erik Abbott
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Marvin Carlson
    Abstract:

    In the 1820s, Carnival in Cologne, Germany, underwent a series of reforms, ostensibly to bring the festival back to the people. Among the traditions that developed was the Sitzung, a theatrical variety-show event, with music, comic speeches and sketches, dance troupes, and various additional Carnival-related entertainments. The shows, and Carnival itself were, and largely have been since that time, mostly overseen by a Festival Committee and the official Carnival Societies it recognizes. In 1984, a group of mostly students decided to create their own version of a Sitzung, an alternative version, the Stunksitzung. From three inaugural performances, it has grown to presenting over forty performances a year to sell-out crowds of one thousand people per night and to being a popular annual television event. This dissertation considers the history of the Stunksitzung within a frame of Mikhail Bakhtin's work on Carnival. I examine over two-dozen performance pieces of the Ensemble, and compare and situate the production and its history within Cologne Carnival, in particular the broader dichotomous status of the official versus the alternative, interrogating how alternative the production is, has been, and continues to be. Ultimately, I frame the Stunksitzung within the larger context of Carnival and the particular status it holds in Cologne.

  • Tragic Practice: Participatory Democracy and Activist Theatre in the U.S., 2006-2010

    Author:
    Linell Ajello
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Jean Graham-Jones
    Abstract:

    In this dissertation, I develop a theory of inclusive democratic communication, partly by studying contemporary activist performances such as Poverty Simulation, a role-playing game in which social service and government workers switch places with the poor people who are their clients; and Iraq Veterans Against the War's "Operation First Casualty," in which soldiers perform the drills they have enacted in Iraq in public spaces in the U.S., such as Penn Station. I see these performances as exceptions within national discourse, in which poor people and soldiers are more often represented than represent themselves. In exploring the contributions that performances such as these could make to public perceptions of political and ethical issues, I develop a model of democratic communication based upon inclusion, self-representation, and equal interpretive authority. I analyze the performances I study as acts of democratic communication even though, in political science, scholarship on democratic communication excludes theatre and other expressive forms. I argue that the ethos and representational practices of liberal humanitarianism that undergird deliberative democracy explain its limits, and so I, following theorists such as Søren Kierkegaard, Walter Benjamin, Cornelius Castoriadis, Vaclav Havel, and others, "pearl dive" to tragedy as a pre-modern model of collective interpretation. I develop a concept of tragic political discourse, connecting scholarship on tragedy with scholarship on democracy. I draw upon Hannah Arendt's description of political speech and action, placing her values and criteria in dialogue with Jürgen Habermas and a legacy of exclusionary categories in theories of democracy and civic republicanism. Throughout the project, I develop a model of communication in which participants share equal interpretive authority and equal vulnerability to critique. Along with a theory of democratic communicative practice, I develop a model of judgment as processual, hinging upon an awareness of the partialness of one's own understanding.

  • Race and Realism in Edward Harrigan's Mulligan Guards Series

    Author:
    Michael Aman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    David Savran
    Abstract:

