After the Red Lights

The questions raised by the brothel drama continue to resonate beyond the Progressive Era and into present-day conversations, both academic and cultural. While much of our work consists of collecting and collating original materials and primary documents, we are also committed to engaging with the continuing afterlife of the brothel drama and the issues surrounding it. While the brothel drama may not draw sellout crowds in Broadway theaters as it did during Eugene O’Neill or Rachel Crothers’ time, the intersections between race, gender, labor, and nationality that these plays explored can still be felt in subsequent discourse and current cultural forms.

By collecting work from a number of contemporary thinkers, we hope to generate meaningful dialogues and arrive at critical insights. In this section, you will find essays by such scholars as Marlis Schweitzer, author of When Broadway Was the Runway: Theater, Fashion, and American Culture, and Shelley Stamp, whose many books on early film culture include Movie-Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture after the Nickelodeon. Conversant with these scholars’ work are pieces from such sources as the New York Times as well as Barnard Jaffier, director of the documentary Rediscovering Kate Carew (which features commentary by Dr. Katie Johnson). In considering these recent works – many of which address the figure of the prostitute, the question of women’s work, and the politics of performance and representation – it becomes clear that the brothel drama, far from solely being a Progressive-Era phenomenon, actually informs much of our current discourse.

– Tyler Groff and Tory Lowe

Leave a Reply