To save this undefined to your undefined account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your undefined account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Standard accounts of the masque in British culture between 1600 and 1640 have tended to give primary attention to those presented at court at the festival seasons of Christmas and Shrovetide. Thematically, they have concentrated on the artists who had a major responsibility in making themBen Jonson and Inigo Jones (with less attention to musical composers and choreographers, whose contributions to the entire event must have been of great importance, but of whom we know less). Politically, they have taken the masque's function of encomium and endorsement of the monarch as a sign of crisis, growing to its most ironic excess in Salmacida Spolia, written by William Davenant, presented in January and again in February of 1640. What C. V. Wedgwood emblematically identified as “the last masque” in fact happened twice.C. V. Wedgwood, Truth and Opinion (London: Collins, 1960).
Why should a country bumpkin, a secondary character in the ballad opera afterpiece Flora, be one of the most frequently illustrated roles in eighteenth-century English theatre? The character was named “Hob” because he was a bumpkin, or “clown,” but even while the name Hob was becoming naturalized this way during the seventeenth century, it still retained echoes of Robin Goodfellow, the native trickster figure (OED) (Fig. 1). Unnoticed by theatre historians, the pictures to which I refer have been granted only passing mention by music and art historians. The images began as illustrations in a songbook, which spawned, among other things, two series of captioned engravings that were reissued periodically. The engravings were also transferred to other media (oil paintings and paintings on glass), and the Hob character turns up in a political cartoon as late as 1793.Anon. [Cruikshank], “Hob in the Well,” published by T. Prattent, 46 Cloth Fair West Smithfield, 4 September 1793 (Lewis Walpole Library, 718.104.22.168). To clarify the relation of these images to one another, we must understand their origins. Although they were undoubtedly inspired by the production of Flora (1729), the extent to which they record its staging is difficult to determine. Their chief purpose was to make money, not for the theatre but for the publishers, a factor that must be kept in mind when considering how the pictures were understood. Over time, the images became detached from the play altogether, and what they meant then is even harder to discern.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, English low comedians were continually depicted in portraits, prints, illustrations, and caricatures, both in character and as themselves. Critical accounts of low comedians not only draw regularly on the language of contemporary art criticism, but also render in prose highly visual depictions of the comedians' physical appearance and performance. What is portrayed, whether in paint or prose, is not just the creation of the critic or the artist: comic actors, through imagination and observation, create both their individual stage personae and the characters they represent. While theatrical portraiture is inevitably influenced by the artist's own style and perceptions, the artist is also recording a copy of a portrait already created and delineated by another's hand. Even the critic's use of imagery in describing comic performance in prose is fired by what actors have already created.For a discussion of the influence of Hogarth and issues of caricature on discussions of comic actors, see Jim Davis, “They Shew Me Off in Every Form and Way: The Iconography of English Comic Acting in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries,” Theatre Research International 26.3 (October 2001): 243–56.
Performance brings Ophelia's madness to life. Painters and illustrators responded as much to performance as to text when representing Ophelia. This essay concerns those representations and the impact of the performer on a generation of French Romantic artists, writers, and their audiences.
Photographs show what performers actually look like. They show details of costume. They apparently show gesture, posture, stance, and expression, which sometimes can be linked with specific moments in a drama. The idea of photographs as pictorial evidence of actors' work appeals because photos seem, paradoxically, both to describe and to resolve the disturbing contradiction which lies close to the heart of the historian's work: the transient intimate moment (the inherently unstable and ephemeral) arrested, caught forever. This is an idea (or an ideal) that makes the use of photos so appealing. Photographs seem to tell us that we have passed from the realm of the subjective artist, who aspired to reproduce a likeness of an event that lay beyond his or her capacity to realize fully, into the domain of the scientific observer. The camera, we are led to understand, is merely a scientific recording instrument, an objective machine that simply transcribes onto a sensitized plate anything which is placed before it. A baby, an actor, a steam engine, or a cow is recorded with equal impartiality. We are so grateful for any image of these elusive and fugitive moments of distant performance that we hesitate to query the source.
The state of theatre archives in Ireland was a major subject of the recent Irish Theatre History Conference (subtitled Archives, Historiography, Politics) held at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in November 2001. Many of the theatre-related collections in Ireland discussed at the conference, despite the best efforts of their curators, have historically lacked the resources to make materials fully accessible to scholars or to catalog their holdings comprehensively. This trend has changed in recent years, however, and new efforts in managing Irish theatre resources are planned. It seems an appropriate time to discuss one major Irish theatre collection that is both fully cataloged and readily accessible, although it is located at some distance from its original home.
