Theater und Schule: Finding a Window to 19th Century New York


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  • hochgeladen 6. Februar 2020

Sensation melodrama was the 19th century equivalent of todays soap operas and tv shows, offering entertainment, excitement, romance, fun, and instant gratification for everybody. Burning houses, damsels in distress, revenge plots, mix-ups between friend and foe, and the overall eternal fight between good and evil are supported by singing and dancing Irishmen, stand-up comedy, and vaudeville acts. With no pretense to sophistication, these plays evolve around middle and lower-class stock characters, but they excel at the depiction of technological apparatuses, prowess in their handling, and a variety of spectacular scenarios that heroes and heroines have to master. The five unpublished typescripts that form the textual basis of this presentation open an enticing window into 19th century New York with its polyvocal society. To recover these texts, we had to leave school learning and the literary mainstream far behind, and dig deep into theatre collections, archives and newspaper clippings from the time. The editing journey granted us views of posters, song books, theatre reviews and prompt books, took us through the depths of illegible manuscripts and a bounty of spelling mistakes and led us to a deeper understanding of New York society and life in the 19th century. Which leaves us with the question whether these messy texts might be suitable for classroom use.


Damaris Stein und Angelika Zeman met in a master’s seminar lead by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hochbruck to work on an edition of 19’th century melodramas and have since been working together. Both will graduate soon to become teachers.