Opens a three-guest series examining Race and the American Musical Theater at the Lewis Center for the Arts

Dramaturg and Literary Manager for Disney Theatrical Group Ken Cerniglia will discuss his career and how Disney thinks about race and representation in its Broadway shows in a conversation with students as part of Theater Professor Stacy Wolf’s spring course “Race and the American Musical Theater, from Minstrelsy to Hamilton.” The discussion will take place on Tuesday, February 28 at 3:00 p.m. in Room 219 at 185 Nassau Street. Presented by the Lewis Center’s Program in Music Theater and cosponsored by Princeton’s Program in American Studies, the event is free and open to the public.

Wolf’s course, cross-listed in the Program in Music Theater, Program in Theater, and Program in American Studies, examines race as a key component of Broadway musical theater, examining musicals from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King & I to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbusters In the Heights and Hamilton. Students analyze scripts, critical articles, albums, and performances to understand how race and ethnicity structure the aesthetics and politics of American theater. The semester includes trips to New York City to visit the archives at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center and to see a musical.

ken cerniglia

Ken Cerniglia, Dramaturg and Literary Manager for Disney Theatrical Group who worked in development of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Courtesy of Disney Theatrical Group

Ken Cerniglia is dramaturg and literary manager for Disney Theatrical Group, where since 2003 he has developed over 50 shows for professional, amateur and school productions, including Freaky Friday, Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter and the Starcatcher, Newsies, The Little Mermaid, High School Musical and Tarzan. He has adapted several Broadway scripts for young performers including the “junior” editions of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, The Lion King, Aladdin and Newsies. Recent freelance projects include Bud, Not Buddy at the Kennedy Center, The Passion Trilogy with Loyola Marymount University’s Fisher Ensemble, Bridges at Berkeley Playhouse, and Hadestown at New York Theatre Workshop. Cerniglia holds a Ph.D. in theater history and criticism from the University of Washington and is co-founder of the American Theatre Archive Project, artistic director of Two Turns Theatre Company, and president of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA). He has published several articles and book chapters and is editor of Peter and the Starcatcher: The Annotated Broadway Play (2012) and Newsies: Stories of the Unlikely Broadway Hit (2013).

Wolf teaches courses in American musical theater history, dramaturgy and dramatic literature, histories of U.S. performance, performance theory, and performance studies. She is the author of Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical (recently named one of the “top ten books every theater lover should read” by Marissa Friedman); A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical; and the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical. She is currently working on Beyond Broadway: Four Seasons of Amateur Musical Theatre in the U.S., which examines amateur musical theater at high schools, summer camps, community centers, and afterschool programs across the country. Wolf is also director of the Princeton Arts Fellows program in the Lewis Center.

Wolf’s course will be hosting discussions regarding race and musicals with two other musical theater professionals during the semester. On March 14, Tony Award-nominee David Stone will visit to provide the perspective of a Broadway producer on this issue. On April 11, Broadway actor Arielle Jacobs will host a master class and discuss her performances in Aladdin and In the Heights, and other productions.

“We’re delighted that these distinguished guests will join us this semester,” notes Wolf.  “All three have been on the front lines of the effort to increase racial and ethnic diversity in Broadway musicals.”

The Program in Music Theater is a collaboration among the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater and Program in Dance and the Department of Music, which brings together students, faculty, and guest artists in the creation, study, and performance of music theater to support and develop all forms of music theater—that is, any theatrical form that combines singing, acting, and movement—as both an artistic practice and a field of scholarly study.

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