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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

American Musical Theater: Art, Commerce, and Culture

Instructor(s): Eunice Ferreira, Theater

Why do people burst into song in musicals? What made Spider Man: Turn off the Dark the most expensive production (est. $75 million) in Broadway history? If musicals are supposed to be light and fun, what are gangs, racial prejudice, homophobia, murder and teen suicide doing in a hit show? These questions reflect the tree major perspectives from which we will examine one of the most quintessential American performance traditions – the musical! As a work of art, we will examine its aesthetic components, considering the form and function of music, lyrics, dance, acting, dramatic literature, performance conventions and creative process. As popular entertainment, the musical raises questions about the economics of leisure, audience demographics, and the rising cost of producing new works. As a cultural lens, we will consider how musical theater artists have reflected, shaped and challenged constructs of gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, class, and social justice. We will take a historical and critical approach to our study with special emphasis on productions that reflect major shifts and trends from Show Boat to Spring Awakening. No prior musical theater experience is necessary but performance opportunities will be available as a means to make discoveries about the course materials and combine research with practice.

Course Offered