Imbricated Identity and the Theatre Star in Early-Twentieth-Century Australasia

Martina Lipton (2010). Imbricated Identity and the Theatre Star in Early-Twentieth-Century Australasia PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Martina Lipton
Thesis Title Imbricated Identity and the Theatre Star in Early-Twentieth-Century Australasia
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-08
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 290
Total colour pages 21
Total black and white pages 269
Subjects 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing
Abstract/Summary This thesis examines in detail the construct we term the ‘theatre star’. It aims to investigate how transnational theatre stars in Australia and New Zealand in the early-twentieth century validated their professional eminence, social cachet and public adulation through the strategic development and manipulation of their on and off-stage personae and mediated afterlives. Rather than focus on the theatre star as a solitary icon, my theoretical approach examines the star as a valuable partner – social, professional and cultural – within the infrastructure of the theatre industry. While much research has been done to explicate theatre performers’ burgeoning professional status and appeal as charismatic personalities and performance specialists, particularly in British and American contexts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there is little investigation on the constructed identity of the star performer of early-twentieth-century Australasian theatre. The conceptual model of ‘imbricated identity’ theorized in this study seeks to mark a shift in the field of theatre historiography. It articulates an intertextuality of performance that reaches beyond that defined by Marvin Carlson as ‘ghosting’ inherent in theatre praxis, and by Jacky Bratton as ‘intertheatricality’. I propose that the validation of ‘personality’ – the mysteriously elusive and ‘uncanny appeal’ or ‘x’ factor – is only one dynamic explanation for the theatre star’s popular success. The term ‘imbricated identity’ is used to describe the cultural accretion of interleaved and overlapping depictions of the star’s identity: theatrical representations, civic persona, private self for public consumption, and posthumous legacy. These delineated images operate coterminously. They strategically coalesce and sometimes conflate, informing discursive framings of the star’s identity as variously invested in by the artiste, and his/her symbiotic partnerships with theatre management, media, spouse/s, family and the public. During the early-twentieth century the theatre star’s constructed identity became necessarily more complex with the advent of modernity’s mass-mediated communications. Printed media, radio and film increasingly revealed information about stars’ public and private lives. Case studies of Nellie Stewart, Ada Reeve, Madge Elliott and Cyril Ritchard are used to explicate how theatre performers fashioned and articulated their distinct star images. All are performers identified as ‘Australian’ at some phase of their careers, who also maintained strong international profiles, particularly in New Zealand, England and America. They performed variously in entertainments such as dance, drama, vaudeville and revue, radio, film and television. The work of these chosen subjects traverses paradigms of high and low culture: boundaries that became increasingly more fragile with modernity’s exchange and fusion of culture and commerce. The star’s image and cultural status are unstable and rely upon contextualization syncretized by the star and theatre management, professional colleagues, journalism, fans and audiences. The public, private, and professional partnerships of my chosen subjects had a significant impact on their acculturation as Australian stars on the transnational stage, and their mediated afterlives continue today to invite multiple readings of star personae.
Keyword theatre star
imbricated identity
performance intertexuality
star image
star persona
Additional Notes 51, 53, 81, 126, 130, 174, 212, 224-225, 227, 235-236, 238, 242, 245-246, 248-250, 253-254

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Created: Wed, 25 Aug 2010, 10:14:45 EST by Ms Martina Lipton on behalf of Library - Information Access Service