American Dreams: Jews and Broadway
Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life
Associate Professor of Theatre, Boston College
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Rd
Abstract: The promise of the American Dream brought mass-migration of Jews between 1880-1920, with many settling in New York City’s Lower East Side slums. By the 1930s their children had Americanized and improved their lot and formed an increasing percentage of the Broadway audience, supporting musicals that were almost exclusively written by Jewish composers, lyricists and librettists. Not surprisingly, the Broadway musical reflected their collective journey of upward mobility. In their hands, most Broadway book musicals came to project an inclusive vision of America through a form which they inadvertently developed into a template on how to achieve those lofty ends: success through assimilation. This Broadway musical “template” has subsequently been used by other fringe groups to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the American mainstream, be it women, gays, African Americans, Latinos/Latinas, amongst many others.
Stuart Hecht is Associate Professor of Theatre Department at Boston College, where he teaches and directs after spending thirteen years as Department Chair. His book Transposing Broadway: Jews, Assimilation and the American Musical has just been released by Palgrave Macmillan Press. He is the long-standing Editor of New England Theatre Journal, and his articles in theatre history have appeared in Theatre History Studies, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Theatre Journal, Chicago History, The Journal of Popular Culture among others. He has written extensively on Chicago theatre and more recently turned his attention to the American musical. Hecht has long been an officer for the American Theatre and Drama Society, is a member of the Chicago Theatre Symposium and is also a member of the New England Theatre Conference's College of Fellows. He worked as dramaturg for Chicago's Goodman Theatre and Wisdom Bridge Theatre before moving to Boston to begin his academic career. He received his B.A. from the University of Michigan and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University.
In the News
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy is the first documentary film to explore the Jewish-American influence in the development of Broadway musicals. Stuart Hecht, Associate Professor of Theater at Boston College, discussed the significance of the Jewish musical heritage at a Boisi Center colloquium on November 14, 2012. Hecht is among the experts interviewed in the PBS documentary.
Broadway Musicals premieres on January 1, 2013, at 9:30pm EST (check local listings).