Paige McGinley

Associate Professor of Performing Arts​
Director, Program in American Culture Studies
PhD, Brown University
research interests:
  • 20th-century Theater and Performance
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Performance
  • American Studies
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    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • MSC-1108-193-312
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Professor McGinley is Associate Professor of Performing Arts and Director of the Program in American Culture Studies. 

    She is the author of Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism (Duke University Press), which offers an interdisciplinary account of blues’ roots in theatrical performance and popular entertainment. Staging the Blues was recognized with the John W. Frick Book Award from the American Theater and Drama Society and the American Society for Theatre Research’s Errol Hill Award. Her current book-in-progress, People Get Ready: Practice and Performance in the Long Civil Rights Movement is an in-depth look at a culture and ethos of embodied practice that permeated the mid-century Black freedom struggle. 

    Professor McGinley’s research and teaching interests include theater and performance history and historiography; popular entertainment and performance; African American theater and performance; and contemporary theater. Her scholarship has been published in venues including Theatre Journal, American Quarterly, American Literature, and TDR. She is a recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. 

    Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism

    Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism

    Singing was just one element of blues performance in the early twentieth century. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and other classic blues singers also tapped, joked, and flaunted extravagant costumes on tent show and black vaudeville stages. The press even described these women as "actresses" long before they achieved worldwide fame for their musical recordings. In Staging the Blues, Paige A. McGinley shows that even though folklorists, record producers, and festival promoters set the theatricality of early blues aside in favor of notions of authenticity, it remained creatively vibrant throughout the twentieth century. Highlighting performances by Rainey, Smith, Lead Belly, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee in small Mississippi towns, Harlem theaters, and the industrial British North, this pioneering study foregrounds virtuoso blues artists who used the conventions of the theater, including dance, comedy, and costume, to stage black mobility, to challenge narratives of racial authenticity, and to fight for racial and economic justice.