Broadway’s 2016 Duel: Shuffle Along and Hamilton

23 Feb 2022 10.30 AM - 12.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Kevin Riordan

Dueling was in the air in 2016. Fans learned “The Ten Duel Commandments” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Hamilton, which staged two 18th century duels. Although less deadly than Alexander Hamilton’s fatal shootout with Alexander Burr, a contest was brewing between Miranda’s Hamilton and that other Broadway potential hit (but miss), George C. Wolfe’s Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All that Followed. Both staged versions of American history and cast a large number of BIPOC performers, and both played Broadway while a contentious political duel raged between the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. Only Hamilton was still playing in November to comment, quite publicly, on Trump’s victory and imminent accession to the White House. The duel between Hamilton and Shuffle Along, or the Making of… reveals that audiences applaud the triumphant history of the nation they already know, retold with an emphasis on inclusion through casting actors of color who trumpet inclusive one-liners such as, “Immigrants: We get the job done!” Less appealing to audiences is the complex and relatively untold history of the making of African American performance traditions with their accommodations to racism (including blackface minstrelsy) and the very performance styles and innovations that influenced Hamilton’s blockbuster style.

About the Speaker:

Carrie Preston earned a BA from Michigan State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Rutgers. Her research and teaching interests include forced displacement, modernist literature, performance, and dance, and critical studies of race and gender. Her book, Learning to Kneel: Noh, Modernism, and Journeys in Teaching, was published by Columbia University Press in 2016, and her new book Complicit Participation: The Liberal Audience for Anti-racist Theater is forthcoming.

She has won several BU awards, including a Peter Paul Career Development Professorship, the CAS Wisneski Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the University’s United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award. She received the national De La Torre Bueno Prize, given to a dance studies book, for Modernism’s Mythic Pose: Gender, Genre, Solo Performance (Oxford University Press, 2011).