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About the Project

Through investigating the connections between bodily fitness, casting, and representation, this dissertation project examines how Broadway musicals since A Chorus Line have employed stigmatized and non-normative bodies. I do so in order to question the ways in which how our bodies look determine what they do and secondly, how this correspondence is represented onstage. In a broader sense, I am asking how these issues inform what we conceive of as attainable for ourselves–how (and if) we see ourselves or similar bodies represented has effects on what we allow ourselves to dream possible.

The relation of bodily stigma to labor practices informs my guiding questions: How do non-normative bodies fit into an economic system that stigmatizes them? How do Broadway musicals paradoxically both normalize and pathologize non-normative bodies? What does it mean to be a fat actor or an actor with a disability on Broadway? How has the stigma of being an openly gay actor changed on Broadway over the past forty years?

These questions are explored in four chapters, each organized thematically around a discrete type of bodily stigma as cast in the following Broadway musicals:

Ability Stigma: Deaf West Theatre’s Broadway productions of Big River and Spring Awakening

Bodily Difference Stigma: Side Show

Size Stigma: Dreamgirls and Hairspray

Sexuality Stigma: La Cage Aux Folles 

This dissertation project is undertaken in fulfillment of the Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance at The Graduate Center, CUNY. The committee members are David Savran (chair), Jean Graham-Jones, and Elizabeth Wollman.