For over a century, the variety performance of vaudeville was the most popular form of entertainment and one of America's largest cultural exports. Through immigrant acts, complex racialized minstrel performances, and nuanced political satire, vaudeville helped define America's national identity throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Vaudeville took comedy and satire and boiled them down to a nearly scientific formula—one that is still in use today, making the humor of vaudeville fresh and relevant.
The exhibition will draw on the Ransom Center's extensive holdings of Harry Houdini, Tony Pastor, and Florenz Ziegfeld, among others, to show how the vaudeville form came into existence, describe its highly-organized structure and its most popular acts, and demonstrate its long-lasting impact on contemporary film, television, and comedy.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.