Show Boat and the History of Screenwriting

Among the many films I have my History of Screenwriting students watch as we march through the chronological eras of that history from Silents to (what I call) Superhero Saturation, I include a couple of musicals to illustrate that genre. Among those musicals I include Show Boat for many reasons. 

First, because they ought to know about Edna Ferber, who wrote the novel on which the show is based, had an interesting history with Hollywood in that she did not approve of selling off her IP (intellectual property) completely – so she leased novels to Hollywood (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big, and the popular Giant (starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean and adapted by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat). 

Second, because they ought to know Paul Robeson who starred in the 1936 film adaptation after having played “Joe” in the London production and became synonymous with the song “Ol’ Man River”.

Third, because it was one of the earliest musicals to take a social justice stance and even handle the subject of miscegenation.

Fourth, because it’s a classic. 

But, I recognize even being socially conscious for their times that there are moments in the portrayals of the African American characters that aren’t always comfortable for my students of color so I’m always on the lookout for ways to teach this.  That’s why I was happy to come across this 2013 book by Todd Decker Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical where he focuses on how the story is really the story of how a white girl singer becomes famous on the riverboat by using a ‘black’ voice, making the story more a study of cultural appropriation. I’ve only begun reading it out of order (movie section first, stage play section second) but have found what I’ve read fascinating. 

Check it out at your local library or find it here

Also of interest is the various changes to the original lyrics of “Ol’ Man River” made by artists over the years.

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** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Memorial Day, Michener and South Pacific

Tales south pacific cover

I was missing the Memorial Day parades of my Cleveland, Ohio childhood until I realized I was engaging in an individual Memorial Day event without even planning such coordination.

Having taken my Mom to see a touring company of South Pacific for Mothers Day a few weekends back at the La Mirada Theatre, I had finally decided I ought to read the book from which the musical sprang so I ordered a copy of James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific.  I’ve been spending the day learning more about the men and women (remember there were nurses nearly wherever the soldiers were sent) who patrolled the Pacific in the early days of WWII.  It’s a kind of double-major moment since it’s also allowing me the chance to consider which of the many tangential stories Oscar Hammerstein chose to include in the adaptation.  

Review of the La Mirada Touring version of South Pacific

It’s also allowed me to recognize a part of my reader personality that I don’t think I had ever noticed – books hit me like the lightning bolt of Italian romantic myths.  Tales of the South Pacific has always been available to me but it wasn’t until I had a reason to read it that suddenly I found a way to slide some reading time into my busy grading and writing schedule.  And then I swallow that book I’ve been meaning to read in a couple of days – like taking a vacation from life and work for a few hours without the cost of fuel or lodging.  Books – the world’s cheapest vacations!

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!
† Available from the LA Public Library

Rosanne Welch and Peg Lamphier perform in The Vagina Monologues at Cal Poly Pomona

For our 3rd year participating in the Cal Poly Pomona Women’s Center’s production of The Vagina Monologues, Peg and I were given My Angry Vagina – and we milked it for all the laughs we could. What is it about college students who laugh every time a professor uses colorful language?

Rosanne Welch and Peg Lamphier perform in The Vagina Monologues at Cal Poly Pomona

Rosanne Welch and Peg Lamphier perform in The Vagina Monologues at Cal Poly Pomona

Happy Halloween: Listen to this LIVE adaptation of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Our friends, Keri Dearborn and Michael Lawshe just released their annual Halloween show, Ghosts of the Internet.

This year it is a live recording of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, adapted by Keri Dearborn.

If you listen, you might hear 2 familiar voices among the cast (wink, wink)

Listen to Ghosts of the Internet 11: Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

IceDoor11 IMG 1996

Goti 11 mixer


Read the original story

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!

Also available in many versions from the LA Public LIbrary 

Time for Our Town at the Pasadena Playhouse via Instagram

This way to the Pasadena Playhouse via Instagram

Pasadena playhouse 

Our town 1

This way to the Pasadena Playhouse 

On our way to see production of Our Town last night.

Pasadena Playbouse Web Site

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