Theatre and Gender

Following The #MeToo Movement In Korean Theatre

In the past few months, the Korean theatre scene has been under intense public scrutiny as artists—mostly women—publicly shared their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Adopting the #MeToo and #WithYou hashtags that motivated similar revelations in other countries, the victims called out prominent theatre artists and celebrities such as Lee Youn-taek, Oh Tae-seok, Jo Min-ki, Jo Jae-hyun, and many others. Multiple accounts of Lee’s behavior, including allegations of rape, and the normativized culture of power-based violence within his company, Yeonheedan Street Troupe, were especially earth-shattering, due to the abnormal demands forced on young female company members. However, news...

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“Masterpieces” at The Finborough Theatre

Neil McPherson, the long-serving head of this London fringe theatre, has a brilliant record of succeeding where many other venues have failed—namely in reviving both modern postwar classics and restaging the forgotten plays of recent decades. And all on a shoestring. His current revival of Sarah Daniels’s 1983 feminist classic, Masterpieces, is his latest good idea. It’s a play that is often seen, in textbooks, as typical of a militant femintern style of theatre-making so, in the #MeToo moment, it now acquires a renewed relevance. But is it really such a good play? The first professional London production in 35 years, Masterpieces tells...

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Ella Hickson’s “The Writer” at The Almeida Theatre

Is there such a thing as female writing? In the 1980s, a group of women writers emerged who expressed their sense of lived experience through plays that challenged the tradition of linear drama by fracturing the time sequences of their stories. Examples include Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should. In the past two decades, women playwrights have mainly stuck to linear narratives and social realism. But this may be changing: the recent work of Alice Birch or Elinor Cook or Nina Segal or Adura Onashile or Sophie Wu shows a willingness to experiment with form,...

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“Still Point Turning” is a Vital Affirmation of Trans People Through the Story of Catherine McGregor

“The unifying trans experience is rejection and repudiation.” So says Cate McGregor’s character in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story. This one line summarises a sad reality of life for trans and gender diverse people. Despite coming from different cultural, religious and class backgrounds; despite there being so much diversity of opinion and politics; and despite expressing their gender identities in so many ways; what unites them is having experienced stigma and denigration. It is for this reason that writer and director Priscilla Jackman decided to dramatize the life of Cate McGregor, who...

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“The Women Who Mapped The Stars”: The Struggle to be Acknowledged

The Women Who Mapped the Stars is a new work by Joyce Van Dyke, a rising dramatist with several awards to her credit. Her three previously produced plays also focus on women’s lives. When The Woman Who Mapped the Stars opened at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, her fifth piece premiered in New York. The play tells the story of five of the women “computers” who worked at the Harvard Observatory beginning in the late nineteenth century. This was a period in which great strides were being made in astronomy with the aid of better telescopes and the invention of the...

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Women Dancers In India and UK At A Glance

Katerina Valdivia Bruch was in India as a bangaloREsident at Natya & STEM Dance Kampni. During her stay in Bangalore, she was able to attend the BENCH India, a conference on gender inequalities in the performing arts, held on February 7, 2017, at Alliance Française de Bangalore, as part of the Attakalari India Biennial. What follows is a short survey on the current situation of women dancers in India and UK, the challenges they face in their practice and the projects and/or initiatives they are involved in. Tamsin Fitzgerald How did you start with The BENCH? What moved you to create this initiative? The...

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Fight Of The Rebel Queen

Theatre Nisha’s Gallantly Fought the Queen took us on a voyage into the life and times of the Rani of Jhansi In the dark auditorium of Alliance Francaise of Madras, a lone figure facing away from the audience begins to sing the first verse of the famous Hindi poem Bundele Harbolon by Subhadhra Kumari Chauhan accompanied by Vishwa Bharath on percussion. A rough translation of which reads, “Thrones shook and tension erupted among the monarchs. Ageing India was experiencing a new wave of youthfulness. The inhabitants had realized the worth of their lost freedom.” Amidst this chaos rose to power...

