Feminist theatre

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Feminist theatre

  1. 1. Feminist Theatre
  2. 2. Questions <ul><li>What do you think Feminism is? </li></ul><ul><li>What is your attitude to Feminism? </li></ul><ul><li>Who do you think it’s for? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you feel that men and women have parity? </li></ul><ul><li>Have you ever felt sexually harassed? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Emergence of Feminism <ul><li>Modern Feminism emerges in the late 1960s. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s rise can be seen against a background of new social consciousness. </li></ul><ul><li>Student uprisings and demonstrations. </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-war, anti-capitalism, pro-civil rights, rise of ‘Green’ movement, gay rights etc... </li></ul>
  4. 4. Women’s Liberation Movement <ul><li>First conference held in Ruskin College 1970. Key demands: </li></ul><ul><li>Equal Pay. </li></ul><ul><li>Educational Opportunities. </li></ul><ul><li>24 Hour Nurseries. </li></ul><ul><li>Free Contraception. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Feminist Theatre Background <ul><li>An Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Dramatists published in 1977 featured 324 playwrights: only 34 of whom were women. </li></ul><ul><li>At the Royal Court, supposedly the leading radical theatre, between 1956 and 1975 only 17 of the 250 plays produced were written or directed by women. </li></ul><ul><li>Before January 1981 the National Theatre had never in its 17 years of existence, had a play directed by a woman. </li></ul><ul><li>Of 40 playwrights being published by Eyre Methuen, the leading publishers of plays, only one was a woman – Churchill. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Early Feminist Theatre <ul><li>To rectify this imbalance feminist theatre groups were established whose task was to put on full-scale theatre by women and for women, e.g. Monstrous Regiment, for whom Caryl Churchill wrote Vinegar Tom in 1976. A number of other feminist groups emerged in the late 70s such as Cunning Stunts and Blood Group… </li></ul>
  7. 7. Janet Brown’s Definition of 4 Feminist Theatre Devices <ul><li>The sex-roles reversal device </li></ul><ul><li>Presentation of historical figures as role models </li></ul><ul><li>Satire of traditional sex roles </li></ul><ul><li>Direct portrayal of women in oppressive situations </li></ul><ul><li>(Quoted in Aston,E (1995) An Introduction to Feminist Theatre. London. Routledge) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Bourgeois/Liberal Feminism <ul><li>Focus is on the increasing opportunities for INDIVIDUAL fulfilment of women, which is obstructed by male chauvinist attitudes, practices and laws: challenge these, demand equal rights and opportunities as men, and women’s lot improves. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Radical/Cultural Feminism <ul><li>Sees men and women as ESSENTIALLY different. </li></ul><ul><li>Seeks to re-assert values of female culture which have been suppressed by male culture; e.g. male ‘rationality’ </li></ul><ul><li>Radical Feminists want to overthrow the existing male order, and create a society governed by the supposedly superior values of the female. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Socialist/Materialist Feminism <ul><li>Patriarchy and capitalism are historically linked and mutually reinforcing. </li></ul><ul><li>Change cannot come about without tackling both gender and class issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Female and male identities are cultural constructs open to change. </li></ul><ul><li>Oppression can only end when there is a level economic playing field. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Agitational Propaganda <ul><li>Agit-prop used a way of presenting theatre from a partisan viewpoint using bold rhetorical techniques. Red Ladder Theatre Company were a feminist agit-prop group, e.g in their play Strike While the Iron is Hot (1972): “Workers will never be free while women are in chains” and “Women will never be free while workers are in chains.” </li></ul>
  12. 13. A ‘Female’ Aesthetic? <ul><li>Churchill rejects traditional linear narrative building to a climax (phallic?), dominated by heroic male protagonists, adopting instead a more open-ended, circular structure (feminine?). </li></ul>
