Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama

By Marc Maufort | Go to book overview

Staging Difference: A Challenge to the American Melting Pot

Marc Maufort


I

This volume seeks to determine how the current debate on cultural pluralism in the United States is reflected in American theatre and drama. A number of American playwrights and theatre practitioners, while offering re-visions of the American Melting Pot, challenge its idealistic assumptions, thus inscribing in their work the cultural difference of American minorities. In addition, this new vision often coincides with a radical departure from conventional stage realism, resulting in the creation of new dramatic forms. These new shapes serve to express the minorities' ambivalence towards cultural assimilation into mainstream America.

A study of the major publications in the field reveals that up to now scholars have restricted themselves to one aspect of cultural pluralism in American theatre and drama. Excellent studies on women's drama abound; so do studies on African American drama. The appended bibliography provides an overview of these publications, of which those by June Schlueter and Errol Hill stand as prominent examples. Few studies encompass the multiple issues related to cultural pluralism and therefore fail to provide a comprehensive vision. This volume tries to fill this gap.

While this collection conflates a variety of critical discourses, such as those offered by text, theory and performance analysis, it also purports to move towards a more precise definition of terms like multiculturalism, cultural pluralism and difference, at least in the field of American theatre and drama. The terms "cultural pluralism" or "multiculturalism" are considered here in their broadest sense. They do not necessarily involve the social and anthropological underpinnings from which they emanate. Nor does this volume thrive on the political advocacy suggested by these terms, i.e., the affirmation that America's minorities have a right to self-expression and political autonomy. In many instances, I have thought it appropriate, therefore, to use the terms "diversity" and "difference" rather than multiculturalism, as these words are less politically loaded. Consequently, cultural pluralism, as the word is used here, comprises more than ethnic difference; rather, it focuses on the more general concept of the "other," i.e. any member of American society that does not belong to the hegemony. In other words, this volume concentrates on

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