Geographies of Learning maps the coordinates of several critical impasses in so-called progressive fields, while simultaneously insisting that the impasses may be negotiated or (in keeping with road terminology) maneuvered. Jill Dolan is passionately committed to the possibility of overcoming the sometimes fractious disagreements between feminists and lesbian/gay/queer folks, between theatre theorists and practitioners, between academics, artists, and activists. Her rich background in all of these areas (as lesbian activist, professor of theatre studies and women's studies, executive director of two programs, and president of a large professional organization) equips her to offer her readers substantial vision as well as concrete experience, and the example of someone who puts her convictions into practicewhat my parents' class and generation called “putting your money where your mouth is.”
Although we have long understood that audiences are comakers of meaning in the playhouse, most theatre histories pay scant attention to the role of spectators in constituting periods of theatrical history and motivating historical change. In part, our ignorance of audience dynamics has been due to the difficulty of researching the topic; reliable information on the social profile, expectations, behavior, and response of historical audiences is not easy to acquire. Before Butsch's survey, historians of American acting, playwriting, or theatre architectureindeed, of the entire range of theatrical phenomena that had to accommodate itself to the habits, mollify the concerns, and inflame the desires of past audiencesmight have been excused for their inattention to and/or misleading generalizations about American spectators before 1920. No more. The Making of American Audiences provides a firm foundation upon which a new generation of performance historians might build more socially engaged and responsible histories.
Opera buffs and anglophiles are sure to find their own pleasures in Opera and Drama in Eighteenth-Century London and in volume 2 of Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century London, but these new works will also appeal to general readers and theatre scholars who have long-standing interests in the profusion of theatrical entertainments in London during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Both volumes capture an overheated theatre scene, stoked by class-consciousness at its most acute. Both books, but especially Italian Opera, find uses for financial records. The meticulous bookkeeping of eighteenth-century London opera underscores the need for lots of money to run an enterprise made up largely of foreign performers, designers, and composers, none of whom came cheap, in the competitive bidding and prototypical stardom that marked the European opera scene of the time. Both works show opera managers spending money on attractions they could bring to London to aggrandize their patrons' vaunting senses of themselves, and vaunting came naturally at a time of high imperial ambitions and high colonial revenues, though neither book searches opera for its metatheatrical possibilities.
In 1978, French historian François Furet announced that “the French Revolution is over,” by which he meant that the heated debates in France over the meanings of the Revolution, evident throughout the nineteenth and into the first half of the twentieth century, were at an end. Passions had cooled so sufficiently, Furet thought, that the historiography of the Revolution could pass from its long “commemorative” phase, dominated since 1917 by programmatic Marxist interpretations, to a more dispassionate, analytical approach. Since then, of course, historians in France and the anglophone world have vehemently debated the Furet thesis. While most of them have been willing to discard the idea that 1789 represented the triumph of a rising bourgeois class over a superannuated aristocracy, George Taylor's new book on the London and Paris stages in the Revolutionary period still situates theatrical production on both sides of the Channel within the context of a politically and economically ascendant bourgeoisie. Taylor argues that “new material circumstances created new audiences and new ideological opinions” (2) on the stages of both capitals during this sixteen-year period. Ultimately, however, the rise of Gothic melodrama by the time of Napoleon's self-coronation in 1804 was “reactionary;” the genre's Romantic emphasis on the “absolute self,” at the expense of holistic links among the self, the body, and the community, betrayed the failure of the Revolutionary spirit felt in both countries in 1789. Theatregoing after 1800, according to Taylor, became an exercise in “alienation,” allowing disaffected audiences to mourn a revolutionary moment that had yielded to oligarchy in Britain and Napoleonic authoritarianism in France.
If there is one constant to be noted throughout the lives of the three Komissarzhevskysthe nineteenth-century operatic tenor, his turn-of-the-century actress daughter, and her half-brother, who made a career outside the USSR as a directorit is their unwavering devotion to an ideal of theatre art that permeated every aspect of their existence. Whether this is literally true or not, it is how Victor Borovsky sees them and presents them in his magisterial tripartite biography.
Michael Balfour's Theatre and War, 1933–1945: Performance in Extremis offers eleven essays, all previously published and in several cases abridged for this volume. They cover four aspects: theatre in service of Fascism, theatre of resistance, theatre behind barbed wire, and theatre at the front. With the exception of two contributions, the essays represent recent scholarship and cover developments in Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union. The level of analysis varies from essay to essay, ranging from in-depth academic research to personal recollections of survivors and eyewitness accounts. The volume addresses theatrical formats ranging from simple, cabaretlike performances to large-scale public spectacles, including both state-organized events supportive of Fascist ideology and the theatre of resistance.
