Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup Blog Video Facebook Twitter Instagram

Vaudeville! January 29, 2018–July 15, 2018

For more than a century, vaudeville was the most popular form of American entertainment and one of the country's largest cultural exports. Performances on the vaudeville stage included comic sketches, acrobatics, animal tricks, magic, blackface performance, celebrity appearances, early film, and more. Shows featuring immigrant acts, racial stereotypes, and frequent appeals to nationalism defined a complex and often problematic sense of American identity at the turn of the 19th century.

Explore vaudeville's influences from Roman mimes to the saloons of the American frontier. Learn what life on the road was like for the thousands of entertainers who traveled around the country performing in theatres that were part of a vast network of venues, and witness the mid-century revival of vaudeville's relevance in musical theatre, radio, film, television, and the internet. See artifacts related to some of Vaudeville's best-known performers—Harry Houdini, Mae West, W. C. Fields, Bert Williams, George M. Cohan, Burns & Allen, Tony Pastor, the Nicholas Brothers, Barbette, and more.

The exhibition features the Ransom Center's extensive holdings of Harry Houdini, Tony Pastor, and Florenz Ziegfeld, among others, to show the development of vaudeville's highly organized form and its long-lasting impact on contemporary film, television, and comedy.

Read the Wall Street Journal's review of Vaudeville!


Related Programs at Harry Ransom Center


MARCH 8, 7 PM • LECTURE/PERFORMANCE

Professors Charlotte Canning and Andrew Carlson present, "Vaudeville: Immigrants Get the Job Done," an examination of the vaudeville stage as a site for the development of American cultural and social norms through performances both by and about the country's immigrant populations. The program looks closely at a few of the genre's popular stars and routines in order to explain how, when it came to early twentieth-century vaudeville, immigrants were working hard to "get the job done"—both onstage and off. The evening brings the archive to life through live performance of iconic vaudevillian sketches and routines to supplement an engaging discussion led by Dr. Canning.

Facebook Event


MARCH 21, 7 PM • EXHIBITION TOUR

Join the Ransom Center's Cline Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts Eric Colleary for an inside look at the exhibition Vaudeville!

Facebook Event


APRIL 17, 4:30 PM • DISCUSSION

In conjunction with the exhibition Vaudeville!, Chair of the American Studies Department and Ransom Center Faculty Curator Steven Hoelscher leads a conversation about visual representations of race and ethnicity from the late nineteenth century to the present. Panelists include Jacqueline Jones, Professor and Chair, Department of History; Leonard N. Moore, Professor, Department of History and Vice President of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (Interim); and Shirley E. Thompson, Associate Professor, Department of American Studies and Department of African and African Diaspora Studies.

Facebook Event


THURSDAY, MAY 3, 7 PM • VAUDEVILLE FILM SERIES

She Done Him Wrong (1933)
The film features Mae West in her early stage persona of Diamond Lil. Alongside Cary Grant, West's performance captures the environment of a late nineteenth-century Bowery theatre. Eric Colleary, the Ransom Center's Cline Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts, will introduce the film. Runtime: 66 minutes.

Facebook Event


THURSDAY, MAY 10, 7 PM • VAUDEVILLE FILM SERIES

Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
The Natural Born Gambler (1916)

Starring vaudeville sensation Bert Williams, these rare silent films are believed to be among the earliest to feature African American actors. Eric Colleary, the Ransom Center's Cline Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts, will introduce the films. Lime Kiln Club Field Day was preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Lillian Gish Trust for Film Preservation. Combined runtime: 87 minutes.

Facebook Event


THURSDAY, MAY 17, 7 PM • VAUDEVILLE FILM SERIES

The Cocoanuts (1929)
The Marx Brothers' early vaudeville acts were pieced together and expanded to create elaborate stage and screen musical comedies like The Cocoanuts. Eric Colleary, the Ransom Center's Cline Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts, will introduce the film. Runtime: 96 minutes.

Facebook Event


THURSDAY, MAY 24, 7 PM • VAUDEVILLE FILM SERIES

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
William Powell and Myrna Loy star in the biographical musical of legendary impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. Eric Colleary, the Ransom Center's Cline Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts, will introduce the film. Runtime: 176 minutes.

Facebook Event

Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information about the Ransom Center with our monthly eNews.





Media Contacts for members of the press

Jennifer Tisdale
512-471-8949

Suzanne Krause
512-471-6406

Connect with the
Harry Ransom Center
Flickr YouTube RSS Tumblr Facebook Twitter
About the Center

The Harry Ransom Center, a world-renowned humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, houses extensive collections of literature, film, art, photography, and the performing arts.

Exhibition Poster

Exhibition Galleries
Hours

10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
10 a.m.–7 p.m. Thursday
Noon–5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Closure Dates

Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day

Tours

Noon Daily
6 p.m. Thursday
2 p.m. Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday

Field trip and group tour information

Non-flash photography is allowed.

Admission

Admission to the exhibition is free. No tickets or reservations are required. Your donation supports the Ransom Center's exhibitions and public programs.

Location

21st and Guadalupe Streets
Austin, Texas

Parking map
Parking for visitors with disabilities

MEDIA SPONSORS

Sponsors Culturemap Austin KMFA KUTX KUT KVUE