• Introduction: framing and reframing/existing ways of looking

      Whitfield, Sarah; Whitfield, Sarah; Whitfield, Sarah (Macmillan International, 2019-03-13)
      In an art gallery, a painting hangs on a wall. I stop, my eye called to the painting by the wooden rectangle that separates out the bit of the wall that is ‘the art’ from the rest. The frame does the work of telling me ‘look here, not there, look at this bit. This is the bit that is art’. Even the paintings without frames are framed by the blank wall around them, so that the wall becomes its own kind of frame: ‘here is art and there is not-art’. Frames make a transition between two spaces, and shape the way we look at the art in the middle. The musical, while plainly another kind of art to a painting, has been framed in various ways that shape how it is ‘seen’ and understood. These frames may be what we bring with us, our personal histories of encounters with musicals, perhaps what we might have performed in or listened to before. Popular histories may shape how we put musicals in order, or categorise them: glossy coffee table books and TV histories illustrated with beautiful pictures of the so-called Golden Age era of musical. We may share cultural references to the musicals ‘that were always on the telly when we were growing up’. But just as significantly, critical theories and academic approaches to the musical do this work too. They shape the way the musical is taught in colleges and universities, and ripple out of academia more broadly, impacting how the form is seen and understood in public discourse.