Review: Western Popluar Theatre

Dear Constant Reader,

Please click and nominate the Boston Babydolls for “Best Burlesque” and Naked Girls Reading for “Best Literary Gang”. Thank you!

Western Popular Theatre edited by David Mayer and Kenneth Richards (1977).

This volume is the “Proceedings of a Symposium sponsored by the Manchester University Department of Drama” — a collection of papers on various topics pertaining to popular theatre. If you’re interested in the history of theatre or the social history of theatre, you might find something worth reading.

Myself, I enjoyed the two articles on commedia del’arte, because I used to perform it and it’s the great-great-grandmother of burlesque comedy. It’s interesting to see the evolution and branching of the comedica styles and charcters.

But where’s the burlesque you may ask? In the paper “Strippers and Coochers — the Quintessence of American Burlesque” by William Green. The author’s opinion can be summed up in the second paragraph:

Actually the development of burlesque in the United States may be divided into approximately three periods: 1750-1868, the age of traditional burlesque; 1868-1922, the era during which the modern burlesque show evolved; and 1922-present, the period of nudity, smut, and decline.

Ouch! Harsh. And that’s the time period we call “The Golden Age of Burlesque” that he’s slamming. It’s not all that bad. He does try to focus on some of the positives too, but they feel a little weak.

Honestly, it’s not a must-read. Most of his information has been superceeded by more recent scholarship, like Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture. If you can find the book at a library, give it a shot; the essay is only 11 pages long.

Published in: on 1 February 2012 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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