Scenic shifts upon the Scottish rite stage: designing for Masonic Theatre, 1859-1929.

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Scenic shifts upon the Scottish rite stage: designing for Masonic Theatre, 1859-1929.

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Nineteenth-century secret societies often shared a similar ceremonial format, yet offered distinct themes and subject matter - frequently revising their ritual to attract potential candidates. This dissertation proposes that the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry captivated members and offered a unique fraternal experience when they completely and successfully staged their fraternal ceremonies, moving portions of their ritual from the lodge room floor to the elevated stage. Exploring Scottish Rite degree productions as fraternal imitations of mass-produced optical entertainments, this study argues that American Victorian theatre and nineteenth-century spectacle provided the vehicle that catapulted the Scottish Rite to the forefront of the American fraternal movement. The extant scenery collections currently housed in many Scottish Rite theatres depict and aesthetic shift in the field of scenic art from an itinerant to a study style, providing a primary source for both theatre scholars and practitioners to explore historical painting techniques and color palettes otherwise unavailable. The commercial theatre typically discarded or repainted scenic backdrops at a production's close, leaving only secondary source material in the form of playbills and theatre reviews to illustrate theatre aesthetics. Through the analysis of extant fraternal backdrop collections, historical scene designs, Scottish Rite ritual, Masonic legislative proceedings, fraternal supply catalogs, personal manuscripts, and archival documents, this dissertation examines the multifaceted fraternal, theatrical, social and economic ideologies facilitating the theatrical interpretation of Scottish Rite degrees between 1859 and 1929. The significance of this study lies in the present availability of complete backdrops collections and their perilous condition. Furthermore, it recognizes the imperative need to preserve our theatrical and fraternal heritage through documenting the origin and importance of Scottish Rite scenery, understanding the availability of historical scenic art, and preventing the further deterioration of this primary resource.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2009. Major: Theatre Arts. Advisors: Margaret Werry, Sonja Kuftinec. 1 computer file (PDF); xix 392 pages, 286 references.

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Waszut-Barrett, Wendy Rae. (2009). Scenic shifts upon the Scottish rite stage: designing for Masonic Theatre, 1859-1929.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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