Mary Simonson Colloquium

April 22, 2016 - 3:30pm
107 Old Cabell

The McIntire Department of Music presents a colloquium by Mary Simonson on Friday, April 22nd, 2016 at 3:30pm in 107 Old Cabell Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

Mary Simonson is an Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies and Women Studies and the Director of the Film and Media Studies Program at Colgate University.  She recieved her B.A. at Rutgers University and her M.A. and Ph.D. at the Univeristy of Virginia.   Her recent book, Body Knowledge Performance, Intermediality, and American Entertainment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century was published by Oxford University Press.

“Giving Voice: Stage Prologues, Fade-Ins, and Interludes in American Silent Cinema”

At the New York Rivoli theater in 1920, music director Hugo Riesenfeld prefaced the showing of the week’s feature film—The Life of the Party starring Fatty Arbuckle—with a ten-minute live stage prologue called “Falstaff’s Dream,” which borrowed musical and narrative elements from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Verdi’s Falstaff, and Franz Lehár’s popular Merry Widow operetta. A critic for Motion Picture News reported, “The choice of number and title were appropriate because the girth of the hero in the picture as well as of the Shakespearean character.“ (“Rivoli’s Holiday Week Specialties Win,” MPN, 4 December 1920: 4234). My talk explores film prologues like this one and their cousin, the interlude or “fade-in”: stage numbers featuring song, dance, and pantomime that were performed either immediately prior to or in the midst of a silent film. A phenomenon that emerged in the late ‘teens and ‘twenties in both movie palaces and mid-sized theaters around the United States (and in a number of other countries to which Hollywood films were exported), prologues are regularly acknowledged as one of many strategies used by film exhibitors to establish American silent film as a “respectable” art akin to the legitimate theater or opera. However, the content, artistic strategies, and aesthetics of these performances have received almost no scholarly attention. In this paper, I piece together details of several prologues and interludes from period newspaper reviews, trade journal columns, and other archival material, and place them in dialogue with the films for which they were designed and contemporary critiques and discussions of the phenomena. These hybrid, ephemeral works, I argue, served as a site in which ideas about the role of music and particularly the voice in film, film’s developing narrative language, and the relationship between mediated and live performance were negotiated. 

Old Cabell Hall is located on the south end of UVA's historic lawn, directly opposite the Rotunda.  (map) Parking is available in the central grounds parking garage on Emmet Street, in the C1 parking lot off McCormick Rd, and in the parking lots at the UVA Corner.  Handicap parking is available in the small parking lot adjacent to Bryan Hall.

All programs are subject to change.

For more information please call the McIntire Department of Music at 434.924.3052.


McIntire Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176