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An Australian Idol of Modernist Consumerism: Minnie Tittell Brune and the Gallery Girls

Abstract

The Australian career of the young American actor Minnie Tittell Brune exemplifies the complex cultural and economic forces operating on the institution of live theatre at the beginning of the twentieth century. Brune focalizes the contemporary processes which reconstituted the international institution of mass entertainment out of the traditional cultural practices of theatre. The theatrical star is seen as both engaging with and resisting the commodification of her labour power, image and talent resulting from her ambiguous industrial role as magnetic ‘star’ and as managerial commodity. However, the iconic and affective power of the actor evokes strong attachment from significant sections of the newly heterosocial popular audience, in particular from the gallery girls, the young female audience who idolized Brune as a performative personality enacting social self-realization and glamorous transformation. Through reading Brune's repertoire, her social persona as ‘star’ and her ‘emotional’ performative style, it is demonstrated how artistic retro-glamour, religious evangelicalism and discourses of sexuality and femininity serve to manage theatre's move into the mass-entertainment age.

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Research for this article was funded by the Australian Research Council's Discovery Grant scheme, and assisted by Amanda Lynch and Amanda Taylor.
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Theatre Research International
  • ISSN: 0307-8833
  • EISSN: 1474-0672
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-research-international
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