Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly 33:1 (Winter 2013)


© 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Important works on U.S. drama have emphasized the radically unstable nature of performance, finding it a shifting and contested ideological space. Despite this recent critical turn, Matthew Rebhorn argues that considerations of the frontier in drama and performance have remained singularly resistant to recognizing the various meanings that emerged in performances of the frontier. Arguing against the assumption that nineteenth-century frontier dramas were always a straightforward means of forwarding expansionist ideologies, Rebhorn explores how performances promulgated a “much more variegated and diffuse notion of the frontier” than has been heretofore acknowledged, one that sometimes “aimed to undercut the central tenets of Manifest Destiny.” Not merely a historical or geographical space, the frontier is for Rebhorn a “set of performative practices”; that is, he claims that the idea of the frontier was constructed on the stages of theaters along the Eastern Seaboard as powerfully as in the Great Plains. Aiming to rewrite the history of American frontier performance and American theatrical history more broadly, Rebhorn persuasively demonstrates that “frontier performance has always been a heterogeneous constellation of acts that work to settle and unsettle American ideologies.”