Theatre offers a space for staging the real and the imaginary, and in the act of it, generating new discourses and toppling the alienating and exclusive yardsticks of history. In occupying a distinct reality from their own in the adoption of a character, the performers and the audience assume an identity which was never theirs to begin with or belonged to them so personally that now it seems like wearing another (nonetheless, the same) skin all over again. Feminism in theatre and feminists of theatre have immaculately and intelligently given voices to silence and silenced the patriarchal cacophonies.
Here’s a list of five feminist theatre acts that one could read/watch to relish in the disfigurement of all-male narratives, through the performance of language and the language of the body.
1. A Raisin in the Sun By Lorraine Hansberry
Lorraine Hansberry was the first black female author who got access to have a play performed on Broadway and also, the first black playwright to receive a New York Critics’ Circle award. While the play essentially maps the conditions of a black family in an American neighbourhood, it carries a strong undercurrent of feminist tones. The female characters are given attributes which defy the stereotypical boxes women were put in 20th-century America. It works with issues of abortion, marital oppression and gender roles that penetrate both the domestic and professional spheres.
In occupying a distinct reality from their own in the adoption of a character, the performers and the audience assume an identity which was never theirs to begin with or belonged to them so personally that now it seems like wearing another (nonetheless, the same) skin all over again.
2. Tea By Velina Hasu Houston
Velina Hasu Houston has extensively worked on creating transitional feminist theatre through her works. She calls herself a feminist writer, as opposed to the label of “multicultural artist” that is famously attached to her. Her works are centred around the anxieties of transnational and multiracial women set in a white male society. In Tea, the protagonist, after having killer her husband, losing her daughter and committing suicide, travels to and fro between this world and the world of spirits, often listening in on the conversations of the other four Japanese women who pay constant visits to her house. The play forms an arena where gender relations are scrutinised by the individual, who moves beyond borders of nations and identity and decimates categorisation of the same into immovable boxes.
Also read: Praatohkrityo: A Dance Theatre Led By Women
3. Lights Out By Manjula Padmanabhan
Manjula Padmanabhan is an Indian playwright who has made significant contribution to Indian writing in English. In the play Lights Out, she paints the picture of a highly asymmetrical society, by digging into the conundrums surrounding the domestic, where women become mere subjects of physical and mental violence in their daily engagements. Through the main character, Leela, one sees how there is a rejection of the domesticity of a middle-class couple. It tries to draw attention towards the complexities of emotional harm caused to women within institutions of marriage and families.
4. Fefu and Her Friends By Maria Irene Fornés
Maria Irene Fornés was a Cuban-American playwright who took the stage as place for radical thinking and experimenting with the given societal norms of those times. Acclaimed for developing a personalised and individualistic style in writing, her play Fefu and Her Friends is has an all-female cast. Set in 1935 in New England, it is a portrait of interactions between women, without any mediation or meddling from men. Unravelling the concepts of aloneness-loneliness and constrictions due to their gender identity, the women grapple with being controlled by their surroundings and the loss of control in their agency on the same in return.
Feminism in theatre and feminists of theatre have immaculately and intelligently given voices to silence and silenced the patriarchal cacophonies.
5. In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) By Sarah Ruhl
Sarah Ruhl is known for theatrically working with the nuances of life in the context of emotional psychological states. The play works with the origin and beginning of the vibrator. Working with misconceptions of sex and sexual oppression of women in the Victorian era, the play navigates through the interconnected spheres of love and sex in relationships. Marking a revolution that de-stigmatises sexual identities of women, it also emphasises on the relation between sex and an object that emerges in the advent of the vibrator.
Also read: How Feminist Theatre Emerged in India
Featured Image Source: This Stage