Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Exporting America: Theatre, Gay Male Identity, and Anti-Americanism in Denmark and West Germany

    Author:
    Ken Nielsen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    David Savran
    Abstract:

    As a second generation gay theatre history, Exporting America offers an analysis of how US American plays concerning male homosexuality were performed and received in Western Europe, exemplified by Denmark and West Germany. Through analysis of The Boys in the Band, Bent, Torch Song Trilogy, and Angels in America as text and in performance, this dissertation argues that it is necessary to understand US plays in light of intercultural performance rather than as plays expressing universal desires, dreams, anxieties, and identities. In stressing the particularity of local cultures--employing a method of radical contextualization--Exporting America discusses how meanings travel across borders and how international reception adds to or subtracts from meaning, determined as a set of consequences for the individual and the society in which the production and reception of the original production takes place. Focusing on a specific identity, that of gay men, I offer a discussion of how gay male identity is performed theatrically and how a particular construction of this identity initially emanating from the USA arises in particular Western European countries. In the first chapter I offer a discussion of the theoretical framework informing the dissertation. Building on Raymond Williams, I argue that operating analytically with "structure of feeling" allows the theatre historian to reevaluate the construction of gay identity in the theatre. Furthermore, the first chapter argues that the Danish and West German reception of these plays must be understood as informed by a cultural anti-Americanism. Chapter two offers an analysis of performances of Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band and Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy as examples of a domestication of the gay man in relation to discourses of gay sexual liberation in the United States and in Denmark. In chapter three I analyze the reception of Martin Sherman's Bent in England, Denmark, and, in particular, West Germany. The chapter argues for a particular relationship between gay identity and the performance of history and points out the ways in which the reception of the gay holocaust as performed in Bent must be understood in relation to the West German broadcast of Holocaust, the miniseries. The US genesis of Tony Kushner's Angels in America is discussed in chapter four, and the fundamental American nature of the play is highlighted by an analysis of the Danish and German reception.

  • Carmen Rivera: Theatre of Latinidad

    Author:
    Jason Ramirez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Gloria Waldman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores the process of "latinization" as dramatized in the plays of OBIE Award-winning playwright, Carmen Rivera. For two decades, Rivera has been at the forefront of Latino/a theatre in the United States, both as a critical and artistic success. The author analyzes Rivera's texts as socio-cultural documents which represent latinidad on the stage. To pursue this course of examination, latinidad will be defined and theorized in relation to the academic work of noted sociologists including Agustín Laó-Montes' ideologies of latinidad and latinization, Suzanne Oboler's arguments against ethnic labels in the media and representation, Edward Said's theories of orientalism, and other socio-political and socio-economic explorations of latinidad, which are used to address Rivera's plays, not solely as dramatic texts, but rather, as living documentation of Latinos and their place in the twenty-first century. The scholarship of Arlene Dávila, Jon Rossini and Juan Flores provides a landscape for analyzing the characters as post-colonial reconstructions of a Latino past, building on Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez's, José Can You See? Latinos On and Off-Broadway. In-depth interviews with Rivera as well as accounts regarding playwrights and practitioners from the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, Repertorio Español, INTAR, and L.E.F.T. document the impact that Rivera has had on the Latina/o theatre community and its audience. Finally, analysis of current trends in the Latino theatre help develop a perspective on where the theatre is re-creating itself as well as positioning Carmen Rivera's role in that evolution.

  • The Lost Apple Plays: Performing Operation Pedro Pan

    Author:
    Kimberly Ramirez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Jean Graham-Jones
    Abstract:

    From 1960 to 1962, more than 14,000 unaccompanied minors took flight from Cuba to the United States, establishing the largest recorded exodus in the Western Hemisphere. The displaced children and the country they left behind are often metaphorized using a popular Latin American nursery rhyme, "The Lost Apple." Now, more than four decades later, Operation Pedro Pan persists through a revealing body of performance by and about a nation's exiled children. The Lost Apple Plays investigates how memory, identity formation, nationhood, citizenship, and migration have been dramatized through these performances. Artists including Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, director/actor/playwright Mario Ernesto Sánchez, Grammy-winning singer Willy Chirino, performance artist Ana Mendieta, sculptor María Brito, prolific dramatist Eduardo Machado, and new playwright Melinda López compose a Cuba that can be neither lost nor recovered for Pedro Pans, but remains an impenetrable illusion--like the restless, liminal condition of lifelong exile.

