Puppets, Masks and Performing Objects, edited by John Bell (187 pp, 2001, ISBN #)-At once one of the most ancient and one of the most avant garde of performance arts, this compendium brings together a variety of articles on the history and promise of puppetry and reports about its performance near and far.


Female / male impersonation

Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre by Laurence Senelick (511 pp, 2000, Routledge/Francis & Taylor, London & NYC, ISBN #9-780415-159869). It’s all here: the rituals of ancient societies to Panto dames, vaudeville performers, drag show and transvestism. A thorough and intriguing introduction to themes and personalities from Shakespeare to Dan Leno to Bert Savoy to Split Britches and Bloolips.


Assorted Specialty Acts

Strange Feats & Clever Turns, compiled by Charlie Holland (188 pp, 1998, Holland & Palmer, London, ISBN #0-9532373-03). Mr. Holland has assembled contemporary accounts of nearly 30 of the finest specialty acts of the 20th Century, These include Cinquevalli and W.C. Fields, among a bill of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, trick cyclists, sharp shooters, contortionists and other delights. Valuable for the type of acts it covers and for the point of view of contemporary reviewers and reporters.

Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women by Ricky Jay (332 pp, 1987, Villard Books, NYC, ISBN # 0-394-53750-5). Ricky Jay is one of the most popular and able practitioners of stage illusions, and he has written an affectionate and pleasing survey of some of the more unusual acts recorded in the past few centuries. His roster includes people whose eccentricities (Le Pétomane), skill (mentalist Harry Kahne) or handicaps (armless artists) or daring (The Great Rivalli, the Fire Prince) brought them slack-jawed audiences.

Very Special People by Frederick Drimmer (348 pp, 1976/1991, Citadel/Carol publishing. NYC, ISBN #0-8065-1253-9). This is a respectful collection of affectionate portraits of Siamese Twins, giants, small people and other folks who, because of Nature’s vagaries, found their best chance of employment in vaudeville, side shows and carnivals. A very readable introduction to some very brave people.



The American Burlesque Show by Irving Zeidman (248 pp, 1967, Hawthorn Books, NYC, LoC #66-22317). A delightful history of burlesque: the circuits, the comics, the strippers, the entrepreneurs and the theatres. Capsule biographies of some great stars, long forgotten or dimly remembered. Lots of information delivered in easy to read prose and illustrated with rare and welcomed photos.


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