Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Staging Fat: Dramaturgy, Female Bodies, and Contemporary American Culture

    Author:
    Jennifer-Scott Mobley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Theatre
    Advisor:
    Judith Milhous
    Abstract:

    Abstract Staging Fat: Dramaturgy, Female Bodies, and Contemporary American Culture By Jennifer-Scott Mobley Advisor: Dr. Judith Milhous This dissertation argues that fat as it is perceived today is a particular construction of American culture and that there are a myriad of meanings associated with the fat female body in representation. I assert that, in the context of realism, fat female bodies onstage and in various cultural texts speak semiotically without saying a word and are "read" by audiences regardless of the actual text. In the first chapter I trace the history of fat in the U.S. and the evolution of fat prejudice between the late nineteenth century and the present day as well as discuss the stereotypes and fears directed at fat women in our culture. In chapter two I examine a cross section of plays that call for fat actresses and analyze how playwrights use fat to develop a character and dramaturgically as a plot device. Chapter three explores plays that do not explicitly call for fat actresses but have been traditionally cast with fatter actresses because of the implied "fat behavior" of the character. In chapter four I demonstrate the interplay of fat, race, and sexuality in various cultural texts. Chapter five investigates fat performers who either deliberately use their bodies to interrogate stereotypes or to capitalize on cultural assumptions about fat women. Finally, I argue that Americans, partially as a result of reality TV programming and the vast reach of mass media due to the internet, increasingly blur the line between representation and reality. American audiences have become so accustomed to homogenized representations of slender, white, feminine beauty onstage and in film, TV, and advertising that any performing female body that falls outside the hegemonic standard is read as "unrealistic" and therefore audiences will ascribe additional meanings to her character beyond the actual narrative.

  • 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.

  • 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.