  • Staging The Volk: Nazi Policy and the Reality of Theatrical Production in Three Berlin Theatres, 1933-1944

    Author:
    Hillary Rosenberg
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Marvin Carlson
    Abstract:

    Although theatrical production flourished during Nazi Germany, resulting in tens of thousands of performance events, there is very little English language scholarship on theatre in Nazi Germany. The definitive theatre history textbook, Oscar Brockett's History of the Theatre, barely mentions this eleven year period. If the period is mentioned in theatre history surveys, there is the implication that theatrical production during this time must be either morally bankrupt or artistically inferior and is therefore unworthy of further study. This viewpoint is far too simplistic, and there is a need for a more in-depth examination of the theatre produced during the Third Reich. For the Nazis, creating a national, Aryan identity was the centerpiece of their political vision. The theatre offered the regime an incredibly useful tool. On the stage, the German identity could go beyond mere description and become flesh and blood. But to what extent was this vision of a staged national identity actually carried out on the German stage? In this study, I examine several productions at three theatres in Berlin: the Theater des Volkes, the Deutsches Theater, and the Berliner Staatstheater. Each of these theatres had direct ties to high-ranking Nazi officials and they were offered up as the jewels in the crown of the Nazi theatrical establishment. Because of this connection, productions at these theatres provide effective case studies for interrogating the relationship between the regime and theatrical production. In the first chapter I will explore the National Socialist theatrical ideology and examine how this ideology was translated into political policy. Each of the remaining three chapters will then focus on one particular theatre to investigate how this policy shaped performance. How (if at all) did these theatres with such close connections to the Nazi regime express National Socialist ideology against the shifting framework of the official cultural policies of the Third Reich? By combining a study of the organizational practices and political ideology of the Nazi theatre with an analysis of the performances that took place in those theatres, I will present a critical analysis of the theatrical in light of the political.

  • Performing the "Ben Comune": The Political Functions of Performance in the Republic of Siena (1260-1555)

    Author:
    Jenna Soleo-Shanks
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Pamela Sheingorn
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the civic function of performance in Siena, Italy, from the nascent communal era in the twelfth century through the ultimate collapse of the Sienese Republic in the middle of the sixteenth century. During this era the city-states that developed throughout northern and central Italy were dynamic and tenuous societies, many of which relied on a single ruler or familial dynasty for their survival. For the greater part of its 400-year history, however, the Sienese Republic eschewed such dependencies, instead fostering a representative government. Such a government functioned, in part, due to the support of its people, who came to see themselves, over the course of the republican era, within the frame of a unique civic identity. This identity was powerfully expressed through and dependent on festive performance. Festive performance was an important tool of the Sienese Republic, a means through which civic identity was constructed, articulated, and promoted by various groups within the city-state. In productions ranging from games of skill to self-conscious dramas and from festive to devotional events, the dynamics between civic groups, which often had histories of violent conflict, were put on display both literally and figuratively. Through an examination of the forms and functions of performance characteristic of the Republic, I argue that performance was a means of fostering civic unity. By probing the unique connection between politics and performance I describe how inimitably suited performance was to the needs of this society and reveal how performance traditions allowed for the expression of rivalries, tensions, and contradictions within the city that might otherwise have undermined the stability of the Republic. Finally, using the vocabulary and perspectives of performance and ritual theory I demonstrate how both the physical and ideological foundations of the Sienese Republic were indebted to performance throughout its history. Thus my dissertation is not merely a history of an extraordinary performance tradition; it is an examination of a society's political dependence on performance.

  • Technique, Practice, Research: Foundations for an Epistemology of Embodiment in Physical Culture, Performing Arts, and Everyday Life

    Author:
    Benjamin Spatz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Maurya Wickstrom
    Abstract:

    This dissertation develops an epistemology of embodiment, or theory of embodied knowledge, based on a central thesis: technique is the knowledge that structures practice. Drawing on critical perspectives from the sociology of knowledge, phenomenology, dance studies, queer theory, and other fields, I argue that technique is a major area of historical and ongoing research in physical culture (e.g., postural yoga and somatic bodywork); performing arts (e.g., dance and actor training); and everyday life (e.g., gender). Technique—from the Greek techne—is contrasted with related concepts like habitus, performance, and performativity, which do not necessarily suggest such an epistemological perspective. I argue that a more rigorous epistemology of embodiment may help us to understand research projects in each of these areas, as well as to frame new ones. This argument has immediate relevance to discussions of the relationship between theory and practice in academia, including the debate around “Practice as Research.”

