Passing Performances: Queer Readings of Leading Players in American Theater History

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Overview


Passing Performances gathers a range of critical and biographical essays on notable personalities whose major contributions to the stage occurred before 1969, the year of the Stonewall riots that kicked off the gay rights movement in the United States. How these theater practitioners variously "passed"-- i.e., managed unconventional sexual inclinations both on- and offstage--significantly determined the course of their personal and professional lives and thus the course of U.S. theater history.

The actors, directors, producers, and agents examined here include Edwin Forrest, Charlotte Cushman, and Adah Isaacs Menken, whose personal lives and careers traded on the same-sex erotics of "true love" in the antebellum period; Elisabeth Marbury, Elsie de Wolfe, Elsie Janis, Nance O'Neil, and Alla Nazimova, whose intimate female liaisons were variously interpreted around the turn of the century; the "lavender marriages" of Alfred Lunt to Lynne Fontanne and Guthrie McClintic to Katharine Cornell; the lesbian collaborations of Margaret Webster and Cheryl Crawford; the comic antics of Monty Woolley, which negotiated codified constructions of homosexual perversion in the post-Freudian interwar years; and the on- and offstage performances of Mary Martin and Joe Cino, which resisted the paranoid enforcements of heterosexual normality in the McCarthy era. Central to these investigations are the complex connections of performances of sexuality and gender and their different implications for men and women practitioners working under pervasive sexism and homophobia.

The volume also includes striking archival photographs of the performers and their performances, and an index to facilitate the cross-referencing of subjects' intersecting careers. Passing Performances will engage both general and academic readers interested in theater, gay and lesbian history, American studies, and biography.

Robert A. Schanke is Professor of Theatre and Chair of the Division of Fine Arts, Central College, Iowa. Kim Marra is Associate Professor of Theatre Arts, University of Iowa.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
"My Noble Spartacus": Edwin Forrest and Masculinity on the Nineteenth-Century Stage 19
"Such a Romeo as We Had Never Ventured to Hope For": Charlotte Cushman 41
Bohemian on Horseback: Adah Isaacs Menken 63
Rebels of Their Sex: Nance O'Neil and Lizzie Borden 83
A Lesbian Marriage of Cultural Consequence: Elisabeth Marbury and Elsie de Wolfe, 1886-1933 104
Alla Nazimova: "The Witch of Makeup" 129
Elsie Janis: "A Comfortable Goofiness" 151
Staging Heterosexuality: Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne's Design for Living 175
Kit and Guth: A Lavender Marriage on Broadway 197
Webster without Tears: A Daughter's Journey 221
Cheryl Crawford: One Not So Naked Individual 239
Monty Woolley: The Public and Private Man from Saratoga Springs 262
Mary Martin: Washin' That Man Right Outta Her Hair 283
Joseph Cino and the First Off-Off-Broadway Theater 303
Contributors 325
Index 329
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