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"Every Now and Then a Madman's Bound to Come along…" the Use of Disability Metaphor in the Musicals of Stephen Sondheim

Title: "Every Now and Then a Madman's Bound to Come along…" the Use of Disability Metaphor in the Musicals of Stephen Sondheim: Freak Shows and Freakish Love.
Name(s): Temple, Heidi A., author
Sandahl, Carrie, professor directing thesis
Dahl, Mary Karen, committee member
Seaton, Gayle, outside committee member
School of Theatre, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2006
Publisher: Florida State University
Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Perhaps no one has written musicals that address social, political, and personal issues so effectively and purposefully as Stephen Sondheim. He positions his audience to identify with his characters by placing them in every day situations. The audience walks away feeling that they, too, have been personally affected by whatever social travesty the characters are experiencing; however, Sondheim undermines his socially progressive commentary by presenting his characters in a manner that stereotypes other marginalized groups in the process. One of his most common choices for creating crisis is his use of disabled characters – physically disabled characters such as Fosca and, eventually, Giorgio, in Passion, or psychologically challenged characters, such as the entire ensemble of Assassins. While Sondheim's work is rife with social commentary on issues of race, gender, economics, and relationships, he doesn't comment critically on disability. He simply relies on his disabled characters to provide metaphors that comment on other issues. As a result, the actual disabled people become tools for social or political agendas unrelated to disability oppression. This thesis pays attention to Sondheim's use of disability metaphor and how these metaphors allow him to critique various social issues on the one hand, while unintentionally furthering oppressive stereotypes of disability on the other. I will examine two plays in which Sondheim uses disability as metaphor: Passion (1994) and Assassins (1991). While many of Sondheim's plays revolve around disabled characters (Anyone Can Whistle, Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Into the Woods….), I have chosen these two plays because they represent physical, psychological and emotional disability in the same ways that many of Sondheim's other plays do, but send very clear messages through the use of disability metaphor that can be applied to the body of Sondheim's work.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-1627 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Thesis Submitted to the School of Theatre in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2006.
Date of Defense: March 29, 2006.
Keywords: Sondheim Musicals, Assassins, Passion, Disability Studies, Disability, Musicals, Sondheim, Stephen Sondheim, Disabled Characters, Disability Metaphor, Disability Arts
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory committee: Carrie Sandahl, Professor Directing Thesis; Mary Karen Dahl, Committee Member; Gayle Seaton, Outside Committee Member.
Subject(s): Theater
Persistent Link to This Record:
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Host Institution: FSU

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Temple, H. A. (2006). "Every Now and Then a Madman's Bound to Come along…" the Use of Disability Metaphor in the Musicals of Stephen Sondheim: Freak Shows and Freakish Love. Retrieved from