My current monograph project, Cripping Broadway, is a body-oriented history of performance practices in the American stage musical that historicizes the emergence of the triple-threat performer and explores how disability is formed in and through Broadway musicals. I use the triple-threat as a heuristic for investigating our paradoxical disavowal and investment in the disabled body because it involves extraordinary able-bodiedness as its baseline performative requirement, and thus, ironically, might be identified as the last place any disabled actor might reasonably embody. As this study makes clear, the history of Broadway is a well-documented story of nondisabled performers highlighting their actorly virtuosity by performing disability; I identify how disability has always been at the heart of commercial theatrical performance and ask how a performer’s relationship to disability impacts a musical’s cultural work. I propose the term “hypercapacity” to describe the expectations upon triple-threat actors in the Broadway industry, and also the ways bodies are strategically marked in musical theatre to be maximally productive. This project demonstrates the critical need for a material embodiment of disability onstage that moves beyond the advent of the overcapacitated triple-threat actors performing disability, who signify overproductivity as the value of neoliberal economic and social orders. Within this domain of inquiry we also must query the propensity of theatrical designs that prostheticize the theatrical world on behalf of nondisabled actors rather than innovate on greater flexibility to achieve a wider goal of making disability integral rather than merely “integrated”; if a central purpose of theater is to entertain the conditions of human life, it needs to apprehend and organize around disability as a worthy aesthetic value, embodied experience, and desirable difference without qualification.
An abstract of the dissertation iteration of this work is available on ProQuest.