Theatricalizing the West: Myth or Reality?

Fri October 28th 2016, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Shriram Center for Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering
Room 262
443 Via Ortega
Stanford, CA 94305
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Theatricalizing the West: Myth or Reality?

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Please join us for a lunchtime talk by William Eddelman, Associate Professor Emeritus of Theatre History and Design. A light lunch will be served for attendees who register in advance.

Among the myths that America has created, the "American West" is one of the most potent and long lasting. It came into existence during the last years of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries at a time when there were major national insecurities. Influenced by dime novels, paintings, books, plays, and eventually film, and created by easterners; the myths of the West and "the western" have become ingrained in the American mind. 

This highly illustrated lecture will explore the people and the situations that led to the creation of the “western myth,” how it appeared in plays and films; and the differences between myth and reality. In order to critique it, the lecture juxtaposes the myth with the reality of the American West as portrayed in the plays of the noted American playwright, Sam Shepard. Shown in his plays is the dark reality of poor white people who have been left behind without hope and no chance of moving on. In pointing out the differences between myth and reality we can better better understand the problems that we face today in the American West.


William Eddelman

Color headshot of William Eddelman

An Associate Professor of Theatre History and Design, Emeritus in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, Eddelman is a specialist in international theatrical design. He completed his dissertation research with a Fulbright Scholarship at the Cini Foundation in Venice, Italy and was a member of the Master Classes at the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany. During his teaching career at Stanford he combined both the creative and academic worlds through practical stage design work and classroom teaching. His course offerings included: theatre history, art history, cultural history, costume and scenic design, dramatic literature, theatre aesthetics and politics, musical theatre, opera and the psychology of clothes.

He has taught at the Stanford Center in Berlin and also for Continuing Studies, and led travel study tours to Northern Italy and Venice. Beyond Stanford, he has designed productions for many professional Bay Area theatres, and has delivered lectures and curated exhibitions for many local cultural organizations. He established the Theatrical Design Collection at the Museum of Performance and Design in San Francisco and is currently building a research library in International Theatre Design for the Achenbach Graphic Arts Foundation of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums. Recently, he gave the main lecture at the opening of the Legion of Honor exhibition, “Wild West: From the Plains to the Pacific.”