Congratulations to Lecturer Vincent Longo who received the 2022 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award for "A Hard Act to Follow: Live Performance in the Age of the Hollywood Studio System." Longo's dissertation argues that scholars should not equate the demise of vaudeville as a cultural industry in the early 1930s with the disappearance of live performance in movie theaters in the United States, which continued with much success in many large luxurious downtown theaters until the 1950s. Doing so has concealed variety theater as a critical shaping force in the industrial history of studio era Hollywood, the star system, and the experiences of theatergoers. The dissertation recasts the Hollywood studios as multimedia conglomerates (not just film companies) which came to control variety stage entertainment and create studio-run live performance circuits. These live performance circuits supported a more diverse star system, where diverse performers received star billing unlike in films of the period. These performances also make visible the experiences and tastes of audiences of color who sought out these performances. The project begins detailing the experiences of these under-researched audiences who were an important, but largely overlooked part of the movie palace experience.
The ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards recognize highly accomplished graduate students who have produced exceptional dissertations of outstanding scholarly quality in any field of study.