Presentation Title

The Political Relevance of Sondheim’s Assassins

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Location

Watkins 2240

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Abstract

Throughout the first 14 years of Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical comedy, Assassins, America’s political climate fluctuated and varied considerably. When the musical first appeared on stage in 1990, America was engaged in the First Gulf War, and the American public was experiencing extremely high levels of patriotism. However, by the time Assassins finally reached Broadway, the twin towers had fallen, the United States embassy in Kenya had been bombed, Oklahoma City had also been bombed, and an entire slew of other tragedies had occurred. Yet, despite all of the devastation and fear these events had caused, Assassins popularity reached new heights, and was even eventually presented with five Tony awards in 2004. This paper argues that the popularity of Assassins was hinged on the ever-changing political environment of the late 1990s and early 2000s due to the relevance of its themes at the time. This argument is done through a comparison of the subject matters of the musical with the various articles and reviews of Assassins. To illustrate these points, the pivotal events of the First Gulf War and the 9/11 terrorist attacks are investigated in relation to the musical’s rise and fall in popularity.

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Nov 12th, 3:45 PM Nov 12th, 4:00 PM

The Political Relevance of Sondheim’s Assassins

Watkins 2240

Throughout the first 14 years of Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical comedy, Assassins, America’s political climate fluctuated and varied considerably. When the musical first appeared on stage in 1990, America was engaged in the First Gulf War, and the American public was experiencing extremely high levels of patriotism. However, by the time Assassins finally reached Broadway, the twin towers had fallen, the United States embassy in Kenya had been bombed, Oklahoma City had also been bombed, and an entire slew of other tragedies had occurred. Yet, despite all of the devastation and fear these events had caused, Assassins popularity reached new heights, and was even eventually presented with five Tony awards in 2004. This paper argues that the popularity of Assassins was hinged on the ever-changing political environment of the late 1990s and early 2000s due to the relevance of its themes at the time. This argument is done through a comparison of the subject matters of the musical with the various articles and reviews of Assassins. To illustrate these points, the pivotal events of the First Gulf War and the 9/11 terrorist attacks are investigated in relation to the musical’s rise and fall in popularity.