T C 357 • Musical Theatre in American CultureW
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
This seminar explores one of the most quintessentially "American" forms of performancethe musical theatrein the context of mid-20th-century U.S. culture. How do the different elements of the musicalscript, blocking (stage movement), casting, acting (characterization, gesture, voice), music, lyrics, choreography, and designwork together to create a performance? What are the conventions of the musical and how did they develop over the course of the 20th century? Why have musicals been an important part of U.S. culture and why do they continue to be popular? What is their relationship to other entertainment media? What kinds of messages about gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, and the meaning of "America" have musicals conveyed? How can a critical approach to musicals both make them more pleasurable and increase the audiences awareness of their meanings? To consider these and other questions, we will focus on the Golden Age of the Broadway musical, from post-WWII until the mid-1960s. In addition to the musicals librettos and cast albums, we will examine historical and analytical studies of musicals, cultural history, and reception theory. We will also view (film versions) and perform (if desired) excerpts from musicals.
This course contains a substantial writing component. Participation, including several 1-2 page response papers: 15% Paper #1 Reading of a libretto (4 pages): 15% Paper #2 Precis and critique of a scholarly article (4 pages): 15% Research presentation: 15% Group project (Performance application of theory/history): 15% Final paper (10-12 pages), to be completed in parts (Proposal; First Draft; Final draft; Presentation of Research): 25%
Selections from: John Bush Jones; Our Musicals, Ourselves: A Social History of the American Musical Theatre Gerald Mast, Cant Stop Singin: The American Musical of Stage and Screen Geoffrey Block, Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim Ethan Mordden, Coming Up Roses: The Broadway Musical in the 1950s Scott Miller, From Assassins to West Side Story: A Directors Guide to the Musical Mark Steyn, Broadway Babies Say Goodnight Smith and Litton, Musical Comedy in America Stephen Whitfield, In Search of American Jewish Culture Alexander Doty, Making Things Perfectly Queer Essays by Andrea Most, Susan Douglas, David Savran, David Roman, D.A. Miller, Richard Dyer, and Stacy Wolf Musicals include: Oklahoma!, South Pacific, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Gypsy, and others according to students interests