Skip to main content

Distributed for University of Wales Press

Theatre and the Macabre

A selection of essays by scholars from around the world on the macabre in theater and performance.
This book brings together a number of essays on the macabre in the theater and in performance. A dozen scholars from all over the world explore instances of the macabre being performed, from theatrical apparitions and severed heads on stage to dark tourism and dwelling upon the assassination of President Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre, from sideshows to Halloween haunts. Why, they ask, have audiences long been drawn to artificial images of death, pain, and violence, when they would be repulsed by the real thing? Offering an in-depth examination of the appeal of the macabre, the contributors invite us to look at its prominence in the history of theater anew.

288 pages | 5 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Horror Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: Dramatic Works, General Criticism and Critical Theory

University of Wales Press image

View all books from University of Wales Press


"Horror onstage is too often considered a mere curiosity, rarely worthy of serious critical consideration. By presenting a wide range of pieces that incorporate history and region, as well as exploring those extraordinary places where literature, theatre, folklore and pop culture meet, Theatre and the Macabre succeeds in proving that the study of theatrical horror is tremendously valuable."

Lisa Morton, author of Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances

"Theatre and the Macabre is a must-read book for academics, history buffs, theatre professionals and students of the macabre. The range of subjects covered and depths to which they are explored, literally from head to footlights, make this book an invaluable addition to any library."

Teel James Glenn, actor, director, fight choreographer and novelist

"Meredith Conti and Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr. have choreographed a fascinating collection on the macabre and the theatre. More than that, its delineation of the liminal nature of performance, witnessing and participation reveal the centrality of death to the ongoing dance of life."

Simon Bacon, author and editor of Gothic: A Reader, and Horror: A Companion

"Skulls, ghosts, severed heads. . . . This is a book steeped in gruesome and creepy manifestations. The essays gathered together address the ethics and politics of macabre spectacles—from Grand Guignol to twenty-first-century immersive experiences—as well as the potentially lucrative exploitation of our fascination with the body’s perturbing vulnerabilities. It is this joint concern that gets right to the bleeding heart of macabre theaters."

Dr. Adam Alston, Goldsmiths, University of London

Table of Contents

Introduction: I Made the Dance of Death - Meredith Conti

Part I. Histories of the Macabre
The Mortification of Harvey Leach: Humour and Horror in Nineteenth-Century Theatre of Disability - Michael M. Chemers
The Horrors of the Great War on the London Stage: The Grand Guignol Season of 1915 - Helen E.M. Brooks
Phantoms of the Stage: The History and Practice of Uncanny Apparitions - Richard J. Hand

Part II. Dramaturgies of the Macabre
Time and Punishment: Gothic Maternal Bodies on the Contemporary British Stage - Kelly Jones
The Body Dismembered: Allegory and Modernity in German Trauerspiel - Magda Romanska
Macabre Children on the Australian Stage: Angela Betzien’s Cycle of Crime Plays - Chris Hay and Stephen Carleton
Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen: Justice and Guilt in Public and Private Acts of Hanging - Michelle C. Paull
Fear of Death and Lyrical Flight: Mortality Salience Mediation in Fun Home - Christopher J. Staley

Part III. Staging the Macabre
The Severed Head on Stage - Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
Dancing Haunted Legacies: Diana Szeinblum’s Alaska- Jeanmarie Higgins
‘To Die Over and Over Inside My Body’: Three Deaths in Hijikata Tatsumi’s Butoh - J. E. F. Ooi

Part IV. The Immersive Macabre
‘Black and Deep Desires’: Sleep No More and the Immersive Macabre - Dan Venning
The Dark Ride Immersive and the Danse Macabre - David Bisaha
Liveness and Aliveness: Chasing the Uncanny in the Contemporary Haunt Industry - David Norris
American Hells: Hell Houses, Abortion Frames, and Unsexed Women - Robyn Lee Horn
Haunting the Stage: Macabre Tourism, Lieux de Mémoire, and the Immortal Death of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre - Meredith Conti

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press