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Taking Center Stage


Music and History


Professor Wendy Reynolds and Professor Kim Davis

Program Summary

This FYE program will explore the history of the United States in the 20th century along with the role of musical theatre in generating opportunities for social change, as well as the ways each did and can work to limit them. The course will also give wide berth to explorations of individual purpose and methodologies of ethical living. What are the ways in which attention to developing self-compassion and empathy within one’s daily practice and work can contribute to a more just society?

If the United States in the 19th century was defined by a long and contested campaign of national territorial and political expansionism, much of what transpired in the U.S. in the 20th century was centered around work to gain and extend social and political rights (and thus economic opportunity) within this established national structure. The backlash to such efforts was also central to 20th century U.S. experience. Overall, the ability of marginalized groups to articulate cultural and social value and improve group visibility within the American project will define the 20th century for people living within the U.S. political and economic equality would remain elusive. 

By studying the United States in the 20th century through the lenses of history and theatre, students can better understand the historical moment they are now in: the resistance to identity politics itself. With the freedom to increasingly choose one’s identity and seek to exist outside of structures of all kinds, it is perhaps increasingly important to consider issues of personal responsibility, purpose, and meaning.

MUS 203 American Musical Theatre (3 SH, GEA)

HIST 160 U.S. in the 20th Century (3 SH, GEH)