While supplies last : playing with toys, Jewish masculinity, and toxic American inheritances through devised theatre

Rosenthal, Mason Gregory
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This Performance as Research thesis centers the 2019 work-in-progress performance of While Supplies Last. While Supplies Last’s central narrative follows the family life of Geoffrey “Junior” Giraffe, in his struggle to lead Toys “R” Us, after the recent death of his father. In While Supplies Last, I play with what I term “toxic American inheritances,” entrenched systems of oppression that shape the United States including: hegemonic masculinity, white supremacy, rampant consumerism, and plastic pollution. I argue that toys, while molded by these forces, are simultaneously objects of play, and therefore potent sources for transgression and transformation. I contend that the free-wheeling spirit of play makes it a particularly effective tool to address toxic American inheritances, which rely on restriction and regulation. In Chapter One I describe the historical and theoretical frameworks of the project, including my research into the Jewish inventors and entrepreneurs that shaped the post-World War II American toy industry. In Chapter Two I analyze the three performance lecture interludes that interrupt While Supplies Last ’s central narrative: a Borscht Belt comedy set by Mr. Potato Head, a physical fitness seminar with G.I. Joe, and a TED Talk by Pac-Man. In Chapter Three I evaluate the successes and failures of While Supplies Last with an eye towards its future development