Want to listen to every episode of the Theatre History Podcast? This site has links to every one of our fascinating conversations with artists, scholars, and others whose work involves the vast history of performance and theatre.
Episode 38: Oscar Wilde’s Salome seems like an uncharacteristic departure for a playwright known for his sparkling society comedies. Eleanor Fitzsimons joins us to explain how Wilde came to write his dark biblical drama, and how his admiration for and relationship to Sarah Bernhardt shaped the title role.
Episode 37: What was life like for a working actor in the nineteenth century? Dr. Amy Hughes, Dr. Naomi Stubbs, and Dr. Scott D. Dexter are finding some answers in the diary of Harry Watkins, who acted, wrote, and stage managed for theatres in the decades before the Civil War. They joined the podcast to tell us about their work editing and digitizing Watkins’s account of his life, revealing triumphs and struggles that will sound familiar to anyone who has tried to make a living on the stage.
Episode 36: There’s a mysterious play manuscript, entitled The Dutch Lady, at the Boston Public Library. We don’t know who wrote it (although it’s been incorrectly attributed to Aphra Behn, arguably the first professional female playwright in history) or whether it was staged, but Dr. Joseph F. Stephenson is taking a fresh look at it. He’s helping Fred Theatre bring the Restoration comedy to the stage for the first time in over three centuries, and he’s also working on a scholarly edition, slated for release in 2018.
Episode 35: Did you know that women created and staged plays throughout the Middle Ages? We’re joined by Dr. Elisabeth Dutton, Dr. Olivia Robinson, Dr. Matthew Cheung Salisbury, and Aurelie Blanc, who tell us about the fascinating – and sadly neglected – history of medieval convent drama.
Episode 34: Dr. Mary Chinery and Dr. Laura Rattray talk about their work with Edith Wharton’s The Shadow of a Doubt, a play that, while catalogued in a number of performing arts collections, had largely been forgotten by Wharton scholars. Working with a manuscript at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, Mary and Laura have brought the play back into the public eye.
Episode 33: Curator James White tells us about the restoration of the Victorian-era theatre at the Alexandra Palace, the “People’s Palace” north of London that’s being restored to its former status as an entertainment venue.
Episode 32: Seret Scott, star of My Sister, My Sister on Broadway and a member of the original cast of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow if enuf, talks about her work with the Free Southern Theater, an important performing arts group that worked on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement.
Episode 31: What does a curator in a performing arts collection do? Annemarie van Roessel, assistant curator at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, joins us to talk about her library’s recent acquisition of work by famed stage designer Jo Mielziner, as well as her job at NYPL.
Episode 30: Did you know about the Siglo de Oro Festival at Chamizal National Memorial? Dr. Esther Fernandez introduces us to this celebration of theatre from Spain’s Golden Age.
Episode 29: Monte Cristo Cottage, the summer home of Eugene O’Neill’s family, has gone down in theatrical legend because it’s the setting of the famous playwright’s masterwork, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Anne G. Morgan of the Eugene O’Neill Center tells us about the cottage’s history.
Episode 28: How do we learn about ancient theatres? Dr. Craig Barker joins us to talk about his work at the archaeological site of Nea Paphos.
Episode 27: Theatre history has largely ignored the performance traditions of the Muslim world, but there are many vibrant ones, including ta’ziyeh. Native to what is now Iran, ta’ziyeh fuses artistry with religious devotion to create an incredible theatrical experience. Dr. William O. Beeman tells us about ta’ziyeh and its place in Iranian culture.
Episode 26: Jack Viertel of New York City Center Encores! talks about The New Yorkers, the musical that gave us Cole Porter’s early hit “Love for Sale.”
Episode 25: How did Chinese theatre change during its tumultuous twentieth-century history? Dr. Siyuan Liu tells us about some of the major figures and plays of the modern Chinese stage.
Episode 24: “Ireland” usually evokes visions of rolling green hills and picturesque cottages, but there’s another, more urbanized side to the country, which is depicted in the plays of early twentieth-century playwright Sean O’Casey and his contemporaries. Dr. Beth Mannion tells us about urban Irish drama beyond O’Casey’s work.
Episode 23: How do the shocking political events of 2016 reflect American theatrical history? Dr. Paul Gagliardi joins us to talk about the stage history of It Can’t Happen Here, the theatrical adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s frighteningly prescient 1930s novel about the rise of fascism in the United States.
Episode 22: Dr. Mac Test is working on a translation of a surprising play from Spain’s Golden Age, entitled La monja alferez. It follows the adventures of a cross-dressing nun, upending many of our assumptions about gender relations in the days of the Spanish Empire.
