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Bennett's original setting for "Story of Lucy and Jessie" was a minstrel show.
Last Edit: Delvino 08:13 pm EST 02/06/19
Posted by: Delvino 08:13 pm EST 02/06/19

I saw the OBC production twice, and it made an indelible impression. But many still shots confirm how the full range of theatrical and even cinematic genres was referenced in the staging. For "Lucy and Jessie," it's fascinating to observe the way the minstrel tropes were re-purposed. Smith's Phyllis was the sole performer facing the audience proper. The reveal of the chorus on a tiered upstage platform, all in tails, was classic minstrelsy chorus framework. But the minstrel trademark -- the white gloves* -- nailed the concept. One might argue that simply removing them might have diluted the direct association, but the staging was still homage to the tradition. Bennett's conceit has never been repeated (to my knowledge); if anything, it's been strategically avoided. For a good reason: I would go a step beyond the white gloves and say: the chorus shielding their faces, never appearing as individualized people, created a stylized de facto 'blackface.'

*much scholarship is available on how the gloves on, say, Micky Mouse, all baldly suggested minstrelsy.
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