Washington University in St. Louis, 28-29 September 2018

The 2016 “Shuffle Along” Ensemble (photo by Julieta Cervantes)

The Broadway musical, as a live event, depends upon interaction between bodies – those of performers, musicians, craftworkers, audience members, and others. Reading the musical on, through, and between bodies, as an embodied and always performed art, affords new understandings and avenues of inquiry that are lost when viewing the musical as a static or textual object. Issues of the body bring together many disciplines and theoretical frameworks. Disability, feminist, gender, and queer studies have been approaches that, individually and collectively, have especially embraced this matter of how culture becomes embodied. But the term “body” itself can have many definitions, whether examined as the body in space, the body as architecture, the body as sounded, the body as experience, the body as a collection of objects, or the abstract or sounded as bodies themselves. There is not one body, but many bodies: physical, meta, sensorial, objectified, textual, generic, queer, and many more.

This conference seeks to advance the recent academic trend towards the performer and the embodied through exploration of the Broadway musical. By bringing together varied views and definitions of bodies, this conference will explore the musical as a rich site of inquiry for the multiple valences of the body. The conference intentionally leaves the term “bodies” open to encourage a broad range of interpretations from scholars from across disciplines, including musicology, theater, dance, and performance studies, but also other humanities fields, such as gender, sexuality, race, and disability studies, that mirror the complex mix of artistic and cultural production that is commercial musical theater.