Race and the American Musical, From Minstrelsy to Hamilton

This seminar explores how and why race is a key component of the Broadway musical theatre. From 19th-century minstrel shows, in which African American performers “blacked up” to play black characters previously performed by whites in blackface; to the mid-20th century “golden age” musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, in which Asian characters were created to support a white liberal agenda; to the blockbuster HAMILTON, which merges musical theatre conventions and hip hop to re-tell the story of America, performances of race and ethnicity structure the American musical’s aesthetic and political work. How did we get from there to here?

Sample reading list:
Woll, Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls
Hoffman, The Great White Way: Race & the Broadway Musical
Miranda, In the Heights
Rodgers & Hammerstein & Hwang, Flower Drum Song
Krieger and Eyen, Dreamgirls
Kern & Hammerstein, Show Boat

Reading/Writing assignments:
One or two musicals each week, including script, cast album, taped Broadway production or film, plus 2-3 theoretical and critical articles. Papers include script analysis, musical number analysis, and critique of a scholarly reading. Other projects include talkback facilitation, student-led class discussion, and a final project or paper.

Other Requirements:
United States Travel Required. Not Open to Freshmen.

Prerequisites and Restrictions:
Enrollment will be limited to 15 with priority given to members of the American Studies and Music Theater programs..

Other information:
The seminar will be supplemented with visiting guest artists and scholars, a field trip to NYC to visit the archives at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center and to see a musical, and PU student productions of musicals.




Tuesdays, 1:30 - 4:20 pm


Stacy Wolf