The grandiose title and a three-person editorial team promise a magnum opus on some impressive topics. In fact, this volume is a collection of occasional papers originating in a summer school convened by Pirkko Koski in Suitia, Finland, in 1995, and two of the essays have been published elsewhere previously. The “international cast of scholars” touted in the publisher's blurb comprises five North Americans (one an expatriate), four Finns, and one Israeli. As in all such Festschriften, there is a certain imbalance and immiscibility, and some of the essays are only tenuously connected to the nexus announced in the title.
When eighteenth-century deists dubbed John Wesley's galvanizing of Christian fervor “methodism,” they generally meant it as an insult. Wesley was earnest and pugnacious, a tireless crusader with little sense of humor. Much the same could be (was, and is) said of Lee Strasberg. The volume of essays assembled by David Krasner in Method Acting Reconsidered is a conscientious attempt to rehabilitate a maligned acting model. Sanford Meisner emerges from this attempt more strongly than does Strasberg himself, while Stella Adler's contribution has still to be validated, despite (and sometimes because of) what is said about her here. The Method itself survives because, as Dennis Beck says in an essay that thoughtfully incorporates Stanislavsky, Strasberg, and Diderot, the actor's pursuit of truth (or authenticity) is “most fundamentally . . . the reactivation of acting's inherent paradox” (265).
Joel Schechter's new book of oral-history interviews with members of the Pickle Family Circus offers an unparalleled journey into the mind of the clown. Audiences are accustomed to seeing clowns, but they rarely hear them think. The Pickle Clowns places a slapstick stethoscope under the fright wig of comic performers like Bill Irwin and captures the pulse of their thought processes, as they invent gags and re-create the trajectory of their most memorable comic inventions.
For readers of this journal and certainly for students of the American circus, the subtitle of this book (“The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of”) is an exaggeration that serves (as does the dust jacket) as a kind of circus bally to get the attention of the reader. Dan Rice's position is surely secure in the history of the American circus, both as a pioneer circus entrepreneur and as the greatest American clown of the nineteenth century, a presence as well known in his own time as the great P. T. Barnum.
Using both published and unpublished sources, Brenda Murphy's carefully researched account of important productions of Eugene O'Neill's realistic, autobiographical masterpiece devotes the first twenty percent of the text to the famous New York premiere and continues with briefer accounts of major productions in English, foreign-language productions, and film and television adaptations. As appendixes, Murphy also includes a production chronology from 1956 to 2000, a discography and videography. The fifteen black and white photographs are portraits and close-ups, notably excepting one image from the first José Quintero New York production (displaying the much-discussed stained glass window treatment behind the four principals) and one nearly full stage shot of the famous interior from the first Stockholm production.
In his introduction to this very interesting collection of reviews from the New York Times, Ben Brantley says that he and theatre critic Peter Marks faced great difficulty selecting 125 productions to constitute the 125 “unforgettable plays” of the twentieth century. They “focused not only on the intrinsic merits of the work reviewed, but also on its historical context and the degree to which it engages the critic” (xviii). They also limited themselves (by choice, one assumes) to daily reviews, “passing over the longer and more contemplative pieces that appeared in the Sunday paper” (xix), a decision that surely eliminated at least some reviews that have had the most impact and revealed the most mature appreciations of O'Neill, Odets, Albee, August Wilson, and others.
In order “to introduce readers to the theorized analysis of performance,” Colin Counsell and Laurie Wolf have organized Performance Analysis, a collection of thirty excerpts (each up to nine pages in length), into eight parts. The crossover nature of many of the selections suggests an implicit bridge between performance studies and more traditional investigations of theatre.
At the beginning of No Surrender! No Retreat! African American Pioneer Performers of Twentieth-Century American Theater, Glenda E. Gill asks, “What shall the Negro dance about?” She poses the question as a “metaphor for all African American performing artists who faced . . . overwhelming discrimination” and lets it drive her passion and admiration for her chosen subjects. Her admiration for these theatrical heroes began through her early childhood contact with prominent African Americans on the campus of Alabama A. & M. College. Gill's palpable enthusiasm, germinated from the life-altering performances she saw as a youth, is the clear source of the power behind her scholarship and writing style. The chief value of the book lies in the balance Gill achieves between her quests to document and to celebrate these “pioneer performers,” people who have made her “dance” intellectually and inspirationally. She features the stories of Rose McClendon, Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Marian Anderson, Canada Lee, Pearl Bailey, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, James Earl Jones, and Morgan Freeman.