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Entertainment At Its Peak: Vaudeville Essay Example

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Entertainment At Its Peak: Vaudeville

Entertainment At Its Peak: Vaudeville. Striptease went to the burlesque (Kanfer).Vaudeville was uniquely personal. The actors were right there, live people on stage in front of a live audience who interacted with performers. “Whoopee cushion humor” (Martin) had its appeal. Vaudeville exploited the American sense of humor in every aspect of the variety show. In its earliest days, vaudeville audiences consisted of immigrants who were looking to escape their dreary days in factories and tenements. The end of the Victorian era was fast approaching, so Americans could lighten up and laugh. Vaudeville introduced America to popular entertainment as big business, and within a few years, the up-and-coming middle class had time and money to spend on such entertainments (Martin).

Child acts and family acts appealed to audiences because they could relate to the entertainment under the lights.Traveling acts had to adjust their shows to each night’s venue. Theater managers, of course, had a lot to say about how a performer should do his act, but they adjusted on the fly in response to audience response. Vaudeville performers had to be flexible and have a broad range of styles, jokes, and songs available to them in order to satisfy sometimes fickle audiences. Vaudevillians had to be ready to adjust at a moment’s notice. In fact, the “breadth of vaudeville’s audience and the substance of its entertainment made it the comprehensive entertainment of its time” (DiMeglio 195). Talent was necessary, but flexibility even more important.Audience participation was a must in almost all vaudeville acts. and vaudevillians used audiences to their comedic advantage. Hecklers were common for these traveling entertainers, and it was the astute actor who could turn a heckler into an ally, or turn the tables on a heckler to make the rest of the audience laugh at him. The most important aspect of entertaining these audiences was keeping them laughing until they couldn’t breathe.It’s common today for comedians to call someone up on stage to lend a hand with a magic trick or skit, just as it was in the heyday of vaudeville. Vaudeville is enjoying a revival in modern-day America, with all the charm and appeal of the variety act turned up a few notches. Martin quotes a modern-day vaudevillian as saying, “The audience doesn’t know whether to cry, laugh, or throw up.” This was the aim of all past vaudevillians,. Entertainment At Its Peak: Vaudeville.

Works Cited

DiMeglio, John. Vaudeville U.S.A. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University, 1973.

Easton, Rick. 2002. “Vaudeville! A Dazzling Display of Heterogeneous Splendor.” University of Virginia. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://xroads.Virginia.edu/%7Ema02/Easton/vaudeville/ vaudevillemain.html>.

Ewen, David. The Story of America’s Musical Theater. Philadelphia: Chilton, 1968.

Guthrie, Tyrone. In Various Directions. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Kanfer, Stefan. “Vaudeville’s Brief, Shining Moment.” City Journal, Spring 2005. The Manhattan Institute. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_2_urbanitites-vaudeville.html>.

Library of Congress. “The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920.” Oct. 1996. 5 Nov. 2008 <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/vshtml/ vsintro.html>.

Martin, Douglas. November 24, 2002. “Old-Time Vaudeville Looks Young Again.” New York Times. 5 Nov, 2008. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res= 9901E1D91F937A15752C1A9649C8B63>.

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preview essay on Entertainment At Its Peak: Vaudeville
  • Pages: 7 (1750 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Performing Arts
  • Level: Masters
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