  • The Pleasure Gardens of Antebellum America and the Performance of American Identities

    Author:
    Naomi Stubbs
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    Pleasure gardens (outdoor, privately-owned entertainment venues) were popular in a number of European cities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Typically-overlooked, the American exemplars have been assumed to be inconsequential and mere imitations of the English venues. However, I argue that pleasure gardens were important venues for citizens of the newly-formed nation to define through performance what it meant to be American. Focusing on performance as role playing and as providing opportunities to test identities, this study examines the practices of proprietors, patterns of patronage, and staged entertainments of twelve American pleasure gardens operating within five east-coast cities. The unique manner in which pleasure gardens addressed concerns with the rapid industrialization and urbanization of the nation is explored by examining the geographic locations of the various sites. Investigating but ultimately dismissing the claim that American pleasure gardens were the same as English venues, I then examine how American national identities were tested through simultaneous adoption and rejection of English associations. I add to this discussion a study of the use of the gardens for patriotic events and activities. I then turn to focus on class roles and the relationship between class and performance, followed by a study of how issues of racial and ethnic American identities were addressed within the gardens through enactments, plays, and dances. This study concludes by examining the legacy of pleasure gardens in American popular entertainment, positing concert saloons, roof garden theatres, vaudeville, world's fairs, public parks, and amusement parks as successors to pleasure gardens. Though American pleasure gardens have been largely neglected to date, and difficult to pin down due to scarce resources, this study highlights the value of studying these "rural retreats." In addition to their centrality to performances of American identities during a time of fervent national identity negotiation, I demonstrate that the pleasure gardens of America have contributed to such fundamental aspects of American culture as fireworks on the Fourth of July, vaudeville, and theme parks.

  • Theatres of Absence: Seville, 1248-1575

    Author:
    Christopher Swift
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Pamela Sheingorn
    Abstract:

    Despite a notable lack of historiographic attention to medieval Iberian theatre, a golden age of performance existed on the Peninsula well before the appearance of Lope de Vega at the end of the sixteenth century. New archival discoveries and innovative research methodologies reveal medieval Seville as a vital site of performance culture. This dissertation employs interdisciplinary critical methods of postcolonialism, ritual affect, and phenomenology in order to examine performances of religious and cultural interaction between Muslims, Jews, and Christians along the Andalusi frontier in late medieval, early modern Spain. The coextensive relationships between textual, spatial, and corporal forms are considered in the analyses of Alfonso X's Cantigas de Santa Maria, which, as staged in a converted mosque, disclose traces of pre-conquest Andalusi poetic and musical forms; the late medieval penitential movement in Spain that facilitated metonymic associations between Christians and religious minorities through symbolic links across an array of processional enactments; and, in the context of religious and economic imperialism, restaging of Amerindian ritual that contributed to the invention of New World subjectivity. From Christian reconquest through the culturally heterogeneous periods of Atlantic exploration and colonialism, performance was a method of compensating for social imbalances, erecting and crossing religious divisions, and facilitating cultural admixtures, and these interactions gave meaning to public devotional practices and communal identities.

  • The Social Lives of Playscripts: Nick of the Woods from Inkwell to Internet

    Author:
    Katherine Wilson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    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.

  • Social Realism of British New Wave "Left" Films: The Working-Class Border Character

    Author:
    Alan Winson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    Film and social critics had questioned the "newness" and/or "reality" of British New Wave films; its directors were faulted for making "working-class" films from a privileged, middle-class stance and for copying French New Wave forms. This dissertation identified a subset of New Wave films--New Wave Left [NWL] films--which required more rigorous analysis. By analyzing NWL films through an early New Left lens, this dissertation has shown that such criticism was based on limited expectations and ways of seeing and did not adequately differentiate between social realist films which introduced new approaches and social problem films which used conventional and melodramatic approaches to dramatize specific societal issues, such as teen violence, homosexuality, and union organizing. The NWL filmmakers exposed class realities via working-class writers. The social views of the working-class "border" character is a feature of these films. Poetic choices, such as shot amplification and non-conventional edits, encouraged film viewers to take up similar "border" positions that opened oppositional perspectives on the social situation of postwar Britain. Further, in order to reach their goals, NWL film directors argued for and implemented production processes that would free them from industry and union restrictions. These approaches and attitudes formed what was described as the New Left film aesthetic. Though these films influenced later approaches to social realism in British film, New Left writers at the beginning of the twenty-first century admitted that positive social change would not happen under present capitalistic conditions. Chapter One describes the social-historical context from which New Left concerns, theories and goals emerged. Chapter Two defines what Raymond Williams and other New Left culturalists meant by a work's committed social realism. Chapters Three and Four look at the literature of the writers whose works were adapted for NWL films and show that this literature only partially accomplished Williams's social realism. Chapter Five examines the early negative criticism of NWL films and then analyzes how NWL films revealed New Left social attitudes and social realist aesthetics that defined the New Left film aesthetic.