Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama

By Marc Maufort | Go to book overview
numbers intrude awkwardly on scenes of otherwise realistic dialogue and extend the play's sentimentality to the level of cornball. Significantly, there are no songs in the first scene in Omaha where we meet Antoinette, the aggressive and capable businesswoman. Songs occur only in the succeeding scenes which take place in Stamford, site of Antoinette's adoption of the Clinging Vine persona. Because Wood was known primarily as a singer of musical comedy, she was linked by reputation more to this latter singing persona than to the initial one of the straight-talking businesswoman. Thus, the form of the play itself worked to suggest that the Clinging Vine, the contemptible type from the author's point of view, was the type more suited to Wood/Antoinette all along.In this custom-tailored vehicle, Zelda Sears, who had suffered disfranchisement from leading ladyship and ridicule as the dear, yearning old maid, hoist the culturally desirable star on her own ideal femininity. Abetted by assimilationist ambitions and commercial exigency, Sears' dramaturgy converted the ethnic and gender discrimination she experienced into oppression of other women via reactionary political conservatism and pointedly sexist role stereotyping in theatrical representation. Given her prominence and success, her views and artistic products affected public opinion and impinged on the contemporary debate over women's rights. In the dialectical interplay of marginal experience/mainstream vision, Sears' case may reflect the workings of a more widespread dynamic whereby women became complicit in various systems of WASP male dominance during the culturally formative decades of the Progressive Era.
Works Cited
Banta Martha. Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History, 1880-1920. New York: Columbia UP, 1987.
Bettisworth Denny Lee. "The Life and Career of Zelda Sears." Diss. U of Georgia, 1974.
Campisi Paul J. "Ethnic Family Patterns: The Italian Family in the United States." The American Journal of Sociology 53 ( 1948): 443-449.
Chinoy Helen Krich. "Where Are the Women Playwrights?" In Women in American Theatre. Ed. Helen Krich Chinoy and Linda Walsh Jenkins. New York: Crown, 1981.
Christy Howard Chandler. The American Girl as Seen and Portrayed by Howard Chandler Christy. 1906. New York: Da Capo, 1976.
Fitch Clyde. "Girls." TMs. Billy Rose Theatre Collection. New York Public Library- Lincoln Center.
"From Farm to Footlights." New York Times 27 November 1910: 34.
Gambino Richard. Blood of My Blood. The Dilemma of the Italian-Americans. New

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