Let Me Entertain You Michelle Dover Landrum High School English III
Nature of Entertainment What does entertainment say about the people who are entertained? What creates trends in entertainment? Who determines entertainment trends? Where do we go from here?
Past to Present Sometimes looking back can take us forward. More importantly, entertainment reflects the values of the people who are entertained.
Memo You have a task. At this time, read your memo outlining your task.
Examine an Early American Form of Entertainment You’ll be using the American Memory Collection as you research early American entertainment. I’ve directed you toward the Variety Theatre collection, BUT you may go another route with teacher approval. Enjoy surfing the collection.
Circuit Chautaugua It started as part of the temperance movement and became an American variety touring company. Featuring lecturers, instrumentalists, vocalists, readers, actors, dancers, and magicians, the Chautaugua tents offered middle America talents from all over the world.
The Tent Lecturers often inspired discussion and consideration of social, moral, and political issues.
Lecturers Topics included everything from agricultural issues to political policy. Most of the original Chautaugua events were cultural and educational. Even after taking a turn toward entertaining, the lectures and debates still drew large crowds. This reflects the public’s desire to educate itself, even if critics claimed that the talents and intellects were mediocre.
Variety Acts Originally, the line up of speakers/ entertainers did not include actors or actresses. However, Gay MacLaren captured the public’s attention as the “Girl with the Camera Mind”.
“The Girl with the Camera Mind” MacLaren performed entire plays as a one -woman show. People were fascinated to watch her play each and every part. Her repertoire included a ponderous list of popular novels and plays. (Of course, it is suspected that she had a photographic memory.) People would come to performances with texts to make sure that she actually said each line.
An Acrobat File of a Gay MacLaren brochure She is credited with developing the one-woman show in America.
Will it still fly? Whoopi Goldberg reached the attentions of director Steven Spielberg after he saw her one-woman Broadway show. This attention led to her lead in the movie The Color Purple. This Broadway one-woman show led to an HBO special. Yes, it still flies.
West End Two popular West End shows feature two performers playing 15-30 characters. The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged features three males who act out abridged versions of all Shakespeare plays. Well, they do combine a few plays. British dramatist Caroline Summerfield has achieved international recognition for her one-person shows.
Stones in His Pockets Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones centers on what happens when a Hollywood film crew films in a rural Irish town. The 2 actors seamlessly shift from character to character with few props.
The Woman in Black This popular play has kept audiences on the edge of their seats during its 12 year run. (Yes, my sister jumped and screamed even on her second viewing.) It, too, features only 2 actors.
So, what else can be resurrected? Granted, we don’t want to go backward by resurrecting the simple magic tricks of the traveling illusionist. (Want to see me pull a rabbit out of a hat?)
And… Some may find certain “exotic” acts, like the Hawaiian dancers, rather culturally insulting…
Classic Revival! A classic actor (Bela Lugosi) revived his rendition of Shakespearean monologues like…
… a classic actress (Angela Landsbury) revived the Agatha Christie style murder mystery on Sunday nights! Oh, where have you gone, J. B. Fletcher?
The circus meets a Vegas show? What about reviving something like The Ziegfeld Follies?
What about… …the actor/dancer who performs one- man performance pieces? Should we revive the Jacques Cartier style of performance?
Or… …the actor performing the one-man version of Shakespearean scenes and monologues? Could that capture the modern audience?
Well, it’s your turn… … to revive debates? Would our society value them? Well, it’s up to you to score the next revival!!
Head to the WebQuest or explore the American Memory Collection at WebQuest http://memory.loc.gov Tallulah Bankhead performing with The Ziegfeld Follies.
Bibliography Information from http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award98/ia uhtml/tccchome.htmlhttp://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award98/ia uhtml/tccchome.html See Image Table for detailed credits on the images.