Celebrity is a common commodity in the performing arts. But some celebrities become icons. Their craft and personalities are so remarkable that they alter our perceptions of their art form, and place an indelible stamp on our culture. Garbo, Valentino, Chaplin and James Dean did it for film; Laurence Olivier and Ethel Merman did it for the theatre. Enrico Caruso and Maria Callas did it for opera. Pavlova, Nijinsky and Suzanne Farrell did it for dance. Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Elvis and Madonna did it for popular music (and every season, AMERICAN IDOL hopes to produce another winner to do it!).
This course will consider perhaps twenty performing artists (actors, singer and dancers, some chosen by the class) in two ways. We will analyze their artistry; and we will also examine how and why they come to be regarded as legends. In other words, it is a course about celebrities, as well as the concept of celebrity itself. To support our work, we will use film footage, biography, criticism and analytical essays.