    In this dissertation I examine the written texts and performances of the original productions of Edward Harrigan's Mulligan Guard series as they intersected and embodied the presentation of race and Realism. My study considers the context of the period in which the plays premiered: 1879 - 1884, beginning with the first full-length piece from the series: The Mulligan Guard Ball. Using race performance theory and the theories and history of Realism, I show how Harrigan's work figured prominently at a key point in the history of American theatre, embodying a plethora of contradictions: racism and progressivism; Realism and melodrama. The two key terms to my study are "race" and "realism." Rather than imposing contemporary definitions onto these concepts, I examine the terms in their contemporaneous usages. I show how Edward Harrigan's work embodies the meeting point of Realism and the entertainments which held sway in America prior to the arrival of Realism. Harrigan, along with more "serious" dramatists, instilled an expectation for Realism on the stage, the ramifications of which are still felt in American theatre. Harrigan's works enacted particular cross sections of New York life in very specific neighborhoods - replete with the various denizens of these neighborhoods. Harrigan's Americans inhabit the poorer areas of working class New York and his portraits of these characters are extremely detailed in their wants, pursuits, peeves and drives. At the core of the Mulligan Guard series, and indeed most of Edward Harrigan's plays lies the depiction of the New York Irish community and, to a slightly lesser extent, the African American community. Surrounding these core groups stand a variety of ethnicities: German, Chinese, and Eastern European Jews. Harrigan's approach to Realism is explored thoroughly through reportage of his productions, specifically that of the Mulligan Guard series, in light of Harrigan's own assertions as to his approach to his craft. I examine the use of Realism in regard to the depiction of race. When considering the depiction of race, Harrigan's characters cannot literally be accepted as authentic because of the actors in the roles (White actors performing Black), but my study shows how authenticity of racial depiction was regarded in its own age. Methodology Because of the nature of this study, I combine research methods from a variety of scholars. I reconstruct the period in order to approach Harrigan's work historiographically. I examine not only the written text but the audience, demographics of New York City, other forms of entertainments at the time, critical writing, and illustrations. Of chief importance to this study are the various collections and scrapbooks of Harrigan's work. The Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the New York Public Library has a vast collection of Harrigan's work, clippings, scripts, songs, and the like. Alicia Kae Koger's two-part exhaustive bibliography on Edward Harrigan is invaluable to this study. In addition to the collection in New York, Harrigan materials exist at various public and private libraries, particularly the Library of Congress.

  • The Actor and the Playwright: Adaptation on the Early Eighteenth-Century, English Stage

    Author:
    Ellen Anthony-Moore
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    Abstract The Actor and the Playwright: Play Adaptation on the Early Eighteenth-Century, English Stage By Ellen Anthony-Moore Advisor: Prof. Judith Milhous This dissertation examines the ways in which classical, neoclassical and Renaissance plays were adapted and staged on the early eighteenth-century, London stage. The plays that became box office successes were generally the ones that best displayed the talents and attributes of popular performers. By understanding the lives and careers of the greatest actors of this generation, and their role in the commercial theatre, we can better understand why the now canonized plays of ancient Greece, France, or the Elizabethan period were modified in ways that most modern scholars find puzzling. By the beginning of the eighteenth century in England, actors and actresses were becoming public personalities in an unprecedented way. From the time of Thomas Betterton's death in 1709, to the end of the triumvirate management of Drury Lane by Colley Cibber, Robert Wilks and Barton Booth in 1727, there were a handful of actors who can lay claim to being the most well known and respected performers of this generation. In chapter one, I outline what is known about eighteenth-century acting methods and techniques as well as the lines of certain key actors. Chapters two and three explore the genres of tragedy and historical tragedy, emphasizing the importance of the celebrity actress and the recent vogue for she-tragedy. Chapter four is centrally concerned with trends in comedy and farce and the preoccupation with the misadventures of young rakes, fops, cheats and the like. This dissertation ultimately concludes that by looking at the way contemporary authors adapted the most prominent playwrights of previous generations, we can better understand the theatre of the eighteenth-century. Ultimately, the process of play adaptation was one that was highly influenced by the demands of a commercial, celebrity centered theatre rather than by literary ideals or political ideology.

  • The Foundations of American Regional Theatre

    Author:
    Tomoko Aono
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    Since the early 1960s, regional theatre has grown into one of the major sectors of contemporary American theatre culture. Why have so many regional theatres existed for years? Why have they attracted such a large audience? Partially through a survey of the regional theatre sector as a whole, and mainly through case studies of the four individual theatres, this study aims to answer these questions. American regional theatres are unique in that they offer more than the artistic merit and entertainment value of their productions. This study proposes the hypothesis that, the very foundations of American regional theatres lie not in their productions' artistic or entertainment values, but in their contributions to their communities. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the development of the regional theatre sector as well as the basic terminology and the scope of the field. Chapter 2 examines the regional theatres' evolving relationship with Broadway from the early 1960s through the 1980s. Chapters 3 and 4 examine four regional theatres, Arena Stage, the Guthrie Theater, the Seattle Repertory Theatre, and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, to look into regional theatres' relationship with the communities in which they are located. The case studies demonstrates that, once expected to pay their own way through the box office revenues alone, these theatres switched to local, non-governmental sources to supplement their box office revenues and/or to make up for the loss of the foundation grants by the early 1970s. Since then, they have been successfully obtaining annual contributions from local donors by nurturing a shared sense of ownership of the theatres within the communities. Chapter 5 summarizes the research findings and revisits the hypothesis proposed in Chapter 1. The study concludes that regional theatres have been able to secure their long-term continuation within their communities and continue to attract large audiences only because they have assumed the position of public theatres responsive to communities at large for the first time on a large scale in the history of American theatre.

