Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts

(Penn State University Press, 2014)

In this poignant and personal history of one of America’s oldest theaters, Leslie Stainton tells the story not just of an extraordinary building but of a nation’s struggle to invent itself. Built on the walls of an 18th-century jail where the last Conestoga Indians perished and where enslaved African Americans once languished, Pennsylvania’s Fulton Theatre is uniquely ghosted. Interweaving past and present, Staging Ground explores this emblematic space and its role in the making of America.


“An effective framework synthesizing personal memoir with historical overview—and case studies drawn from the annals of the Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, Pennsylvania—produces an insightful study, one that offers an innovative, novel microcosm of American theater in small-town America. Stainton’s extensively researched examination begins with the Fulton’s role in such early events as the Paxton Rebellion and the murder of fourteen Conestoga Indians in the town jail, now the theater’s foundation, and ends with the author’s final departure from Lancaster and the beginning of a new life. This is a fascinating, candid, often entertaining journey, with frequent reflections on crucial issues in our history. Stainton’s book makes an important addition to the literature on American theater and culture.” —Don B. Wilmeth, editor of Cambridge Studies in American Theatre and Drama

“Reading Leslie Stainton’s Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts is like having a front-row seat at a thrilling epic drama. Stainton packs her stage with real characters, the famous and the infamous, and events unfold in a tumult of action both tragic and comic and at times heartbreakingly poignant. This book is great theater—immediate, engrossing, cathartic.” —Helen Sheehy, author of Eleonora Duse: A Biography


Lorca: A Dream of Life

(Bloomsbury, 1998; Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

The Society of Midland Authors 1999 Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Biography

This detailed portrait of the greatest of Spain’s modern poets, Federico García Lorca, sheds new light on a man whose birth coincided with his country’s defeat in the Spanish-American War and whose death, at the hands of Nationalist partisans in August 1936, with Spain’s undoing in the Spanish Civil War. Leslie Stainton uses newly discovered letters and archival material, as well as exclusive interviews with friends, family, and acquaintances, to illuminate Lorca’s life, work, and sexuality.


“[A] meticulously annotated book, stuffed with astonishing pictures … but most importantly a sensitive appraisal of a dramatist who, firmly rooted in the past, turned the modern theater upside down.” -Time Out

“It is to Leslie Stainton’s credit that she does not belabor the pathos in García Lorca’s life in her full-scale, measured and enjoyable biography.” -New York Times

“Perhaps time has made it easier to discuss the relevance of his homosexuality, but Stainton proves to be the best so far on this aspect of his personality. Sensible and sensitive, this is a book of voices, the central one being that of Lorca himself. Biography has become a messy, dishonourable pursuit. This maligned genre, however, has been somewhat redeemed by Leslie Stainton’s valuable, insightful book about a mercurial genius who died knowing his best work would be left undone.” -The Irish Times

“The Lorca who emerges is still, like Wilde, the salon man par excellence, but more human—a fantastist and dissembler, and an egotist so romantic that his ambition often overreached his talent.” -The Independent

Also available in Spanish (Adriana Hidalgo Editora, Buenos Aires) and Greek (Metaixmio, Athens).