Roots in the Earth and a Flag in my Hand: Rural Gender Identity in American Musical Theatre
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The integrated musical is a vehicle for the creation and communication of a national identity, created through the use of coded performances of gender and, at times, rural settings conceptualized as essentially “American.” There is, however, little research about the ways in which gender operates in rural settings in musical theatre, or the ways in which rural gender identities are utilized to communicate nationalist ideologies. This thesis seeks to address this gap in research by examining three contemporary American musicals – Carrie, Violet, and The Spitfire Grill – in light of both American musical theatre conventions surrounding gender performance and contemporary theory around gender, rurality, and intersectional rural gender identities. This thesis ultimately suggests that an approach to rural gender in musical theatre grounded in a specific physical and cultural moment and location is best equipped to both honor the narratives of rural communities and propagate appropriately complex narratives of national identity.