Performing Political Persuasion in the United States in the Early Years of the Republic
Keywords:Theater history, Performance Studies, American Theater, History of the United States, 18th Century
AbstractTheater productions were born out of a paradox in the United States of the Revolutionary War and shortly afterwards. While the nation’s dominant ideology was anti-theatrical, theater often served a nationalist agenda, co-defining the new American nation and its nascent identities – such were, for example, productions of Joseph Addison’s Cato at Valley Forge in 1778 and William Dunlap’s André at the New Park in New York in 1798. These theater events empowered the audience to publicly perform their national identity as Americans and exercise their republican fervor. Similarly, a production of Bunker-Hill by J. D. Burk at the Haymarket in Boston in 1797 was crucial in helping define the social and political identities of its audiences, who were motivated to attend the performances as an expression of their partisan preferences. This article shows that literary, theatrical and social practices served to constitute performatively the early American national identity.
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