Rogue Performances recovers eighteenth and nineteenth-century American culture s fascination with outcast and rebellious characters. Highwaymen, thieves, beggars, rioting mobs, rebellious slaves, and mutineers dominated the stage in the period s most popular plays. Peter Reed also explores ways these characters helped to popularize theatrical forms such as ballad opera, patriotic spectacle, blackface minstrelsy, and melodrama. Reed shows how both on and offstage, these paradoxically powerful, persistent, and troubling figures reveal the contradictions of class and the force of the disempowered in the American theatrical imagination. Through analysis of both well known and lesser known plays and extensive archival research, this book challenges scholars to re-think their assumptions about the role of class in antebellum American drama.