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NEW YORK'S REFORM MOVEMENTS & A MILK WHITE FLAG

Performing the Progressive Era: Immigration, Urbanism, and Nationalism on Stage, 1890-1920, a forthcoming collection from University of Iowa Press (edited by J. Christopher Westgate and Max Shulman), includes my chapter, “Marching Off-Beat and On Screen: New York’s Reform Movements & Charles Hale Hoyt’s A Milk White Flag.”

“In addition to frequent allusions to gambling, orgies, and infidelity, plentiful innuendos and double entendres, Hoyt constructs the play as a series of elaborate jokes played on the New York City theatre reviewers, social critics, and municipal elites who apparently missed some of Hoyt’s coded allusions to their own streets. One such jab included the play’s setting, the ‘armory’ of the cowardly Ransome Guards, which has more to do with Billy McGlory’s Armory Hall, one of New York City’s most controversial concert saloons, than it does with provincial militias. The Armory Hall was a bawdy theatre just down the street from Hoyt’s Theatre and was the subject of frequent attacks by reformers. While theatre critics assumed that the Armory of A Milk White Flag referred to a location in a rural backwater, Hoyt chose references that built upon a shared language with urban audiences. In celebrating the infamous site of concert saloon culture and placing the Guards who are theoretically the defenders of law and order within, Hoyt invited theatergoers to laugh at the hypocrisy and obliviousness of anti-vice campaigns.”