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America-in-Play bring their Medicine Show to MESTC

I’m really looking forward to America-in-Play’s Crossing Over:  A  Medicine Show Entertainment at the Segal Center on Monday, April 19.  I’m an Americanist, and my research,  while contemporary, has led me to do some research on populist variety forms like chautauquas, toby shows, and medicine shows.  Prior to the advent (and/or ubiquity) of radio, film and television, these types of entertainments were one way that culture was circulated to the masses, one small town at a time.

America-in-Play was founded with the intent of  looking at the oft-overlooked plays of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and using them to:

initiate conversations between current writers and those of the past, not for the purpose of resurrection, but rather to enrich present writing through the grounding and inspiration from long-forgotten plays.

Now approaching the end of their fifth season, AIP is expanding to less text-based forms like the medicine show, but still with an eye to prompting a conversation between our history and our present.

Although they might seem very old-fashioned to us on some level,  medicine shows,  which were corporate-sponsored and made up of a variety of  acts–skits, songs, minstrelsy, magic acts, etc.–are not so different than what many of us tune into at home today–“American Idol” as brought to you by the Ford Motor Company, or “Law & Order,”  interspersed with commercials for Cialis or Ambien.  The blending of art and commerce is as American as some sort of flaky, fruit-filled pastry dish.

AIP’s Crossing Over combines the uniquely American form of the medicine show with  the unique history of immigration both to and within the United States.  It seems like a great match of form and content on a distinctly national theme:  E Pluribus Unum.

The medicine show, scheduled for 6:30, is part of NYC’s Immigrant Heritage Week, and will be augmented by a variety of  pre-show exhibits and entertainment beginning at 6:00.  Step up, step up, it’s a bargain at twice the price!*

You can read more on America-in-Play here.

*The price?  FREE!

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