Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Theatre and Performance

Advisor

David Savran

Committee Members

Jean Graham-Jones

Elizabeth Wollman

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies

Keywords

musical theatre, casting, stigma, fat studies, disability studies. LGBTQ studies

Abstract

This dissertation explores how embodied identities facing social stigmatization are represented in Broadway musicals and provides histories of casting specific kinds of embodied difference. Broadway Bodies: Casting, Stigma, and Difference in Broadway Musicals since “A Chorus Line” considers the politics of representation and makes clear that casting is always a political act, situated within a power structure favoring certain bodies. Previous scholarship on casting largely centers on race and ethnicity as the central issues; this research reframes the study of casting to focus on bodies, inclusive of race and ethnicity but especially relative to ability, gender, sexuality, and size. Though grounded in theatre studies, this dissertation’s intervention is the application of different fields emerging from social movements designed to combat stigmatization and oppression: Deaf/Disability Studies, Fat Studies, and LGBTQ+ Studies. Musicals appear to be among the most inclusive of the performing arts, yet the findings of this research describe the borders of this inclusivity. Musicals make meaning through their embodiment of difference; which identities are represented onstage reveals which identities are valued. These embodied differences are profoundly tied to an actor’s employability; when an actor enters the audition room they put their body on the line—do they have a “Broadway Body” or not? In focusing on casting as a site of power relations, this research attends which bodies are cast, and which are cast aside.

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