TLA Theater Book Awards 2023

Books about the Method school of acting and about theater’s long history of “racial impersonation” have been named the best theater books of the year by The Theatre Library Association, which will present its TLA Book Awards at a virtual ceremony on YouTube  via the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on October 27.

The TLA also acknowledges three finalists, all of whom tell a story about theater through the prism of a particular community/identity. 

The organization, founded in 1937 to support librarians and archivists affiliated with theater, dance, performance studies, popular entertainment, motion picture and broadcasting collections, also gives awards for books about “recorded performance” (ie. movies.)

Click on the links below for more information about each of these books, to read an excerpt, or to purchase:

The 2022 George Freedley Memorial Award for an exemplary work in the field of live theater or performance will be awarded to Noémie Ndiaye for ”Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022)
The author, a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago, explores the invention of “performative blackness” in Renaissance Europe.
“I consider the material practices of racial impersonation in use in early modern Western Europe. I reconstruct three specific techniques—black-up (cosmetic blackness), blackspeak (acoustic blackness), and black dances (kinetic blackness)…” and how they presented to the spectators and participants “new ways of thinking about Afro-diasporic people.”

A Special Jury Prize will be awarded to Isaac Butler for The Method: How The Twentieth Century Learned to Act (Bloomsbury, 2022).
The author, a critic and theater director, chronicles the history of the Method, one of the most influential–and misunderstood–ideas in American culture – from its origins with Konstantin Stanislavski in Moscow through a cohort of American mavericks in New York –including Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, and the storied Group Theatre – to Los Angeles and the present day.

Finalists for the George Freedley Memorial Award:

Christine Bold, ””Vaudeville Indians” on Global Circuits, 1880s-1930s” (Yale University Press)
The author, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Professor of English at the University of Guelph, uncovers hidden histories of Indigenous performers in vaudeville and in the creation of western modernity and popular culture

Julius B Fleming, Jr. Black Patience: Performance, Civil Rights, and the Unfinished Project of Emancipation (New York University Press, 2022)

The author, a professor of English at the University of Maryland, argues that, during the Civil Rights Movement, Black artists and activists used theater to energize the radical refusal to wait. Fleming contends that Black theatrical performance was a vital technology of civil rights activism.

Esther Kim Lee, Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era (University of Michigan Press, 2022)

Kim, Professor of Theater Studies at Duke University, looks at the history of yellowface, the theatrical convention of non-Asian actors putting on makeup and costume to look East Asian from 1862 – 1940, when Asians faced legal and cultural exclusion from immigration and citizenship.

The two movie book winners

The 2022 Richard Wall Memorial Award for an exemplary work in the field of recorded performance will be awarded to Ross Melnick, for
Hollywood Embassies: How Movie Theaters Projected American Power Around the World.”

A Special Jury Prize will be awarded to Eric Hoyt for Ink-Stained Hollywood: The Triumph of American Cinema’s Trade Press

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