“Coming together to lift a celebratory glass to their peculiarities, as if they have suddenly found themselves together again in Nick’s Pacific Street bar from Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life (1939), the carefully assembled guests of David Román’s Performance in America add up to an improbable but exhilarating ensemble. Anyone who can make Elaine Stritch feel right at home at a party with the ghost of Sarah Siddons will show you the time of your life, and Román is that kind of host, entertaining the divas of stage, screen, dance, and cabaret while cordially welcoming his readers. rsvp.”—Joseph Roach, author of Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance
“In a work of immediate political relevance and lasting theoretical importance, David Román forcefully establishes live performance at the center of America’s cultural life, showing how its unique capacity to mobilize ‘provisional collectivities’ in the here and now allows it to express and inform crucial national debates. Román’s brilliant readings of various undervalued genres of popular performance are themselves a tour de force of critical performance, teaching us how to engage the vast ‘embodied archive’ in which American publics and counter-publics understand themselves.”—Una Chaudhuri, Professor of English and Drama, New York University
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The performances that Román analyzes range from localized community-based arts events to full-scale Broadway productions and from the controversial works of established artists such as Tony Kushner to those of emerging artists. Román considers dances produced by the choreographers Bill T. Jones and Neil Greenberg in the mid-1990s as new aids treatments became available and the aids crisis was reconfigured; a production of the Asian American playwright Chay Yew’s A Beautiful Country in a high-school auditorium in Los Angeles’s Chinatown; and Latino performer John Leguizamo’s one-man Broadway show Freak. He examines the revival of theatrical legacies by female impersonators and the resurgence of cabaret in New York City. Román also looks at how the performing arts have responded to 9/11, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the second war in Iraq. Including more than eighty illustrations, Performance in America highlights the dynamic relationships among performance, history, and contemporary culture through which the past is revisited and the future reimagined.
David Román is Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS and a coeditor of O Solo Homo: The New Queer Performance.