"Waving Through a Window: Prosthetic Memory, Nostalgia, and Authorship in Dear Evan Hansen."
(forthcoming in Studies in Musical Theatre)
ABSTRACT: Dear Evan Hansen, a popular Broadway musical whose narrative centers on connectivity and the protagonist’s social anxiety, offers a disruptive potential to the otherwise standard nostalgic leanings of the contemporary American musical. Operating dramaturgically, nostalgia offers the audience an opportunity to recall an idealized past that imbues the musical they are witnessing with their own positive affect. Dear Evan Hansen’s use of prosthetic memory disrupts the nostalgic tradition of the contemporary musical. Using dramaturgical analysis to identify the narrative operation of nostalgia and prosthetic memory, this article situates the disruptive potential of Dear Evan Hansen as an intervention into the American musical theatre canon writ large.
"Mourning Mothers: Madness as Deviant Motherhood in Next to Normal" in Staging Motherhood: Representations of the Maternal in 21st Century North American Theatre
"How a World Can Seem Co Vast: The Craft of Musical Theatre Dramaturgy" in The Routledge Companion to Musical Theatre
(co-authored with Dr. Laura MacDonald)
ABSTRACT: Contemporary musical theatre follows many conventions, including its representation of women and mothers. In such theatrical work, representations of women tend to fall in line with accepted character tropes including the ingenue, doting mother, aged elder, and naïve adolescent. These tropes, often employed, provide little room for women and mothers to exhibit difference, for any deviation from these defined archetypes situate them as problematic and/or a threat to the world around them. These conventions have a deep genealogy, between contemporary musical theatre’s presentation of mothers and similar tropes found in 20th century musicals such as Sweeney Todd and Gypsy. Next to Normal situates a mother in mourning as a danger to the very familial structure she created. By positioning Diana as the only character in need of personal adjustment, the musical situates her as a deviant mother—a mother whose inability to operate “normally” precludes her position as acceptable female musical character. Considered together, disability studies and dramaturgical analysis offer a framework to identify how the mad mother on stage is disavowed from her own narrative, constantly requiring her to be something “next to normal” if she is to have a successful life, regardless of her own desires.