Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.