From Class to Caste in American Drama: Political and Social Themes Since the 1930s

by Richard G. Scharine

GREENWOOD PRESS INC. | March 1, 1991 | Hardcover

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The American political theatre from the Depression to the present is the subject of this unique new study. Richard Scharine examines issues that shaped the development of the United States during this period, as they were portrayed in selected American plays first produced between 1933 and 1985. Drawing upon fifty years of social, political, and theatrical history, he provides an understanding of the events, ideas, and emotional matrices out of which the plays were born, as well as offering an analysis of human documents that are a reflection of the political events of a time. Along the way, Scharine illustrates how the dramatic representation of American inequalities has evolved in recent decades from the concerns of class to the way class is predetermined by caste. The work begins with an introductory essay that defines political theatre and shows how it varies from standard drama in plot structure, character, theme, and expectations of its audience. The body of the book is then divided into seven historically labelled chapters, each of which provides a history of the period in relation to an evolving principle; a detailed analysis of particular dramas that illustrate that evolution; and a suggestion of other plays in which the evolution can be further studied. The periods that make up the chapters are the Great Depression, World War II, the cold war, Vietnam, and the civil rights movement. The plays of each period are discussed, with particular emphasis placed on their derivation from the assumptions about class and caste of the preceding era. Among the works analyzed are Waiting for Lefty, Watch on the Rhine, The Crucible, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, In White America, BlackElk Speaks, and As Is. This work will be a valuable reference source for courses in American theatre history, popular culture, and women''s and ethnic studies, and a welcome addition to college, university, and public libraries.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 328 pages, 9.41 × 7.24 × 0.98 in

Published: March 1, 1991

Publisher: GREENWOOD PRESS INC.

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0313267375

ISBN - 13: 9780313267376

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From Class to Caste in American Drama: Political and Social Themes Since the 1930s

by Richard G. Scharine

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 328 pages, 9.41 × 7.24 × 0.98 in

Published: March 1, 1991

Publisher: GREENWOOD PRESS INC.

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0313267375

ISBN - 13: 9780313267376

From the Publisher

The American political theatre from the Depression to the present is the subject of this unique new study. Richard Scharine examines issues that shaped the development of the United States during this period, as they were portrayed in selected American plays first produced between 1933 and 1985. Drawing upon fifty years of social, political, and theatrical history, he provides an understanding of the events, ideas, and emotional matrices out of which the plays were born, as well as offering an analysis of human documents that are a reflection of the political events of a time. Along the way, Scharine illustrates how the dramatic representation of American inequalities has evolved in recent decades from the concerns of class to the way class is predetermined by caste. The work begins with an introductory essay that defines political theatre and shows how it varies from standard drama in plot structure, character, theme, and expectations of its audience. The body of the book is then divided into seven historically labelled chapters, each of which provides a history of the period in relation to an evolving principle; a detailed analysis of particular dramas that illustrate that evolution; and a suggestion of other plays in which the evolution can be further studied. The periods that make up the chapters are the Great Depression, World War II, the cold war, Vietnam, and the civil rights movement. The plays of each period are discussed, with particular emphasis placed on their derivation from the assumptions about class and caste of the preceding era. Among the works analyzed are Waiting for Lefty, Watch on the Rhine, The Crucible, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, In White America, BlackElk Speaks, and As Is. This work will be a valuable reference source for courses in American theatre history, popular culture, and women''s and ethnic studies, and a welcome addition to college, university, and public libraries.

Editorial Reviews

?A well-documented survey of more than half a century of American plays dealing with issues of race, war, economic class, and gender. But Scharine also insists that since truly political theater is meant to accomplish change outside the theater, it must "tread the fine line of not ending happily (resulting in audience complacency), while seeing its goals as reachable (resulting in audience despair)." Thus at one end of its time spectrum, the study makes the initially surprising omission of John Steinbeck''s Of Mice and Men presumably because that only ostensibly deterministic play is not politically tendentious. At the other end, David Mamet--in spite of his having written searing indictments of American corruption--gets only a single mention as an individualistic male playwright. But if this volume is an example of "politically correct" academic thinking, its usefulness is hardly limited thereby. The author is impressively informed about theater dealing with Native American, African American, and Vietnam War affairs, and the coverage of the McCarthy era is excellent (though there are minor lapses in the highly selective index, and such a name as Aaron Copland''s is consistently misspelled). Touchy matters such as feminist concepts of dramatic structure are dealt with deftly, as are the recent developments in the world of homosexual theater. In all, very much a book of our times, which even manages to look prophetically forward to the rest of the present decade. For libraries
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