Cover image for The Cambridge history of American theatre
The Cambridge history of American theatre
Wilmeth, Don B.
Physical Description:
volumes <1 > : illustrations ; 25 cm
v. 1. Beginnings to 1870
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PN2221 .C37 1998 V.1 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Cambridge History of American Theatre is an authoritative and wide-ranging history of American theatre in all its dimensions, from theatre building to play writing, directors, performers, and designers. Engaging the theatre as a performance art, a cultural institution, and a fact of American social and political life, the History recognizes changing styles of presentation and performance and addresses the economic context that conditions the drama presented. The History approaches its subject with a full awareness of relevant developments in literary criticism, cultural analysis, and performance theory. At the same time, it is designed to be an accessible, challenging narrative. Volume One deals with the colonial inceptions of American theatre through the post-Civil War period: the European antecedents, the New World influences of the French and Spanish colonists, and the development of uniquely American traditions in tandem with the emergence of national identity.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Volume 1 of Cambridge's projected three-part history reconstructs the beginnings of US theatrical heritage in a narrative style sadly lacking in previous histories of American theater. Editors Wilmeth (Brown Univ.) and Bigsby (Univ. of East Anglia, UK) and other top scholars weave a tapestry of performance art and cultural history against a background of changing social and political history in well-written chapters that include "Theatre in Context," "Management," "Plays and Playwrights," "Actors," "Scenography," and "Popular Entertainment." Throughout the book, contributors explore the theme of how the theater played a central role in defining US national character. The volume treats the long-overlooked contributions of women playwrights--e.g., Mercy Otis Warren and Susanna Haswell Rowsom--and racial attitudes the theater reflected. Further highlights include a first-rate time line and an excellent bibliography. An addition to a literature that already includes The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre, ed. by Wilmeth and Tice L. Miller (CH, Jun'93), and Theatre in the United States: A Documentary History: V. 1:1750-1915, Theatre in the Colonies and United States, ed. by Barry B. Witham (CH, Jul'97), Wilmeth and Bigsby's history is the finest written about the American theater in many years and bodes well for the remaining two volumes. A must for all college and university libraries. M. D. Whitlatch Buena Vista University

Table of Contents

IntroductionChristopher Bigsby and Don B. Wilmeth
Timeline: beginnings to 1870 compiledDon B. Wilmeth and Jonathan Curley
1 American theatre in context from the beginning to 1870Bruce McConachie
2 Structure and management in the American theatre from the beginning to 1870Douglas McDermott
3 The plays and playwrights: plays and playwrights to 1800Peter A. Davis
Plays and playwrights: 1800-1865Gary A. Richardson
4 The actors: European actors and the star system in the American theatre, 1752-1870Simon Williams
The emergence of the American actorJoseph Roach
5 Scenography, stagecraft, and architecture in the American theatre, beginnings to 1870Mary C. Henderson
6 Paratheatricals and popular stage entertainmentPeter G. Buckley