American Theatre Left and Right:

Performance, Culture, and Politics in the 1930s, 50s, and 80s

Professor Mazer

Spring 2010


519 Annenberg Center, 3-2659;

Office Hours:  Tuesdays and Thursdays, Noon-1:15, and by appointment


January 14:  Introduction.


January 19:  The 1930s:  Politics and Performance.

Helen Krich Chinoy, “The Poetics of Politics:  Some Notes on Style and Craft in the Theatre of the Thirties” (Blackboard).


January 21:  Agitprop Cinema.

Film viewing:  Our Daily Bread (on reserve in Rosengarten).


January 26:  Agitprop and Realism I.

Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty.


January 28:  Waiting for Lefty (cont.)


February 2:  Brecht in America.

Bertolt Brecht, The Mother; James K. Lyon, Bertolt Brecht in America, pp. 6-20 (bulkpack); Bertolt Brecht, “Criticism of the New York Production of Die Mutter” (bulkpack).


February 4:  The Group Theatre.

   Harold Clurman, The Fervent Years, pp. 16-50, 129-149 (bulkpack); “Reunion:  A Self-Portrait of the Group Theatre,” ed. Helen Krich Chinoy, 471-552 (Blackboard).


February 9:  Agitprop and Realism II.

Clifford Odets, Awake and Sing.


February 11:  The Federal Theatre Project.

Loren Kruger, “‘A People’s Theatre’:  Art, Democracy, and the Federal Theatre,” The National Stage:  Theatre and Cultural Legitimation in England, France, and America (bulkpack).


February 16:  The Living Newspaper. 

Ethiopia and Triple A Plowed Under (Blackboard).


February 18:  The Political Musical.

 John Houseman, Run-Through, pp. 242-281 (bulkpack).

Listening assignment:  Marc Blitzstein, The Cradle Will Rock (sound recording in Ormandy Listening Room).


February 23:  The Death of the Federal Theatre Project.

John H. Houchin, Censorship of the American Theatre in the Twentieth Century,  pp. 131-154 (bulkpack).

Film viewing:  Who Killed the Federal Theatre (DVD, on reserve at Rosengarten, in the book, Voices from the Federal Theatre).


[Approximate date:  first take-home assignment.]


February 25:  The 1950s.

Albert Wertheim “The McCarthy Era and the American Theatre” (Blackboard); Houchin 154-172  (bulkpack).


March 2:  Theatricality and Resistance.

Maxwell Anderson, Joan of Lorraine (bulkpack).


March 4:  HUAC and the Blacklist I.

Arthur Miller, The Crucible.  (The 1996 film version of The Crucible is on reserve in Rosengarten).


[Spring Break]


March 16:  HUAC and the Blacklist II.

Film viewing:  On the Waterfront (on reserve in Rosengarten).

Houchin, pp. 162-172 (bulkpack); Victor Navasky, “Elia Kazan and the Case for Silence,” from Naming Names, pp. 199-222 (bulkpack).


March 18:  HUAC and the Blacklist III.

Arthur Miller, A View from the Bridge.

Film viewing (to be arranged):  Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and the Blacklist:  None Without Sin.


March 23:  Acting and Politics.

Bruce McConachie, “Method Acting and the Cold War” (Blackboard).


March 26:  The Politics and Apolitics of the Musical.

Stacy Wolf, “Introduction” and “Mary Martin” (partial), in A Problem Like Maria:  Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical, pp. 1-63 (bulkpack); Bruce McConachie, “The ‘Oriental’ Musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein and the U.S. War in Southeast Asia” (Blackboard).


[Approximate date:  second take-home assignment]


March 30:  Right-wing Theatre.

Richard H. Palmer, “Moral Re-Armament Drama:  Right Wing Theatre in America” (Blackboard).


April 1:  TBA


April 6:  Left-wing Right-wing Theatre.

Larry Bogad, “Electoral Guerilla Theatre in Recent Democracies:  peaking Mirth to Power,” from Electoral Guerilla Theatre:  Radical Theatre and Social Movements (bulkpack).


April 8:  The NEA Four I.

Karen Finley, “The Constant State of Desire” (Blackboard); Tim Miller and David Roman, “‘Preaching to the Converted’” (Blackboard).


April 13:  The NEA Four II.

Lynda Hart, “Karen Finley’s Dirty Work:  Censorship Homophobia, and the NEA” (bulkpack); Richard Meyer, “‘Have You Heard the One about the Lesbian Who Goes to the Supreme Court?’:  Holly Hughes and the Case Against Censorship” (Blackboard); Houchin, pp. 225-245 (bulkpack).


April 15:  The ’90s’ ’80s’ ’50s.

Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Part One:  Millennium Approaches.


April 20:  Kushner, Angels in America, Part Two:  Perestroika.


April 22:  Reacting to Angels.

David Savran, “Ambivalence, Utopia, and a Queer Sort of Materialism:  How Angels in America Reconstructs the Nation,” in Approaching the Millennium:  Essays on Angels in America (bulkpack); Houchin, pp. 245-257 (bulkpack).


April 27:  Catch-up and Conclusions


There will be TWO take-home essay assignments, plus ONE final research project, due at a date to be announced, on a topic that must MUST BE APPROVED IN ADVANCE.  Attendance in class is crucial; CHRONIC ABSENCE OR LATENESS WILL BE COUNTED AGAINST YOU.


The following books can be purchased at the Penn Book Center, 34th and Sansom Sts.:


Clifford Odets, Six Plays.

Arthur Miller, The Crucible.

Arthur Miller, A View from the Bridge. 

Tony Kushner, Angels in America:  A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.


The bulkpack can be purchased at the Campus Copy Center, 39th and Walnut.  The listserv for this course is  You have been subscribed automatically.  If you do not seem to be on it, or if you drop the course and wish to be unsubscribed, please send a note to cmazer@english.  The syllabus for this course is available at  Make a bookmark on your web browser for this site.  There is a “Blackboard” web site for this course, to which you are automatically subscribed, which includes an electronic copy of the syllabus, and (under “Course Documents”) downloadable PDF files of several of the course readings.  We may discover other uses for this web site over the course of the semester.