The idea of American musical theatre conjures up images of bright lights and big city, but its lifeblood is found in local and amateur productions at schools, community theatres, summer camps, and more. In this talk based on her book, Beyond Broadway, Stacy Wolf considers the widespread presence and persistence of musical theatre in U.S. culture, and examines it as a live, pleasurable, participatory experience of creating, watching, and listening. Why does local musical theatre flourish in America? Why do so many Americans passionately engage in a century-old artistic practice that requires intense, person-to-person collaboration? Why do audiences flock to see musicals in their hometowns? How do corporations like Disney and Music Theatre International enable musical theatre’s energetic movement through American culture? Touring from Maine to California, Wolf visited elementary schools, a middle school performance festival, an afterschool program led by a “backstage diva,” high schools, girls’ Jewish summer camps, state park outdoor theatres, community theatres, and dinner theatres, and conducted over 200 interviews with practitioners and spectators, licensors and Disney creatives. In this talk, Wolf tells the story of musical theatre's abundance and longevity in the U.S. as a thriving, joyful activity that touches millions of lives.
As in her other books, A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical and Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical, Wolf’s account of local and amateur musical theatre is from a feminist perspective, frequently focusing on women’s roles in theatrical production, stereotypical characters for women, and the gendered dynamics in musical theatre production. Wolf practiced a feminist, reflexive ethnographic methodology for the book as well.
Sponsored by the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, the Gender Studies Program, and the College of Arts and Letters Office of Undergraduate Studies.