Cover image for The changing room : sex, drag and theatre
The changing room : sex, drag and theatre
Senelick, Laurence.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Routledge, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 540 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2071.I47 S46 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The answers to these questions - and much, much more - are to be found in The Changing Room , which traces the origins and variations of theatrical cross-dressing through the ages and across cultures. It examines:
* tribal rituals and shamanic practices in the Balkans and Chinese-Tibet
* the gender-bending elements of Greek and early Christian religion
* the homosexual appeal of the boy actor on the traditional stage of China, Japan and England
* the origins of the dame comedian, the principal boy, the glamour drag artiste and the male impersonator
* artists such as David Bowie, Boy George, Charles Ludlam, Dame Edna Everage, Lily Savage, Candy Darling, Julian Clary and the New York Dolls.
Lavishly illustrated with unusual and rare pictures, this is the first ever cross-cultural study of theatrical transvestism. It is a must for anyone interested in cross-dressing, theatre, and gender.

Author Notes

Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor of Drama at Tufts University. He is the recipient of awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His many publications include lovesick (1998), The Chekhov Theatre, and the Age and Stage of George L. Fox.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

The research behind this substantial work is exceptionally impressive. It spans ancient times to modern ones, exploring cross-dressing and drag culture in theater and performance practice, with related references to art and world traditions. Senelick (drama, Tufts Univ.) presents hundreds of examples that dissect the subject with its various underlying myths, meanings, and customs, studying the historical significance and sexual implications of each. From the Greeks and Shakespeare to the lineage of female impersonators to the more current M. Butterfly, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Barry Humphries's most popular Dame Edna Everage, Senelick studies so many facets of the topic that many readers will be startled by its enormity. Despite such eye-catching chapter/section titles as "Skirting Christ," "Stages of Sodomy," "Putting on the Drag," and "Queens of Clubs," as well as the provocative nature of the subject matter itself, this is definitely a serious scholarly work with all of the trimmings and should be of prime interest to large academic, theater, and entertainment history collections.DCarol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A noted scholar in gender and performance studies, Senelick (Tufts Univ.) has written a work whose comprehensiveness, depth, and originality are only hinted at in the catchy title. Using theater history, social history, ethnology, and personal observation, Senelick examines the origins, history, and social contexts of gender impersonation in Western and Asian theatrical tradition and in popular entertainment. Those familiar with Roger Baker's Drag: A History of Female Impersonation in the Performing Arts (1994) will appreciate the greater scope and detail of Senelick's study. But it is no bland survey. Senelick's strong opinions, his focus on performance as fundamentally erotic, make the book absorbing and provocative. Inevitably there are flaws. Specialists in various areas will dispute facts and interpretation. Editorial decisions and production values may be deplored: provided with no bibliography, one must review the extensive chapter notes for full citations of each source; the well-chosen illustrations are often wretchedly reproduced; several sections of pages fell out of the binding at first reading. Even so, every serious scholar will want this book and every library collection in the field must own it. J. W. Lafler; Institute for Historical Study

Table of Contents

List of illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xiv
Introductionp. 1
Part I Acting outp. 15
1 The sham in shamanp. 17
2 The Greek for it is 'Gynaikiseos'p. 39
3 Skirting Christp. 56
Part II Stages of sodomyp. 77
4 Orientationsp. 79
5 China tradep. 106
6 Playboys and boy playersp. 127
Part III The mannish and the unmannedp. 157
7 Arms and the womanp. 159
8 Monstrous pleasures of the baroquep. 179
9 Breeches birthp. 206
10 Beldames sans mercip. 228
11 The prince, the pauper and the panp. 258
Part IV Subcultures surfacep. 293
12 Putting on the dragp. 295
13 The imp(ersonator) of the perversep. 326
14 Amateur hourp. 350
Part V Children of the ghettop. 375
15 Queens of clubsp. 377
16 Alternativesp. 409
17 Sex, drags and rock 'n' rollp. 444
18 Glad-ragging the Establishmentp. 459
19 A gender of their ownp. 481
Afterword: from dressing up to dressing downp. 501
Indexp. 512