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Historians of theatre face the same temptations and challenges as other historians: they negotiate assumptions (their own and those of others) about national identity and national character; they decide what events and actors to highlight - or omit - and what framework and perspective to use for telling the story. Personal biases, trends in scholarship, and sociopolitical contexts influence all histories; and theatre histories, too, are often revised to reflect changing times and interests. This significant collection examines the problems and challenges of formulating national theatre histories. The essayists included here - leading theatre scholars from all over the world, many of whom wrote essays specifically for this volume - provide an international context for national theatre histories as well as studies of individual nations. They cover a wide geographical area: Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America. The essays contrast large countries (India, Indonesia) with small (Ireland), newly independent (Slovenia) with established (U.S.A.), developed (Canada) with developing (Mexico, South Africa), capitalist (U.S.A.) with formerly communist (Russia), monolingual (Sweden) with multilingual (Belgium, Canada), and countries with stable historical boundaries (Sweden) with those whose borders have shifted (Germany). The essays also explore such sociopolitical issues as the polarization of language groups, the importance of religion, the invisibility of ethnic minorities, the redrawing of geographical borders, changes in ideology, and the dismantling of colonial legacies. Finally, they examine such common problems of history writing as types of evidence, periodization, canonization, styles of narrative, and definitions of key terms. Writing and Rewriting National Theatre Histories will be of special interest to students and scholars of theatre, cultural studies, and historiography.
In this fascinating and colorful book, researcher and performer John McCormick focuses on the marionette world of Victorian Britain between its heyday after 1860 and its waning years from 1895 to 1914. Situating the rich and diverse pupper theatre in the context of entertainment culture, he explores both the aesthetics of these dancing dolls and their sociocultural significance in their life and time. The history of marionette performances is interwoven with live-actor performances and with the entire gamut of annual fairs, portable and permanent theatres, music halls, magic lantern shows, waxworks, panoramas, and sideshows. McCormick has drawn upon advertisements in the Era, an entertainment paper, between the 1860s and World War I, and articles in the World's Fair, a paper for showpeople, in the first fifty years of the twentieth century, as well as interviews with descendants of the marionette showpeople and close examinations of many of the surviving puppets. McCormick begins his study with an exploration of the Victorian marionette theatre in the context of other theatrical events of the day, with proprietors and puppeteers, and with the venues where they performed. He further examines the marionette's position as an actor not quite human but imitating humans closely enough to be considered empathetic; the ways that physical attributes were created with wood, paint, and cloth; and the dramas and melodramas that the dolls performed. A discussion of the trick figures and specialized acts that each company possessed, as well as an exploration of the theatre's staging, lighting, and costuming, follows in later chapters. McCormick concludes with a description of the last days of marionette theatre in the wake of changing audience expectations and the increasing popularity of moving pictures. This highly enjoyable and readable study, often illuminated by intriguing anecdotes such as that of the Armenian photographer who fell in love with and abducted the Holden company's Cinderella marionette in 1881, will appeal to everyone fascinated by the magic of nineteenth-century theatre, many of whom will discover how much the marionette could contribute to that magic.
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