'Another National Anthem': Public Memory, Burkean Identification, and the Musical Assassins

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In this article Valerie Lynn Schrader examines the musical Assassins through the rhetorical lenses of public memory and Kenneth Burke's theory of identification. Offering a close textual analysis of the musical's script and cast recording, she argues that Assassins, along with its audiences, serves to co-create a public memory of the men and women who attempted to assassinate Presidents of the United States of America. Her article contends that Assassins creates a chilling consubstantiality between the characters in the musical and theatregoers through Burkean identification, which may cause cognitive dissonance for many audience members. Through identifying key themes in the musical, she argues that these both connect with the assassins' motives and are common human experiences, serving not only to create public memory of the stories, but also to humanize the assassins and create a bond between audience and characters - while the song 'Something Just Broke' undermines this connection and encourages audience members to identify with the mourning American public. Valerie Lynn Schrader is Associate Professor of Communications and Interim Director of Academic Affairs at the Schuylkill Campus of the Pennsylvania State University. Her research focuses on rhetorical messages in theatre works, especially musical theatre productions. She is herself a classically trained lyric soprano/soubrette.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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