Episode 21: George Drance, director of the Magis Theatre Company, talks about his production of Calderon’s Two Dreams. Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s Life Is a Dream is one of the best-known plays of the Spanish Golden Age, but few English-speakers know about the later version that he wrote. Now, Drance and his company are bringing both versions to the stage.
Episode 20: Dr. Alejandro Garcia-Reidy made the discovery of a lifetime when he found a copy of the previously-unknown Lope de Vega play Mujeres y criados. Alejandro discusses the play and its context with us, and explains how it helps us to better understand Lope’s work.
Episode 19: Did you know about Bert Williams, the accomplished African-American performer who struggled against racism to establish himself as one of the most famous black entertainers of his time? Actor and playwright Jeremy Morris joins us to talk about his play, The Top of Bravery, which explores Williams’s life.
Episode 18: American theatre and foreign policy often went hand-in-hand during the Cold War. Dr. Charlotte Canning joins us to explain how internationalism, theatre, and superpower rivalry intersected in the years after World War II.
Episode 17: The nineteenth century was a much more globally-connected time than we might imagine. Star performers criss-crossed the Atlantic on epic tours of Europe and North America, prefiguring the jet-setting celebrities of today. Dr. Anita Gonzalez has mapped some of these journeys on her website, 19thcenturyacts.com, and she explains her work with the project in this episode.
Episode 16: Did you know that “Jingle Bells,” that perennial Christmastime favorite, has a dark and disturbing past? Dr. Kyna Hamill explains how this holiday song emerged from the tradition of the minstrel show.
Episode 15: We tend to think of Northern Ireland in terms of its late-twentieth-century political troubles, which usually makes for a narrative dominated by men. However, as Dr. Fiona Coffey shows us, women have played a crucial role in Northern Irish theatre, both during and after the conflict.
Episode 14: Paula Vogel’s Tony-nominated Indecent tells the story of God of Vengeance, a controversial Yiddish-language play. David Mandelbaum of New Yiddish Rep joins us to talk about his company’s staging of the original play, as well as its significance for the history of Yiddish theatre.
Episode 13: The concerns of medieval drama might seem remote from ours, but it’s surprisingly relevant today. Kyle A. Thomas and Dr. Carol Symes talk about staging The Play of Adam at the Met Cloisters in New York City.
Episode 12: Adam Roberts, whose version of the “Black Crook Gallop” provides the intro and outro music for this podcast, joins us to talk about how music theory affects our understanding of classic musicals.
Episode 11: Latinx performers have traditionally been relegated to an uncertain place in American theatre and film, fitting uncomfortably into our society’s simplistic racial dichotomy between “black” and “white.” Dr. Brian Herrera talks about how some prominent twentieth-century Latinx performers tried to navigate this difficult situation.
Episode 10: Dr. Gibson Cima tells us about Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, the pivotal South African play that explores the absurdities and indignities of life under apartheid.
Episode 9: Many of us are familiar with the tumultuous events of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, but have we ever considered them as a sort of street theatre? Dr. Susanne Shawyer joins us to explain how many of the activists involved in the protests saw them as a chance to put the theories of people like Antonin Artaud into practice.
Episode 8: Dr. Jorge Huerta looks back on 50 years of Chicano theatrical activism, including his own work with El Teatro de la Esperanza, which performed politically- and socially-engaged community theatre in the 1970s.
Episode 7: The 1930s was a period of politically-charged theatre, and one of the most controversial productions was the Federal Theatre Project’s The Sun Rises in the West. Dr. Amy Brady explains what this play was about, and why it became such a hot-button issue.
Episode 6: Does the handful of plays from the Spanish Golden Age that English-speakers usually encounter provide an adequate representation of the era? Dr. Barbara Fuchs doesn’t think so, and her Diversifying the Classics project is trying to show us new, unexpected facets of the culture that brought us Calderon, Lope de Vega, and their contemporaries.
Episode 5: Dr. Joel Berkowitz takes us on a tour of Yiddish theatre, past and present, explaining the origins and significance of this proud and vibrant performance tradition.
Episode 4: The Black Crook often appears (somewhat inaccurately) in history books as the first American musical. Joshua William Gelb has reimagined this important play, rewriting it to place it in its historical context.
Episode 3: Eric Swanson talks about his new musical, Edwin: The Story of Edwin Booth, which follows the life of the famous American Shakespearean actor.
Episode 2: The musicals of the 1940s feature an intriguing figure: the “boss lady.” Reflecting the social changes brought about by World War II, this figure showed women as competent, tough, and capable of taking charge. Dr. Maya Cantu explains where the “boss lady” came from, and how she takes a dominant role in some of the major musicals of the period.
Episode 1: Drug use isn’t exactly a new topic on the stage. Dr. Max Shulman joins us to tell the story of Madame X, the shocking play that served as a star vehicle for stage legend Sarah Bernhardt.