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This book explores the Broadway legacy of choreographer Agnes de Mille, from the 1940s through the 1960s. Six musicals are discussed in depth - Oklahoma!, One Touch of Venus, Bloomer Girl, Carousel, Brigadoon, and Allegro. Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Brigadoon were de Mille's most influential and lucrative Broadway works. The other three shows exemplify aspects of her legacy that have not been fully examined, including the impact of her ideas on some of the composers with whom she worked; her ability to incorporate a previously conceived work into the context of a Broadway show; and her trailblazing foray into the role of choreographer/director. Each chapter emphasizes de Mille's unique contributions to the original productions.
Several themes emerge in looking closely at de Mille's Broadway repertoire. Character development remained at the heart of her theatrical work work. She often took minor characters, represented with minimal or no dialogue, and fleshed out their stories. These stories added a layer of meaning that resulted in more complex productions. Sometimes, de Mille's stories were different from the stories her collaborators wanted to tell, which caused many conflicts. Because her unique ideas often got woven into the fabric of her musicals, de Mille saw her choreography as an authorship. She felt she should be given the same rights as the librettist and the composer. De Mille's work as an activist is an aspect of her legacy that has largely been overlooked. She contributed to revisions in dance copyright law and was a founding member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a theatrical union that protects the rights of directors and choreographers. Her contention that choreographers are authors who have their own stories to tell offers a new way of understanding the Broadway musical.
About the Author
Kara Anne Gardner earned her Ph.D. in music and humanities from Stanford University. As a Postdoctoral Fellow, she taught for four years in Stanford's Introduction to the Humanities Program. She also taught classes on popular music, music of the Americas, music and gender, Broadway, and the Ballets Russes at the University of San Francisco and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2008, she received a teaching award for innovative pedagogy and commitment to student learning from USF. She is currently Associate Dean of the Faculty at the Minerva Schools at KGI.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Geoffrey Block
Preface: The Choreographer as Playwright
Note on Sources
Chapter 1: Bringing Ballet to Broadway
Chapter 2: The Dances of Oklahoma!: An Authorship, or Work for Hire?
Chapter 3: One Touch of Venus: Love Among Strangers with Forty Minutes for Lunch
Chapter 4: Fitting the "Civil War Ballet" into Bloomer Girl
Chapter 5: Playwriting Through Movement: de Mille's dances for Carousel
Chapter 6: Shaping the Story of Brigadoon
Chapter 7: Staging Allegro
Chapter 8: De Mille's Broadway Decline and Her Activist Legacy