Theatre and Gender

“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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“Love In Hate Nation” Premieres At Penn State’s Playhouse

My Heart Felt That Sha La La The proscenium stage of the Playhouse has been converted into a black box, and as you take your seat walking through the stage you already feel like you are inhabiting a different world. The feeling is slightly unsettling, the walls are dark and dirty, with peeled off posters and pictures from the people who once called this place their home. This is juvie hall. Joe Iconis’ new musical Love In Hate Nation has been specially commissioned for this very stage. It is the world premiere of a musical that has been in development for over a year.  The very first of Penn State Musical Theatre’s New Musicals Initiative program, it starts the year...

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Liberty, Equality, And Feminism: “Stateswomen, Sluts Of The Revolution, Or The Learned Ladies”

To probe the practices of both protest and theatre-making, Teatr Polski of Bydgoszcz looked to Revolutionary France with its Stateswomen, Sluts Of The Revolution, Or The Learned Ladies. The 2016 show, presented at December’s Divine Comedy festival in Kraków, centered around the story of Anne-Josèphe Theroigne de Merincourt—an early, and lesser-known organizer of the rebellion that would topple the French monarchy. Directed by Witkor Rubin, the production featured text, dramaturgy, and costume design by Jolanta Janiczak. As audiences entered the Stary Teatr’s main space, they encountered Sonia Roszczuk, who stood on a row of seats, dressed in a bright-red...

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Jaclyn Backhaus’ “Men On Boats” (Re)Imagines History With Women Front And Center

In a city that still has a relatively conservative theatre community such as Houston, seeing ten women on stage in a play written by a woman certainly deserves our attention. That the majority of these women are people of color only adds to the sense of urgency that Main Street Theater’s production of Jaclyn Backhaus’ Men On Boats brings to the 2017-2018 theatre season. Backhaus’ play dramatizes the 1869 expedition of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon, following Major John Wesley Powell (played by Celeste Roberts) and a crew of volunteers who journey to chart the Colorado River....

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Men, The Internet, and Politics: “The Believers Are But Brothers” at The Bush Theatre

Do boys never leave the playground? Just when I was reasonably sure that the crisis of masculinity was an old-fashioned trope—I mean, so very 1990s—along comes a one-man show that investigates how lonely young men, seething with resentment, surf the internet, attracted like flies to shit by tech-savvy extremist groups of both secular and religious persuasions. And boy are they persuasive! Javaad Alipoor explores this dark world in The Believers Are But Brothers, his Edinburgh Fringe hit from last year, which now visits the Bush Theatre in west London. Because it’s about the internet, the audience is encouraged to join...

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The Focus Is On The Power Of Those On The Margins: 33 Performances, Representing 14 Countries

The 10th edition of ITFoK touches upon diverse themes such as gender, identity, displacement, and sexuality among other subjects. Those living on the margins are not always powerless. Neither are their lives empty. They often come up with powerful statements of their existence and their voices are strong and sharp. And they find expressions through all forms of creative expression, especially theatre. The 10th International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), organized by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (KSNA), brought to the theatre audience of Kerala a fine cross-section of the voices from the margins that seek their expression through the...

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Movie Star-Crossed: Adrienne Kennedy’s “He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box”

The explosively feminine theater of Adrienne Kennedy breaks many of the fundamental “rules” of drama, beginning with Aristotle’s assertion that tragedy is “the imitation of an action.” Kennedy’s plays are cradled by an exquisitely receptive intelligence; hers is a not a dramaturgy of action but of punishing passivity. Major works like Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964), Lesson in Dead Language (1970), A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White (1976), and now He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box absorb and reflect received images, attitudes, and templates of violence. Kennedy’s characters are paralyzed, caught in the...

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“The Neighbor’s Grief is Greener”: A Dark Domesticity

A dreamy, perfect 1950’s housewife stands in the middle of a kitchen, cracking eggs and stirring flour into her bowl. But she isn’t making your regular American casserole; she’s cooking up a far bloodier dish. She dashes the pot on the ground, flooding the kitchen with blood. Emanuella Amichai’s tasty dance-theatre piece, The Neighbor’s Grief is Greener presents four archetypal 1950’s women practicing survival techniques in the face of the patriarchy. The women we see here are as vulnerable as plucked chickens; as sexually exploited as the women dominated by Trump in the infamous ‘Grab her by the pussy’ video. But can we...

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“What A Young Wife Ought To Know”: Birth Control Docudrama

Hannah Moscovitch’s play What A Young Wife Ought To Know, which is based on a compilation of letters women sent to famous birth control advocate Dr. Marie Stopes in the 1920s, tackles an uncomfortably difficult theme. It is particularly hard to watch nowadays when crimes, attempted against women, are coming to light every day. The subject matter of Moscovitch’s play, which is so deeply sad and disturbing, does not allow the spectator to relax for one minute from the overwhelming horror. Nevertheless, the playwright, with the director, technical crew, and actors, create an intimate, haunting story and infuse it with so...

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“Between The Lines” (Entrelinhas): What Women Do to Survive Oppressive Regimes

The show Between The Lines is a manifesto about the barbarity that women suffer from an oppressive system. Take your hands off our bodies When a country is taken by a conservative wave, groups that are discriminated by society–women, black people, and LGBT–are the first ones to lose their rights. Recently, in Brazil, a special commission from the Chamber of Deputies approved a Constitutional Amendment Proposal that completely prohibits abortion. This amendment can make abortion illegal in cases that are currently allowed by law like in cases of rape, anencephaly (fetus with cerebral malformation), or when the mother’s life...

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“Rita, Sue And Bob Too” at The Royal Court: The Revival for #MeToo Era

Vicky Featherstone, the artistic director of this new writing venue, is riding high. Very high. A couple of weeks ago, she was voted the most influential person in British theatre by The Stage, the industry newspaper which annually compiles a top 100 list. Number one! This is not only because of her programming—which has included Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman—but also her activism. She is one of the most prominent voices to speak out against sexual harassment and the abuse of power in the theatre industry. Her support of the #MeToo campaign and organization of the No Grey Area event at the Court in...

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“The Town Hall Affair” Brings Germaine Greer’s 1970s Feminist Debate Roaring Into The Present

The moment was 1971, Labour Day’s eve. The context: a biting critique of feminism published by journalist-novelist Norman Mailer in Harper’s magazine earlier that year. Mailer’s essay, The Prisoner Of Sex, sold more than any previous Harper’s edition. The event: a sell-out fundraiser billed as A Dialogue On Women’s Liberation promised an explosive line-up. Mailer was set to debate literary critic Diana Trilling, feminist-activist Jacqueline Ceballos, Village Voice author Jill Johnston and Germaine Greer. A raucous audience of New York’s intellectual elite crammed in to witness the fallout. The year is now 2018 and New York experimental theatre company...

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How The Nirbhaya Protests Made Young Women A Symbol Of Resistance

This week marks five years since the nationwide Nirbhaya protests sparked off in the country, with the first public demonstrations taking place in the Capital at India Gate to a reception of water cannons and tear gas shells. The date of the incident, December 16, is now increasingly etched in common consciousness as a national day of shame, rather than just Vijay Diwas (a day of remembrance for martyrs of the 1971 war). Unwittingly perhaps, the young woman became an international symbol of resistance and bravery, and the epithet coined to symbolize her fortnight-long struggle took on the garb...

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Subjects For Some Short Stories: Acting Character In Postdramatic Chekhov

Twenty years after the Wooster Group’s seminal Three Sisters-inspired Brace Up!, contemporary New York theatre ensembles Half Straddle and New Saloon put their own postmodern bent on Chekhov’s canonical plays in their respective works Seagull (Thinking Of You) (2013) and Minor Character (2017). These productions, like the Wooster Group’s, use Chekhov as their origin point but differ in dramatic form and performance style. They exist in the same ecosystem of downtown or “experimental” New York and were each developed and performed by a theatre company of at least three collaborators who have worked together extensively before their Chekhov explorations....

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A Mountain of One’s Own: “Taking the High Ground” by Jan Bolwell

Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to climb Mount Everest in May 1953, New Zealanders have bathed in the reflected glory of their famous mountaineers. The five dollar banknote depicts the craggy, taciturn Hillary contemplating a snowy peak, an iconic New Zealand image that equates rugged independence with masculinity. Jan Bolwell’s new play Taking the High Ground, premiered at BATS Theatre, Wellington on 5 December 2017, re-genders the national mountaineering mythology in feminist terms.  Her script conflates the stories of two female mountaineering “firsts” – In 1910, Australian Freda du Faur was the first woman...

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“Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat” at Soho Theatre – Mad Genius at Work

There are some shows that can simply never be made by men. I don’t mean in the sense of subject matter. I mean in the sense of means of production. And biology. Bear with me. In 2010 performer Lucy McCormick became one of the three co-founder members of an all-female company Get In The Back Of The Van. Combining live art, writing, low key banter, cabaret, and theatre, the company proceeded to make a series of performances, installations, and curated projects existing within an intersection of art forms, genres and–often feminist–topics. In some ways, Lucy McCormick’s independent project, Triple...

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Female Desire In Experimental Postdramatic Theatre: “Body Double” Directed By Eleanor Bishop, BATS Theatre, Wellington

Merriam-Webster has recently named “feminism” as the 2017 “word of the year” and feminist issues and dramaturgy are central to Body Double, the 2017 STAB commission at Wellington’s BATS Theatre. Body Double boldly integrates its theme of female desire with a riotous and playful combination of multi-media and physical theatre. Since 1995 STAB has been an annual institution at BATS, an invitation to practitioners to dream, to experiment, to invent, to risk. The commission comes with a substantial budget, so the pitching process inspires cash-starved theatre-makers to out-bid each other with proposals that push the imaginative possibilities of live...

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