Since the 1930s, musical theatre has reflected changing trends in American history. This thesis illustrates how we use entertainment to discuss difficult topics, such as war, poverty, and disease, and proposes an exhibition that uses musicals as a lens to examine American history. By identifying a major historical trend from each decade from the 1930s to the 2000s, this thesis connects historical context to an American musical production of each era. I analyzed data from a survey I created to gauge respondents' familiarity with the historical themes identified, and emotional intensity of their reaction to each theme. This data will be implemented in the design of the exhibition, and will allow the exhibition to more effectively reach the identified target audience of young adults. The experience of emotional connection to entertainment is universal to young adults, and this thesis posits that it can be an accessible foothold into American history.
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