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Author Seizer, Susan.

Title Stigmas of the Tamil stage : an ethnography of Special Drama artists in South India / Susan Seizer
Published Durham : Duke University Press, 2005
Online access available from:
ACLS Humanities E-Book    View Resource Record  


Description 1 online resource (xxii, 440 pages) : illustrations
Contents PART ONE The history and organization of special drama. 1. Legacies of discourse: special drama and its history. 2. Prestige hierarchies in two and three dimensions: drama notices and the organization of special drama. 3. Discipline in practice: the actors sangam -- PART TWO Comedy. 4. The buffoon's comedy: jokes, gender, and discursive distance. 5. The buffoon-dance duet: social space and gendered place. 6. The Aṭipiṭi scene: laughing at domestic violence -- PART THREE Lives. 7. The drama tongue and the local eye. 8. The roadwork of actresses. 9. Kinship Muṟai and the stigma on actors -- Epilogue -- Appendix 1: Sangam rules -- Appendix 2: Tamil transliteration of Buffoon Selvam's monologue, 1 April 1992
Summary A study of the lives of popular theater artists, Stigmas of the Tamil Stageis the first in-depth analysis of Special Drama, a genre of performance unique to the southernmost Indian state of Tamilnadu. Held in towns and villages throughout the region, Special Drama performances last from 10 p.m. until dawn. There are no theatrical troupes in Special Drama; individual artists are contracted specially for each event. The first two hours of each performance are filled with the kind of bawdy, improvisational comedy that is the primary focus of this study; the remaining hours present more markedly staid dramatic treatments of myth and history. Special Drama artists themselves are of all ages, castes, and ethnic and religious affiliations; the one common denominator in their lives is their lower-class status. Artists regularly speak of how poverty compelled their entrance into the field. Special Drama is looked down upon by the middle- and upper-classes as too popular, too vulgar, and too mixed. The artists are stigmatized: people insult them in public and landlords refuse to rent to them. Stigma falls most heavily, however, on actresses, who are marked as public women by their participation in Special Drama. As Susan Seizers sensitive study shows, one of the primary ways the performers deal with such stigma is through humor and linguistic play. Their comedic performances in particular directly address questions of class, culture, and gender deviationsthe very issues that so stigmatize them. Seizer draws on extensive interviews with performers, sponsors, audience members, and drama agents as well as on careful readings of live Special Drama performances in considering the complexities of performers lives both on stage and off
Bibliography Includes bibliographical references (pages 415-431) and index
Notes Print version record
Subject Ethnology -- India -- Tamil Nadu.
Folklore -- Performance -- India -- Tamil Nadu.
Theater and society -- India -- Tamil Nadu.
Theater -- Anthropological aspects -- India -- Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu (India) -- Social life and customs.
Form Electronic book
ISBN 0822386194 (electronic bk.)
9780822386193 (electronic bk.)
(cloth ; alk. paper)
(paperback; alk. paper)
(cloth ; alk. paper)
(paperback; alk. paper)