Making myth: Recreating the celebrity persona in playwriting
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Stewart & Son and Counterfeit are original plays written in an attempt to effectively recreate the celebrity persona and to construct a myth onstage. Stewart & Son recreates the persona of actor James Stewart and Counterfeit addresses celebrity impersonation and star worship, reconstructing the identity of 1960s singer Timi Yuro. While contemplating the American obsession with stars and cultural needs to forge connections between the self and the celebrity persona, I developed a fascination with combining the power of theatre with the influence of the famous individual. This project strives to illuminate the self-reflective role of the celebrity in our culture and to identify further the human need to commune with the celebrity. Measurable criteria for the success of scripts of Stewart & Son and Counterfeit and a fully-mounted production of Stewart & Son include conforming to current playwriting practices. In this document I include a comparative analysis of current playwriting and theatre practice that relate to both original works. I compare and contrast both plays with contemporary plays that utilize the celebrity inclusion, evaluating the findings alongside Stewart & Son and Counterfeit. The analysis encompasses the following works: Michael Druxman' Flynn (Errol Flynn), David Houston's Jazz Baby Joan (Joan Crawford), William Luce's Barrymore (John Barrymore), Dean Regan's A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, Ted Swindley's Always, Patsy Cline, Terrence McNally's Master Class (Maria Callas), and Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde (Mae West). Stewart & Son and Counterfeit attempt to actually create myth, not simply further the tabloid mentality by exposing the private life of a celebrity. Stewart & Son strives to actually change the audience's perception of Stewart. Both pieces should satisfy audience interest. Audience feedback and expert professional critical response were used to help determine the success of Stewart & Son. A talkback session after each of the performances gave audiences a chance to react to the piece. Audience members also completed an informational survey to provide additional feedback and comments. To further measure the success of the piece, critical feedback from leading professionals with extensive experience in recreating the celebrity persona is also included. The remainder of the dissertation addresses the creative process, the research process, the results of Stewart & Son and Counterfeit, and provides additional background. The document addresses the challenges of writing a monodrama that includes the celebrity persona, with a focus on the complex process of researching a piece based on biographical fact. The dissertation further explores current playwriting and theatre practice related to Stewart & Son, narrating the playwright's writing and performance process, as well as the writing process of Counterfeit. The remainder of this study invokes the criteria established above to evaluate the success of Stewart & Son and Counterfeit and to identify potential revisions for both plays.