Reading Musicals: Sources, Editions, Performance

A conference in honor of Geoffrey Block

The Great American Songbook Foundation, The Center for the Performing Arts, Carmel, IN

9-11 May 2018

In the twenty years since the original publication of Geoffrey Block’s seminal book Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from “Show Boat” to Sondheim and Lloyd Webber (1997; 2nd ed. 2009), musical theater research has grown exponentially. Numerous monographs, articles, performances and digital outputs have expanded the parameters of the field, and the journal Studies in Musical Theatre has been a vehicle for research on a subject that sometimes previously struggled to find a home. Archives have enriched and expanded their collections, often putting both catalogues and documents online, and the creation of critical editions of the works of George Gershwin and Frederick Loewe, following on from the pioneering efforts of the Kurt Weill Edition, will put reliable versions of musical theatre texts in libraries across the globe for performers and students alike to refer to.


Yet there is much more to be done, and in this conference that honors both Block’s own scholarship and his stewardship of the work of others through Oxford’s Broadway Legacies and Yale’s Broadway Masters series, we aim to address three broad themes in particular: sources, editions and performance.


Speakers are encouraged to present either new or ongoing work, which could be on stage or film musicals, with possible points of enquiry including:


Sources: How can sources – archival or otherwise – enrich our research? What are the pitfalls of using sources in research on musicals? Does the existence or absence of sources influence the importance of certain topics or ideas? Or are sources a distraction from the analytical, critical and philosophical discourse surrounding the genre?


Editions: Why do we need editions? How can we evolve reliable methodologies for creating editions of musicals? Do we need different approaches for scripts and scores? How can we acknowledge the other aspects of musicals (e.g. choreography and design) into our editions? What are the pitfalls of creating authorised, fixed editions of works that are often deliberately open, flexible and loose?


Performance: What methods can we use to write about performance in musicals? Is it possible or useful to pin down a transient, live event through the permanent medium of video? Can we evolve methods to notate the non-notated or non-verbal aspects of performance? In an interdisciplinary field, how reliably can specialists in one discipline deal with the structures of another?

Confirmed speakers:


The conference will feature extended presentations by members of the Broadway Legacies board – Tim Carter, Kim Kowalke, Jeffrey Magee, and Dominic McHugh – as well as Block himself. 



Prospective speakers should submit a 250-word abstract, giving details of their paper and indicating which of the three key themes it addresses. Abstracts should be sent to Hannah Robbins at by 15 August 2017. General enquiries should be sent to Dominic McHugh, at Speakers will be invited to participate by the end of September.