Virtual Event: David Hajdu and John Carey
A Revolution in Three Acts:
The Radical Vaudeville of Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, and Julian Eltinge
in conversation with ERIC K. WASHINGTON
October 15, 2021
12:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes DAVID HAJDU—author of Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn—and acclaimed cartoonist JOHN CAREY for a discussion of their book A Revolution in Three Acts: The Radical Vaudeville of Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, and Julian Eltinge. They will be joined in conversation by historian ERIC K. WASHINGTON, author of Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal.
Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store
While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of A Revolution in Three Acts on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About A Revolution in Three Acts
Bert Williams—a Black man forced to perform in blackface who challenged the stereotypes of minstrelsy. Eva Tanguay—an entertainer with the signature song “I Don’t Care” who flouted the rules of propriety to redefine womanhood for the modern age. Julian Eltinge—a female impersonator who entranced and unnerved audiences by embodying the feminine ideal Tanguay rejected. At the turn of the twentieth century, they became three of the most provocative and popular performers in vaudeville, the form in which American mass entertainment first took shape.
A Revolution in Three Acts explores how these vaudeville stars defied the standards of their time to change how their audiences thought about what it meant to be American, to be Black, to be a woman or a man. The writer David Hajdu and the artist John Carey collaborate in this work of graphic nonfiction, crafting powerful portrayals of Williams, Tanguay, and Eltinge to show how they transformed American culture. Hand-drawn images give vivid visual form to the lives and work of the book’s subjects and their world.
This book is at once a deft telling of three intricately entwined stories, a lush evocation of a performance milieu with unabashed entertainment value, and an eye-opening account of a key moment in American cultural history with striking parallels to present-day questions of race, gender, and sexual identity.
Praise for A Revolution in Three Acts
"A Revolution in Three Acts is a vivid window into a bygone era of American entertainment. Here is vaudeville and all its comic, dramatic, and tragic dimensions as witnessed in the lives of three of its most pivotal practitioners. David Hajdu and John Carey have not simply crafted an elegy for an art form, they have chronicled the figures whose talent made it great in the first place." —Jelani Cobb, author of To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic
"Three amazing people—Bert Williams, a Black entertainer who pushed the boundaries of minstrelsy; Eva Tanguay, a sexually provocative and funny performer whose best-known song is about not caring what people thought of her; and Julian Eltinge, a cross-dressing vaudevillian who even had his own magazine—are the stars of this entertaining, thought-provoking work of graphic history." —Roz Chast, author of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
"This vivid book offers the tales and truths of pioneering performers who challenged the rules of race, gender, and sexuality. “Change the joke and slip the yoke,” as Ralph Ellison said. And so they did, remaking American art and history and culture in the process." —Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland: A Memoir
Harvard Book Store's Friday Forum series takes place on Friday afternoons during the academic year as a way to highlight scholarly books in a wide range of fields, with a particular focus on local scholars.
New This Week
Shop this week's new arrivals, updated every Tuesday.Learn More »
Shipping & Curbside Pickup
We ship anywhere in the U.S. and orders of $75+ ship free via media mail!Learn More »
Tote bags and pouches
in a variety of styles,
sizes, and designs, plus mugs, bookmarks, and more!
Noteworthy Signed Books: Join the Club!
Join our Signed First Edition Club (or give a gift subscription) for a signed book of great literary merit, delivered to you monthly.Learn More »