Drop Dead

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3390-7

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3388-4

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3389-1
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Publication Date
October 2016
Page Count
288 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Drop Dead

Performance in Crisis, 1970s New York

Hillary Miller’s Drop Dead: Performance in Crisis, 1970s New York offers a fascinating and comprehensive exploration of how the city’s financial crisis shaped theater and performance practices in this turbulent decade and beyond.

New York City’s performing arts community suffered greatly from a severe reduction in grants in the mid-1970s. A scholar and playwright, Miller skillfully synthesizes economics, urban planning, tourism, and immigration to create a map of the interconnected urban landscape and to contextualize the struggle for resources. She reviews how numerous theater professionals, including Ellen Stewart of La MaMa E.T.C. and Julie Bovasso, Vinnette Carroll, and Joseph Papp of The Public Theater, developed innovative responses to survive the crisis.

Combining theater history and close readings of productions, each of Miller’s chapters is a case study focusing on a company, a production, or an element of New York’s theater infrastructure. Her expansive survey visits Broadway, Off-, Off-Off-, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, community theater, and other locations to bring into focus the large-scale changes wrought by the financial realignments of the day.

Nuanced, multifaceted, and engaging, Miller’s lively account of the financial crisis and resulting transformation of the performing arts community offers an essential chronicle of the decade and demonstrates its importance in understanding our present moment.

About the Author

HILLARY MILLER is an assistant professor of theater at California State University, Northridge.

"Drop Dead makes a distinctive and valuable contribution to theatre and performance studies scholarship. It is careful and nuanced in its approach to theatre-historical practices, and introduces an urban frame that changes how these practices have commonly been narrated and understood." — Michael McKinnie, author of City Stages: Theatre and Urban Space in a Global City

"...an especially fascinating read" American Theater

“In her exciting study, named for the Daily News headline of 1975 protesting the federal refusal to help out New York City, Hillary Miller combines urban geography and theater history to focus on the cash-starved performing arts in New York’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Reversing the traditional zero-sum picture of New York theater, Miller takes little interest in the commercial stages of midtown Manhattan and focuses instead on Brooklyn, street and neighborhood performance across the city, and the downtown emergence of La MaMa and the Public. The reader is left almost aching with nostalgia for the bad old times.”—Elinor Fuchs, author of The Death of Character: Perspectives on Theater after Modernism

"Drop Dead is an incisive and illuminating study of the impact of austerity on 1970s New York theatre. The book masterfully overlaps fields... it adds historical, institutional, and urban context to theatre studies; theatre and cultural studies to urban history; and a much-needed historical perspective on contemporary debates about cultural policy." —Theatre Survey