The Social Lives of Playscripts: Nick of the Woods from Inkwell to Internet
Year of Dissertation:
This study tracks the trajectories of playscripts as artifacts. Oriented by Book History or the Sociology of Texts (fused with media studies and cultural anthropology), I reconstruct the movements of a cohort of playscripts: nineteenth-century US and UK melodramas derived from Robert M. Bird's 1837 novel, Nick of the Woods, and the twentieth-century parodies they spawned. The analysis is drive by questions about how theatre's material texts move and change. What happens to playscripts as they cross media, cultural moment, and social sphere? What identities and values do playscripts emanate? How do their physical features reveal their passages? Chapter one, after clarifying the study's multi-disciplinary ethos of material texts, narrates the cases' condensed life story. Chapter two surveys the 1838-1858 playwrights in the US and UK, focusing on three whose varied careers, together with the cultural, economic, and semiotic operations of dramatizing, highlight some nuances of authorship and text during melodrama's heyday. Chapter three moves backstage, delineating the material-semiotic practices involved in each type of theatre's workaday; script and its respective job: scribes and copies, prompters and promptbooks, actors and parts, and music. Chapter four enters the book world to describe the five publishers of Nick of the Woods plays, whose careers, processes, and products--especially the Acting Edition format--illustrate the industrial-era evolutions and varieties of English printed playbooks. Proceeding past the play's successful stage career to the twentieth century, chapter five discusses the playscript's relocation into libraries and special collections within the then-expanding learning sphere, along with their representation by new genres of lists. Chapter six considers modernized workaday scripts, now typewritten or published for amateurs, as they were configured for revival adaptations of outmoded melodrama for presentation along disparate channels: college, low-budget parody, radio, and England's public television. Reaching our scholarly realm, chapter seven narrates the advent of academic publishing in microform, print anthologies, digital products, and independent reprints, entwined with transformations in the US academy, through which old drama became data. Across its full arc, the life model demonstrates that the things people do with playscripts make the playscripts into different kinds of things.
"The Commodification of US Acting as Seen Through the League of Professional Theatre Training Programs, 1965-1987"
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation explores the relationship between US acting, actor training, and the sociology of theatre. Using the cultural criticism of notable Western Marxists, it argues that the profession of US acting has become a commodified enterprise, most especially since the 1970s and 80s. By using the now defunct League of Professional Theatre Training Programs as its object of study, the dissertation examines the decreasing importance of stage actors, and by extension, the not-for-profit theatre in American society, a trend that began in the 1970s and persists today.