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Battle Cries For Liberation

At a staging in Kerala in January, Sara Matchett’s Walk: South Africa proved to be a harrowing but cathartic experience, and not very typical, what seemed to be a projection of its closing credits followed the performance. Names scrolled upwards, and at first, the visual was a testament to the reach of this remarkably resonant project, since so many artists and technicians appeared to have collaborated on it. Yet, the roll continued long beyond what one might expect to be a list of those behind a powerful but finite creative endeavor performed invariably as an intimate three-hander. Midway through, one realized...

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Bearing Down On The Bechdel Test: Laurie Fyffee At The Ergo Arts Pink Festival!

In 2017, I came across the Ergo Arts Pink Festival with a mandate as follows: “Ergo Pink Fest is a 3-day theatre festival of staged readings in Toronto conceived and hosted by Ergo Arts Theatre. The idea for the festival was formed when Ergo Arts Theatre’s Artistic Director, Anna Pappas, read in the 2015 Equity in Theatre study by the Playwrights Guild of Canada that: The greatest disparity in gender equity happens in the playwright category. While some progress has been made over the past two years in changing the dominant voice in theatre, Ergo Arts is committed to continuing the push forward toward equitable and...

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The Making and Breaking of a Tyrant: “Dhaad” New Play from India

At the ongoing Theatre Olympics, Gujarati play Dhaad brought to fore the making and breaking of a tyrant Jashwant Thaker Memorial Foundation, Ahmedabad brought to the 8th Theatre Olympics Dhaad in Gujarati. It was remarkable for its stark realism about the life of a brute dacoit and his three wives subjected by the dacoit to merciless cruelties. The rich production values, the aptly cast production, and the thrilling dances made the production arresting. Written by Vinesh Antani and directed by seasoned actress and director Aditi Desai, the play is set in the desert of Kutch. Living in a barren landscape with little means...

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Chinese Vagina Monologues And Beyond

On March 20 2018, VaChina, a London-based Chinese feminist network, staged its first full drama show Our Vagina, Ourselves (阴道之道), the Chinese version of Vagina Monologues, in the lecture theatre of SOAS, London. Around 100 people filled the lecture theatre, with some enthusiasts having to sit on the floor to watch the Chinese version of Vagina Monologues in Chinese languages played by international performers (plural because the play’s conversations were also performed in dialects other than Mandarin Chinese). On March 5 2017 in New York, Our Vagina, Ourselves was performed by a group of New York-based Chinese feminist network that also initiated and published the petition...

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What It’s Like To Be A Female Fight Director

“We will not glorify violence” Visit Ruth Cooper-Brown at the weekend and you might find her “getting bloody” in the kitchen. Just how bloody will depend on whether she wants to produce a splat or a spurt. Making and selling different types of theatrical blood is part of the “recipe for violence” the fight director offers through Rc-Annie, the dramatic violence company she runs with Rachel Bown-Williams. The pair choreographs fight and death scenes for stage and screen, and are behind the stranglings and stabbings in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s current production of John Webster’s revenge tragedy The Duchess...

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“Love Me Now” at The Tristan Bates Theatre: Love in the Time of Tinder

Love may well be the strongest four-letter word, but what is the latest news from the front line of the sex war? Who better to ask than Michelle Barnette, whose play, Love Me Now, has casual relationships and today’s hook-up culture as its central theme. She’s a young, female professional who should be able to take the erotic pulse of her generation. Having trained as an actor, she first worked as a producer and now makes her debut as a playwright. It’s the first play I’ve ever seen to include in its credits a “fight and intimacy director” (Enric Ortuno), so...

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Women Flying High In Circus

On International Women’s Day 2018 and in the year of Circus250, Poppy Burton-Morgan blogs for UK Theatre on the rise of British, female-led circus companies in an artform that has been “historically problematically male.” 2018 marks the 250-year anniversary of Philip Astley’s circus ring so it’s a circus filled year across the UK. Circus has always been a relatively safe space for marginalized groups and, for women in particular, it offered a freedom from the restrictions of dress and behavior that must have at the time felt revolutionary. Somewhere along the line–possibly with the rise of the media in the twentieth century and concomitant...

