A cross-country examination reveals how Broadway permeates American culture
Broadway may be the home of musical theater, but the performances in thousands of gyms, summer camps, and amateur theaters across the country are its lifeblood, according to Stacy Wolf, professor of theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts and American studies, author of Beyond Broadway: The Pleasure and Promise of Musical Theatre Across America. Wolf spoke with Princeton Alumni Weekly about why the genre is flourishing and the critical role that local productions play in bolstering communities as well as in the finances of the theater business.
How did going to a dinner theater near your hometown of Columbia, Md., at a young age ignite a lifelong passion for musical theater?
I loved what I saw at the dinner theater, a production of The Music Man, and by fourth grade, I had experienced many forms of local theater as a performer and spectator — professional, community, high school, after-school program, summer camp. I was obsessed with musical theater, but I had never been to a Broadway show. And I was not unique. For many of us who did musical theater when we were young, it became a passion. I became an English teacher and taught plays, and then went back to graduate school and studied theater history, theory, and criticism. At the time, there was really not anything that we would understand as a field of musical-theater studies. That didn’t happen until after I finished grad school. But musical theater is a vital part of American history and culture, a popular middlebrow form that participates in the construction of ideas about America.
Read more from the interview at Princeton Alumni Weekly: