Gillian Rodger’s on-going research interests cluster around popular musical theater of nineteenth-century America and working-class popular culture. She is exploring the early history of variety theater (the form that preceded vaudeville) and its connections to other musical theater forms including minstrelsy and burlesque. In a recently published article in the journal American Music, she examines theater law in New York State, showing how variety theaters were run, and, indeed, how what could appear on their stages was shaped to a large extent by changes to theater law and the threat of police raids. Her article, “’He isn’t a marrying man’: Gender and Sexuality in the Repertoire of Male Impersonators, 1870-1920,” reveals that until the 1890s or later, female-to-male cross-dressed performances were intended to subvert class rather than gender or sexuality. Rodger’s work on popular culture extends to the present, and a forthcoming essay in Popular Music examines the performance strategy employed by the Scottish singer Annie Lennox, arguing that this performer employs tactics not unlike those of nineteenth-century character singers in her approach to music, and through this performance provides an on-going and cutting critique of gender. Rodger is assistant professor of musicology and ethnomusicology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The Distinguished Lecture Series is presented by the Department of Musicology and programmed by the Musicology Graduate Student Society.