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“In the Club”: Tackling Sexual Assault, Gender, and a Male Dominated Sports Culture

A new play by award-winning playwright Patricia Cornelius tackles the prevalence of sexual assault, paying particular attention to Australia’s male-dominated sports culture. The result is a thematically and theatrically engaging piece with a gritty yet grand poetry, relevant to our times. Cornelius’ play, In The Club, was commissioned by the State Theatre Company of South Australia specifically to explore this topic. It follows three women Annie (Miranda Daughtry), Olivia (Rachel Burke) and Ruby (Anna Steen) on a night out. They’re in a nightclub filled with pretty young things, men and women in their prime and on the prowl. Each of...

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Living And Breathing History, Through Noh

Noh performer Hisa Uzawa has spent her life devoted to an art form that—with its slow and steady movements, sparse staging and ancient chanting—may at first seem staid. In her hands, however, the 650-year-old tradition becomes relentlessly contemporary. Uzawa was born into a noh family in 1949. Her father, Masashi, was a shite (lead actor) in the Kanze School and part of the Tessenkai Ensemble, and Uzawa grew up steeped in traditional music and arts. “When I first moved here, the house we had was much smaller,” she tells The Japan Times from her home in Shinagawa Ward. “I could hear...

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“The Second Woman”: A 24-Hour Lesson in the Gendered Performance of Intimacy

The idea that femininity is a social performance, while masculinity simply sets the coordinates for the social, explains why so many classic melodramas turn on the figure of the actress, such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950), Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959), Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) or John Cassavetes’ Opening Night(1977). Inspired by the latter, Nat Randall and Anna Breckon have co-created The Second Woman, which will be presented for the fourth time this month at the Perth Festival. Originally developed for Melbourne’s Next Wave Festival in 2016, it was subsequently performed at both Dark Mofo! in Tasmania and Liveworks in Sydney in 2017. It...

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I Wanted To Remove The Language Of Gender: Hindi Adaptation of Lorca’s “Yerma”

Mahesh Dattani explores the symbolism, futurism and surreal influences of Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca by directing a Hindi adaption of Yerma. The Drama School Mumbai’s annual production, which showcases their current batch of 14 students, is a take on Federico García Lorca’s Yerma, rechristened Maati in this Hindi adaptation by Neha Sharma, directed by noted playwright Mahesh Dattani. In conversation with The Hindu, Dattani talks about the queer themes that he has explored in the play. Why did you select Yerma? Jehan (Maneckshaw) had suggested we do a classic this time. He was keen to do Karnad’s Taledanda, but I was really struck by Yerma. I had caught...

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Praises To “Athena”

Yesterday I knew nothing about the playwright Gracie Gardner or The Hearth, a feminist theater company co-founded by Kenyon alums Julia Greer and Emma Miller. Today, after seeing Miller’s production of Gardner’s Athena at Jack in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, starring Greer and the equally awesome actress Abby Awe, I want to see everything all these young women do. Gardner recently won the American Playwriting Foundation’s Relentless Award for a previous play, Pussy Sludge. Relentless is also an apt word for Athena, an 80-minute wolf-stare of a play that freezes you in its opening seconds and doesn’t really release you until the lights come up...

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“Girls And Boys” at The Royal Court

This is Carey Mulligan week. She appears, improbably enough, as a hard-nosed cop in David Hare’s BBC thriller Collateral, as well as onstage at the Royal Court in London’s Sloane Square (she’s much better live than on film.) In a 90-minute monologue, written by Dennis Kelly, Mulligan explores a contemporary love story, and she is in good hands. Kelly is the wordsmith behind the edgy GCSE syllabus play DNA and The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, as well as the (by contrast) infinitely sweeter Matilda The Musical, so you would be forgiven for expecting a rather acerbic view of modern marriage. And you’d be...

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