  • The Powerful Voice of Women Dramatists in the Arab American Theatre Movement

    Author:
    Dalia Basiouny
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Marvin Carlson
    Abstract:

    The Powerful Voice of Women Dramatists in the Arab American Theatre Movement by Dalia Basiouny Advisor: Marvin Carlson This dissertation traces the recent emergance of the Arab American Theatre movement, focusing on plays by women dramatists. It presents an overview of contemporary theatre and performances by Arab American women, and explores their focus on political theatre and identity politics, through an examination of works by fifteen contemporary women playwrights and performers. The emergance of this relatively large group of women theatre writers of Arab descent is a significant cultural phenomenon because their productions not only help to create and solidify an Arab American identity for themselves, they also offer this constructed identity to their audiences. The political expression of this young theatre movement takes on different articulations, according to the different genres the dramatists use. The introduction presents Rania Khalil's silent performance piece and Suheir Hammad's collage performance . Chapter one examines three autobiographical solo performances. Leila Buck's ISite and Nora Armani's are theatrical presentations of the self through writing the story of lineage. Soha Al Jurf's documents her visits to the land of origin in the Arab world, connecting her search for identity to the killing of her Palestinian aunt. Chapter two explores the expansion from the individual search to the community. Heather Raffo's is based on interviews conducted over a period of ten years with Iraqi women inside Iraq and in exile, while Nibras Group's presents verbatim responses to the question "What is Arab?" based on fifty interviews with Arab Americans and other Americans. Chapter three discusses how plays by Arab American women dramatists deal with the negotiation of identity by second-generation Arabs in America, looking at two plays by Betty Shamieh, and , and Laura Shamas' . Chapter four examines the comedy of Arab Americans, looking at the work of Maysoon Zayid and discussing the short plays presented at the Arab American Comedy Festival. The conclusion looks at the dominance of women's voice in this emerging theatre movement, and explores the aesthetic of this Arab American theatre.

  • Woman's Work: Ruth Maleczech as Mabou Mines Performer, Director & Manager

    Author:
    Jessica Brater
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Marvin Carlson
    Abstract:

    Abstract WOMAN'S WORK: RUTH MALECZECH AS MABOU MINES PERFORMER, DIRECTOR & MANAGER by Jessica Brater Adviser: Professor Marvin Carlson This project identifies key elements of Ruth Maleczech's body of work, tracing a central and enduring point of view of the American avant-garde theatre company Mabou Mines. As co-artistic director, Maleczech created an original environment enabling her to exert control over her own artistic choices. This freedom is particularly rare for a performer, as is the ease with which Maleczech moves among the various responsibilities of performing, directing, and producing. Relying upon Mabou Mines's emphasis on the development of new work and its human resources and institutional structure, Maleczech uses the company as the context for creating a cohesive body of work with a highly individualized artistic point of view. By considering Maleczech's production choices thematically, and by juxtaposing original interviews with published reviews, production archives and critical analysis, I establish patterns in Maleczech's body of work highlighting the inter-relationship between process and product. Chapter One focuses on Maleczech's performances in Beckett's Happy Days and Franz Kroetz's Through the Leaves, revealing her interest in making ordinary women important onstage. Chapter Two examines how Maleczech uses an historical angle in the productions Dead End Kids, Lucia's Chapters of Coming Forth by Day and Bélen to experiment with representations of women onstage. Chapter Three juxtaposes two productions about fathers, Hajj and Mabou Mines's Lear, demonstrating Maleczech's interest in destabilizing traditional notions of the father figure, and by extension, all family roles. Chapter Four investigates Lee Breuer's Shaggy Dog, Red Beads, and Summa Dramatica alongside Beckett's Imagination Dead Imagine, productions on which Maleczech collaborated with her daughter, Clove Galilee, to examine Maleczech's challenges to notions of familial and artistic hierarchy. The conclusion briefly traces Imagining Imaginary Invalid and includes views of her longterm collaborators as they ponder the significance of her work. I argue that Maleczech creates a distinct point of view in her work with Mabou Mines and in her position as a feminist, downtown New York theatre artist. By focusing her choice of material on unexpected representations of women and by consistently taking artistic and production risks she has promoted and pursued radical and revealing artistic choices.