  13. 14. Top Girls (1982) <ul><li>Was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre before a ‘middle-class’ audience. BUT… </li></ul><ul><li>Makes no pretence of carrying political ‘message.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Instead, it poses tough questions about feminism and British politics of the 1980s. </li></ul>
  14. 15. Churchill’s Angle <ul><li>Churchill’s position is that of a socialist feminist who is critical of bourgeois and radical feminism. In the last scene in particular, the sisters Joyce and Marlene are divided because of their different attitudes to class. This might encourage us to wonder whether, in a classless society, women could be more united… </li></ul>
  15. 16. Top Girls : Style and Structure <ul><li>Representative characters </li></ul><ul><li>Role-swapping. </li></ul><ul><li>Skip-connecting dialogue. </li></ul><ul><li>Impossible space-time collisions as in Act I. </li></ul><ul><li>Rejects the conventional linear narrative --Act 3 has taken place BEFORE Act 2, while Act I is more like a dreamscape. </li></ul>
  16. 19. Top Girls Agency as Location <ul><li>Female dominated environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Allows different representations of women to be introduced. </li></ul><ul><li>All sections of female society come in hope of advancement. </li></ul><ul><li>Competitive atmosphere. </li></ul>
  17. 20. Interview 1 <ul><li>Marlene interviews Jeanine, who is looking for a more interesting career. </li></ul><ul><li>Marlene is all confidence, whereas Jeanine is rather shy, not ‘pushy.’ </li></ul><ul><li>No sense that Marlene emotionally connects with Jeanine’s struggles, no sense of ‘sisterhood’ or common female struggle. </li></ul>
  18. 21. Interview: Win and Louise <ul><li>Louise is from an older generation and feels she’s being muscled out not only by men, but by other women too. Louise talks about this new career woman: “She has a different style, she’s a new kind of attractive well-dressed – I don’t mean I don’t dress properly. But there is a different kind of woman who is 30 now who grew up in a different climate. They are not so careful. They take themselves for granted. I have to justify my existence every minute…” </li></ul>
  19. 22. Top Girls: Exclusive Club? <ul><li>In the play ‘Top Girls’ are : </li></ul><ul><li>Young, single. </li></ul><ul><li>Ruthless. </li></ul><ul><li>Indifferent to women or men who fall by the wayside. </li></ul><ul><li>But are themselves victims, without solid emotional foundations to their lives. </li></ul>
  20. 24. Final Confrontation <ul><li>Marlene and Joyce represent two female ‘types.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Marlene = career. Joyce = traditional family role. </li></ul><ul><li>Marlene calls Thatcher a “tough lady” while Joyce compares her to Hitler. </li></ul><ul><li>The argument is left hanging... </li></ul>
  21. 25. Further Reading <ul><li>Aston, Elaine. An Introduction to Feminism and Theatre (London: Routledge, 1995). </li></ul><ul><li>Case, Sue-Ellen Feminism and Theatre (London: Macmillan, 1998). </li></ul><ul><li>Aston, Elaine. Caryl Churchill (Plymouth: Northcote House, 1997. 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>Cousin, Geraldine. Churchill: The Playwright (London: Methuen, 1989). </li></ul>
  22. 26. Some Feminist Plays <ul><li>Breathless by April de Angelis </li></ul><ul><li>Masterpieces by Sarah Daniels </li></ul><ul><li>Steaming by Nell Dunn </li></ul><ul><li>Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi by Pam Gems </li></ul><ul><li>My Mother Said I Never Should by Charlotte Keatley. </li></ul><ul><li>Heresies by Deborah Levy </li></ul><ul><li>Blood and Ice by Liz Lochead </li></ul><ul><li>When I Was A Girl I Used to Scream and Shout by Sharmon Macdonald </li></ul><ul><li>Female Parts by Franca Rame </li></ul><ul><li>The Love of The Nightingale by Timberlake Wertenbaker </li></ul>
  23. 27. Questions on Feminist Theatre <ul><li>Can the term Feminist Theatre ever be applied in a way that means something concrete or at least recognisable to different readers in different generations and cultures? </li></ul><ul><li>Can men make Feminist theatre? </li></ul><ul><li>Why is Feminist Theatre defined as ‘alternative’? </li></ul>

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