Volume 34 of Theatre History Studies revisits the foundations of theatre, explores the boundaries and definitions of theatre, and illuminates how writing about the history of theatre is itself a form of historiography.
The five essays are arranged chronologically, starting with Alan Sikes’s discussion of the Abydos Passion Play. Sikes challenges the long-held interpretation of that ritualized annual reenactment of the death, dismemberment, and return to life of Egyptian god-king Osiris as the world’s first recorded dramatic production. In analyzing the “Passion Play”—Sikes argues the term is not apt—he applies semiotic theory using "sign and referent" to revise general concepts of mimesis, and in so doing clarifies the fundamental answer to the question, “What is theatre?”
In a pair of essays, Andrew Gibb and Nicole Berkin both explore theatre during America’s antebellum period. Gibb examines minstrelsy in antebellum California, exploding narrow definitions of minstrelsy as a primarily Eastern phenomenon and one reflecting a stark interaction of two races. Following the story of Jewish African Caribbean immigrant William Alexander Leidesdorff, Gibb demonstrates that national forms are always affected by their local productions and audiences. Berkin’s essay focuses on the struggles over cultural power that took place between popular entertainers and theatre managers. She examines how both parties used touring strategically to engage with antebellum notions of deception and fraud.
The last two essays, by Megan Geigner and Heide Nees, present findings from performance studies which, by examining a wide array of dramatic and performative texts, expands the interdisciplinary foundations of theatre history studies. This fascinating collection is rounded out by an expanded selection of insightful reviews of recent literature in the area.
List of Illustrations
Introduction - Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix
Theatre History, Theatrical Mimesis, and the Myth of the Abydos Passion Play - Alan Sikes
William Alexander Leidesdorff and the American 1847: Minstrelsy and Race in California Before the Gold Rush - Andrew Gibb
Antebellum Touring and the Culture of Deception: The Case of Master Diamond - Nicole Berkin
Performing the Polish-American Patriot: Civic Performance and Hyphenated Identity in World War I Chicago - Megan E. Geigner
New Paths to Representation; or, How Under the Cherokee Moon Broke the Outdoor Historical Drama Mold - Heidi L. Nees
Valleri J. Hohman, Russian Culture and Theatrical Performance in America, 1891–1933 - Reviewed by Sharon Marie Carnicke
Elizabeth A. Osborne, Staging the People: Community and Identity in the Federal Theatre Project - Reviewed by Johnathan Chambers
Eli Rozik, Comedy: A Critical Introduction - Reviewed by Miriam Chirico
Jill A. Sullivan, The Politics of the Pantomime: Regional Identity in the Theatre, 1860–1900 - Reviewed by Meredith Conti
Barbara Ozieblo and Noelia Hernando-Real, eds., Performing Gender Violence: Plays by Contemporary American Women Dramatists - Reviewed by Jerry Dickey
Rebecca Schneider, Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment - Reviewed by Julia Fawcett
Alfonso Ceballos Muñoz, Ramón Espejo Romero, and Bernardo Muñoz Martinez, eds., Violence in American Drama: Essays on Its Staging, Meanings and Effects - Reviewed by Iris Fischer
Stacy Wolf, Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical - Reviewed by Brett D. Johnson
Noelia Hernando-Real, Self and Space in the Theater of Susan Glaspell - Reviewed by Emeline Jouve
Keith Garebian, The Making of Cabaret - Reviewed by Valerie Joyce
Ruth Feldstein, How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement - Reviewed by Keith Byron Kirk
Helen Smith, There’s a Place for Us: The Musical Theatre Works of Leonard Bernstein - Reviewed by Jenna L. Kubly
Scott Magelssen, Simming: Participatory Theatre and the Making of Meaning - Reviewed by Martha S. Lomonaco
Susan Bennett, Theatre and Museums - Reviewed by Scott Magelssen
Simon C. Estok, Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia - Reviewed by Theresa J. May
Alastair Brotchie, Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life - Reviewed by Lance Mekeel
Elizabeth C. Ramírez and Catherine Casiano, eds., La Voz Latina: Contemporary Plays and Performance Pieces by Latinas - Reviewed by Beliza Torres Narvaez
Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights - Reviewed by Tavia Nyong'o
Theresa Robbins Dudeck, Keith Johnstone: A Critical Biography - Reviewed by Kristen Rogers
Rosemary Malague, An Actress Prepares: Women and “the Method” - Reviewed by Kristen Rogers
Iris Smith Fischer, Mabou Mines: Making Avant-Garde Theater in the 1970s - Reviewed by Cindy Rosenthal
Stuart J. Hecht, Transposing Broadway: Jews, Assimilation, and the American Musical - Reviewed by Judith Sebesta
Hanay Geiogamah, Ceremony, Spirituality, and Ritual in Native American Performance: A Creative Notebook - Reviewed by Teresa Stankiewicz
Philip C. Kolin, ed., Suzan-Lori Parks: Essays on the Plays and Other Works - Reviewed by Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
Brandi Wilkins Catanese, The Problem of the Color[blind}: Racial Transgression and the Politics of Black Performance - Reviewed by Harvey Young
Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix is the dean of the College of Creative Arts and a professor of theatre at Miami University in Ohio. She is the author of Wearing the Breeches: Gender on the Antebellum Stage and the forthcoming Upon a Conspicuous Stage: Performance and the Politics of Slavery, 1850–1861, in addition to articles and book reviews in the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre History Studies, Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism.