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Products for grant FEL-262037-19

Blackface and Yellowface: American Theater and Racial Performance
Josephine Lee, University of Minnesota

Grant details:

The Shared Spaces of Blackface and Yellowface (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Shared Spaces of Blackface and Yellowface
Author: Josephine Lee
Abstract: Josephine Lee (Professor of English and Asian American Studies, UM) and Sarah Bellamy (Artistic Director, Penumbra Theatre) will talk about the intersecting histories and contemporary dynamics of black and Asian representation in American theater. Lee will share some of her current research on how different theatrical forms such as minstrelsy, vaudeville, and musical theater juxtaposed blackface representation and stage orientalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Bellamy will comment on how this history has affect theater practice today, and what kinds of change and collaboration we might imagine for the future. This will be a fascinating conversation about how American theater defines or moves across racial lines, understanding the persistence of racial stereotypes, and building coalitions.
Date: 09/26/2019

Oriental, Black, and White: The Formation of Racial Habits in American Theater (Book)
Title: Oriental, Black, and White: The Formation of Racial Habits in American Theater
Author: Josephine Lee
Abstract: In this book, Josephine Lee looks at the intertwined racial representations of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American theater. In minstrelsy, melodrama, vaudeville, and musicals, both white and African American performers enacted blackface characterizations alongside oriental stereotypes of opulence and deception, comic servitude, and exotic sexuality. Lee shows how blackface types were often associated with working-class masculinity and the development of a nativist white racial identity for European immigrants, while the oriental marked what was culturally coded as foreign, feminized, and ornamental. These conflicting racial connotations were often intermingled in actual stage performance, as stage productions contrasted nostalgic characterizations of plantation slavery with the figures of the despotic sultan, the seductive dancing girl, and the comic Chinese laundryman. African American performers also performed common oriental themes and characterizations, repurposing them for their own commentary on Black racial progress and aspiration. The juxtaposition of orientalism and black figuration became standard fare for American theatergoers at a historical moment in which the color line was rigidly policed. These interlocking cross-racial impersonations offer fascinating insights into habits of racial representation both inside and outside the theater.
Year: 2022
Primary URL:
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9781469669625
Copy sent to NEH?: No