This list suggests only possibilities; it does not dictate specific topics.
The choices are limitless, depending on one's interest and curiosity.

  • 1. Oral histories; taped interviews with popular entertainers. The project would include the submission of a taped interview of some length and a transcript (typed) with commentary.

  • 2. A detailed study of a particular entertainer or a form not given adequate coverage during the semester.

  • 3. If there is time and/or space, mini-performances of specific forms might be attempted: Medicine show, vaudeville turns, burlesque routines, music hall songs, etc. This assignment would include a 15-20 minute performance plus a typed script with historical commentary and an annotated bibliography of sources used. It should be a performance as accurate as possible. (I have a group of some 150 skits from vaudeville, most never seen--from Library of Congress collection)

  • 4. Paper on performative aspects of a specific form, other than mainstream or legitimate, during a particular era in a specific country (such as cabaret in France or Germany).

  • 5. Paper on performance techniques and the performance methods of some other major form.

  • 6. A study of a more contemporary form of popular entertainment, e.g., rock concerts, professional wrestling, roller derby, etc.

  • 7. Paper on the cultural or social importance of one or several forms of entertainment.

  • 8. Some aspect of popular theatre might be treated, e.g., minor theatres in London, East End melodrama, rural theatre, Gilbert and Sullivan, American musical theatre (early), etc.

  • 9. Theatre utilizing water or fireworks might be studied.

  • 10. A study of popular entertainment as ritual or its mythic implications.

  • 11. A study of popular entertainment and the modern avant-garde theatre; relationships.

  • 12. The art of popular entertainment: posters, serious art, artists, specicialists, etc. (see, for example, Ritter's book in bibliography in packet).

  • 13. The music of popular entertainment, circus, burlesque, vaudeville, etc.

  • 14. Local studies of a specific form, theatre, or area of popular entertainment (e.g., the dime museum in Providence, Vaudeville in Syracuse, Pleasure Gardens in Rhode Island, etc.).

  • 15. Study of joke books, song books, and the like, in the Harris Collection.

  • 16. Popular entertainment for various ethnic groups in the U.S.

  • 17. Technical aspects of popular entertainment production (such as a study of patents for amusement park rides).

  • 18. Popular entertainment and the audience.

  • 19. Comprehensive history of stage magic or other aspect of magic using the H. Adrian Smith Collection of Conjuring Books and Magicana in the John Hay Library.

  • 20. Optical entertainment before the motion picture.

  • 21. A detailed study of black revues in the 1920s or the Chitlin Vaudeville circuit.

  • 22. A study of classical forms of popular entertainment (Greek mimes, Roman mimes, minstrel tradition, etc.).

  • 23. The treatment of popular entertainment in literary sources, i.e., novels, plays, etc. (e.g., the following works of fiction: Gary Jennings' Spangle [19th c. circus], Larry McMurtry's Buffalo Girls [Buffalo Bill, Wild West, etc.], Robertson Davies' World of Wonders [magician, popular theatre, etc.], E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime or World's Fair, William Gresham's Nightmare Alley [carnival]). For a partial list of fictional sources, see Linda Sarver and Tom Markus, A Novel Approach to Theatre: From Adams to Zola (Scarecrow Press, 1997). See 25 below.

  • 24. Film versions of P.E. forms (there have been a plethora of films built around entertainment forms).

  • 25. A detailed comparative study of a form of entertainment and its depiction in fiction or drama (e.g., Buffalo Bill and Kopit's Indians and Altman's film version; Sugar Babies or This was Burlesque , etc.).

  • 26. Early films as popular entertainment.

  • 27. A paper defining popular entertainment versus folk entertainment and supporting said definition with examples, etc.

  • 28. Folk art in popular entertainment: carousel figures, banners, show fronts, etc.

  • 29. A Post-modern interpretation of a standard form of popular entertainment (or the application of a contemporary methodology or theory, e.g., semiotics, structuralism, etc.)
  • 30. An aspect of American civilization as reflected in popular entertainment.

  • 31. The recent recession has had a noticeable impact on theme parks and other entertainment venues, suggesting the likely value in studying popular entertainment from an economic/social vantage point.

  • 32. Gender studies, the body as a site of exploitation, and similar contemporary approaches to various phenomena open up ideas for the study of such entertainment forms as burlesque and the striptease, among others.

This list could go on indefintely. If you find an area of interest, perhaps I can help you in isolating a specific topic. Also, consult the various bibliographies listed on page one of the syllabus. Whatever the choice, these projects should be major efforts and will count heavily toward your final grade.


Illustration: Primrose and Dockstader Minstrels. Collection of DBW

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