Censorship of the American Theatre in the Twentieth Century

Censorship of the American Theatre in the Twentieth Century

Censorship of the American Theatre in the Twentieth Century

Censorship of the American Theatre in the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

Arguing that theatrical censorship coincides with significant challenges to religious, political and cultural traditions, John Houchin explores its impact on twentieth-century American theatre. Along with the well-known example of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, other almost equally influential events affected the course of the American stage during the century. After a summary of censorship in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America, Houchin analyzes key political and theatrical events between 1900 and 2000.

Excerpt

This is a book about censorship. Specifically, it is a history of the censorship of theatre in the United States in the twentieth century. It will explore how major attacks on theatre reflect correlative crises in the larger culture. In other words, it is my argument that attempts to censor performance erupt when the dominant culture construes its laws, rituals, and traditions to be in the process of significant change. Rarely does the collective mind of a community encounteringsuch transformations embrace them as a natural, evolutionary process. Rather, it attempts to halt or reverse these shifts by revertingto the rituals or philosophy of a purer, Golden Age.

Such behavior is indicative of a conservative society, one whose energy is used to maintain its political, moral, and social infrastructure. This type of society resists economic innovation and the rapid reorderingthat accompany such transformations. Its teachers in its schools do not encourage originality or radically new ideas. Instead, they emphasize rote learning of established principles and theorems. Its ministers preach that the relationship between gods and humans is fixed, does not evolve, and is not open to interpretation. Salvation is obtained by strict adherence to established principles. Speculation and experimentation are apostasy and inevitably lead to the spiritual demise of individuals and the communities that support them.

The conservative community cannot tolerate untrammeled innovation and does not believe that the future holds the answer to its problems. As Karen Armstronghas surmised, the conservative spirit depends upon mythology for its direction. Instead of lookingfor somethingfresh or innovative, it seeks direction from the past. It directs its attention to sacred beginnings, to a primordial event. The past tells the community what is constant, what has always been. It asserts that current and future stages of society are pale shadows of a putative Golden Age and its leaders look for their inspiration in the deeds of historical presidents, kings, generals . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.