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Approaching Transnational America in Performance

Edited By Birgit M. Bauridl and Pia Wiegmink

The volume is uniquely located at the interdisciplinary crossroads of Performance Studies and transnational American Studies. As both a method and an object of study, performance deepens our understanding of transnational phenomena and America’s position in the world. The thirteen original contributions make use of the field’s vast potential and critically explore a wide array of cultural, political, social, and aesthetic performances on and off the stage. They scrutinize transnational trajectories and address issues central to the American Studies agenda such as representation, power, (ethnic and gender) identities, social mobility, and national imaginaries. As an American Studies endeavor, the volume highlights the cultural, political, and (inter)disciplinary implications of performance.

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Virtual Theatricality, Transatlantic Representation, and Mercy Otis Warren’s Revolutionary Plays (Leopold Lippert)


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Leopold Lippert

Virtual Theatricality, Transatlantic Representation, and Mercy Otis Warren’s Revolutionary Plays

Abstract: This essay examines the theatrical aesthetics of Mercy Otis Warren’s Revolutionary plays, The Adulateur, The Defeat, and The Group. More than mere dramatic dialogue, Warren’s plays short-circuit theatrical representation and political representation in order to point to the limitations and flaws of British colonial government in North America.

The second Act opens with a procession of coaches, chariots, &c. The scene changes to the Star-Chamber, where the Divan is opened with a speech in character, by HAZLEROD, highly pleasing to the creatures of arbitrary power, and equally disgusting to every man of virtue. We pass over several very interesting scenes in the second Act, and proceed to the third; but the limits of our paper will not allow us to give our readers more than the SOLILOQUY of CASSIUS, who retires before the conclusion of the last scene. (Warren, “The Adulateur I” 15)

Initially published in excerpt form in the Boston newspaper The Massachusetts Spy in early 1772, Mercy Otis Warren’s first play, The Adulateur, puts forward a Manichaean contrast typical for the so-called “propaganda plays” of the Revolutionary period: the “m[e]n of virtue” (read: radical Boston Patriots) and the “creatures of arbitrary power” (read: Loyalists to the British Crown who still controlled Massachusetts politics) are either pleased or disgusted by a (nonexistent) speech Chief Justice Hazlerod delivers in front of a...

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