  • Fashioning Performance Careers in New York, 1869-1899: How Female Performers Negotiated Changing Ideas of Womanhood

    Author:
    Celia Braxton
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    Although they worked outside the home, the majority of nineteenth-century female performers built careers within, not in spite of, domestic ideology. Their choice contrasts with those of their more transgressive sisters, like Sarah Bernhardt, who flouted the ideal. This study of over seven hundred women who performed in New York City during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century examines how they created careers and public characters by combining values found within domestic ideology with changes in the notions of womanhood brought about by the experience of the Civil War. Analysis of the database for this project reveals that after the war, there was an influx into the theatrical profession of young women from the middle classes. This changed the culture of the theatrical field, as well as the ways women from theatrical backgrounds presented themselves. The reasons women gave for entering theatre also changed, from redemptive reasons to reasons of choice. But the collective experiences of the Civil War, combined with the need for many women to support themselves, also contributed to a new spirit of female independence exemplified by the assumption of independent agency by female stars. Cultural discomfort with the idea of independent businesswomen was played out in the press, as theatrical managers attempted to convince female performers of the folly of managing their own careers. As a group, female performers became a lightning rod for discussion of the growing independence of women generally. The dissertation concludes by examining the careers of three lesser known performers of the late nineteenth-century who used domestic ideology to their career advantage: Georgia Cayvan, who grew from working-class roots to become the leading lady of the Lycuem Theatre; Louisa Eldridge, who used the ideals of domestic womanhood to create a public character that complimented her career as character actress; and Fanny Davenport, producer and director of one of the largest theatrical combination companies of the last twenty years of the nineteenth century.

  • The Circulation of Blackface: Nostalgia and Tradition in US Minstrel Performance of the Early 1920s

    Author:
    Kevin Byrne
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    David Savran
    Abstract:

    The Circulation of Blackface: Nostalgia and Tradition in US Minstrel Performance of the Early 1920s by Kevin Byrne Adviser: David Savran Due to related issues of distribution and technology, the minstrel show was no longer a commercially viable form of professional entertainment in the second decade of the twentieth century. But the minstrel show did not disappear. Instead, it was absorbed into the technological mass-culture media that was either invented or reached new prominence during the era: national advertisements, promotional products, printed scripts, sheet music, audio recording, and film. This dissertation looks at the first years of the 1920s and analyzes the methods through which minstrelsy's elements were consumed by the US public, the individuals who circulated these conventions, and the racial hegemony of the time period. Some complicated questions arise when minstrelsy is mediatized. How are the show's conventions affected? And its message? What type of reification occurs under these conditions? In what way are there opportunities, particularly for minority performers, to challenge the racist hegemony when faced with such powerful, seductive, and lucrative performances? The chapters of this dissertation are a series of interlocked case studies that examine the pervasiveness of blackface and minstrel tropes in different levels and areas of US society. Chapter two examines how the legacy of Aunt Jemima helped shape the pancake mix advertising campaigns of the 1920s. Chapter three focuses on the mail-order amateur theatrical industry and the minstrel shows written specifically for non-professional performers. Chapter four contrasts three vaudeville circuits, their routes, and their business practices: Big Time white vaudeville; the Theatre Owners' Booking Association, a black circuit; and the Joe Bren Theatrical Company, which toured the country helping community groups stage minstrel shows. The final chapter analyzes the black musical comedies which performed on Broadway: Shuffle Along being the most famous and influential, but also lesser-known works such as Put and Take, How Come, and Chocolate Dandies. What this dissertation aims to prove is just how central blackface and minstrelsy still were to ideas of racial formation, how technology aided and changed these messages, and how adaptable these racist caricatures were to changing social conditions.

  • 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.