288 pages | 6 x 9 | 23 illus.
Cloth 2014 | ISBN 9780812246629 | $47.50s | Outside the Americas £41.00
Paper 2016 | ISBN 9780812223644 | $26.50s | Outside the Americas £21.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
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Finalist for the 2015 George Freedley Memorial Award
"Straddling the bustling intersection where urban studies, business history, and theater studies converge, Timothy R. White's engaging study focuses on the theater-related business clustered around Times Square . . . To his enormous credit, White carefully links his analysis of the theater industry to what was happening on the streets around Times Square at specific historical moments."—Journal of American HistoryBehind the scenes of New York City's Great White Way, virtuosos of stagecraft have built the scenery, costumes, lights, and other components of theatrical productions for more than a hundred years. But like a good magician who refuses to reveal secrets, they have left few clues about their work. Blue-Collar Broadway recovers the history of those people and the neighborhood in which their undersung labor occurred.
"The story of urban de-industrialization is frequently told. Rarely conveyed, however, is the effect that process had had on theatre making. With Blue-Collar Broadway, [Timothy R.] White goes a long way toward rectifying this omission. Thus, his fine book should find a receptive audience with those who are interested in the intersection of American theatre history, American studies, and entertainment-industry studies."—Modern Drama
"Times Square and the Broadway theater district are world famous for bright lights, dense crowds, and long-running plays. Less well-known is the story of scenery, set design, costumes, and lights, activities once concentrated in the craft shops and rehearsal studios in Manhattan and now dispersed to the hinterlands. Blue-Collar Broadway is the fascinating backstage story of the history and evolution of theater craft and a compelling call for the recognition and preservation of its artistry."—Kenneth T. Jackson, editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City
"Blue-Collar Broadway identifies hundreds of costumers, carpenters, lighting riggers, and craftspeople who worked for commercial Broadway theater over a 130-year period and analyzes the shifting social, economic, and cultural factors that pushed these workers out of the Times Square theater district. This is a remarkable achievement."—Marlis Schweitzer, York University
"[Timothy R.] White meticulously details the economic impact on the people, industry, and culture responsible for creating theatrical spectacle, making a persuasive plea for acknowledgement of the importance of their theatrical contributions. Highly recommended."—Choice
"Certainly any fan of theater history, economics, the patterns of urban New York City or general urban history will find is meticulous research stimulating. Blue-Collar Broadway is appealing for its sincere and thorough attention to a key, little-known industry."—Shelf Awareness
Timothy R. White begins his history of the theater industry with the dispersed pre-Broadway era, when components such as costumes, lights, and scenery were built and stored nationwide. Subsequently, the majority of backstage operations and storage were consolidated in New York City during what is now known as the golden age of musical theater. Toward the latter half of the twentieth century, decentralization and deindustrialization brought the emergence of nationally distributed regional theaters and performing arts centers. The resulting collapse of New York's theater craft economy rocked the theater district, leaving abandoned buildings and criminal activity in place of studios and workshops. But new technologies ushered in a new age of tourism and business for the area. The Broadway we know today is a global destination and a glittering showroom for vetted products.
Featuring case studies of iconic productions such as Oklahoma! (1943) and Evita (1979), and an exploration of the craftwork of radio, television, and film production around Times Square, Blue-Collar Broadway tells a rich story of the history of craft and industry in American theater nationwide. In addition, White examines the role of theater in urban deindustrialization and in the revival of downtowns throughout the Sunbelt.
Timothy R. White is Associate Professor of History at New Jersey City University.