What makes a play or a musical a smash hit? In this course, we will dive deep into the history of four American blockbusters: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Annie, and Hamilton. Comparing source material to scripts, scripts to accounts of performances, and performances to film adaptations, we will explore how popular narratives shift over time and across genres. Using time-honored and cutting-edge strategies for doing research in the humanities, we will investigate these shows’ ties to prior popular forms, such as minstrel shows and comic strips. Since all four of these dramas are focused around figures who oscillate in some way between categories such as child and adult, male and female, rich and poor, or black and white, we will think together about what it means to conceive of identity categories themselves as fluid and performative.