CMU School of Drama

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Feminist Theatre: What Does it Do and How Does it Do it?

HowlRound: It’s a fascinating time to be a feminist in the theatre. Thanks to The Kilroys, The Count, and women like Sumru Erkut and Ineke Ceder, we’ve made incredible progress in raising awareness of the lack of equity for women in our field. Actual change has been slower than we might like, but change takes time because for many people, becoming aware of a social problem doesn’t necessarily come with the knowledge of what to do about it. Simply being “woke” isn’t enough; a newly raised consciousness requires that you also put in time and work educating yourself about ways to create change. Catherine Castellani and The League of Professional Theatre Women are curating a series asking what a feminist play is, and I’d love to build on that important conversation by also addressing how to direct a feminist production.


Mary Frances Candies said...

The term "feminist director" is a peculiar one. I understand the important of distinguishing the difference from traditional/conservative and progressive/socially conscience directors. I think the term "feminist director" has implications that may deter some directors away from the author's concept. I think that it is important that this author is talking about pushing feminism beyond equality for cisgendered females and into equality for all individuals and identities. I also strongly agree and stand for the equality of all identities. I agree with the author that theatre should be on the forefront of breaking the binaries amongst us.I agree that equality and representation in casting and design team is integral to theatre. I wonder, however, if "feminist director" is the right name for a director who stands behind these beliefs. Why can't we ("feminist directors") just be called directors? Why do we have to qualify our role to let people know that we are directors that are accepting and progressive?

Angel Zhou said...

The most intriguing aspect of this article is the fact that it emphasizes the effect of feminist theater over its definition because this statement and the author's subsequent defense of it is somewhat contradictory. It almost feels as though the writer does not want to come across as a feminist but wants to promote feminism at the same time. For example, Derr mentions that "Feminist theatre, then, according to [her] definition of feminism, is theatre that provides an alternative...[by] creating equality". But, she also claims that feminist theatre is shaped through strong female characters. I feel as though a feminist play should embrace the ideals it stands for - allowing women to be (rightfully) strong leaders. By mixing in the idea that feminism is about *also* allowing males to be just as strong, Derr opens up a tone that reflects "we are strong, but...I don't want to offend anyone, so we are actually promoting equality instead". In other words, this article is very passive, which is a new approach compared to those die-hard pushes of female equality. I feel as though Derr's definition of feminist theatre is more suitable for a definition of gender-equality theatre, since she also acknowledges the presence of more than 2 genders (i.e., not just females).

Sasha Schwartz said...

I think what the author said about theater doing feminist work vs. being feminist is very interesting. I’m not sure that I agree with it 100%, but I think it’s important to think about how much a play’s message drives home feminism vs. how much of the acting ensemble, technician group, production team, producers, etc were women who had decision-making power. I don’t think that a play about feminism that doesn’t include as diverse of a team as we would like is inherently anti-feminist, since that play could still be seen by someone who is then motivated to think differently/ make a change, but I see what the author is saying about both sides of the coin being important. I also think that the idea of woman as subject vs. object is interesting, and very relevant in an age where women are far too often seen for their bodies and not their personalities. In Foundations II the other day our class had an interesting talk about Medea’s potential relevance in modern day feminist theater. We talked a lot about how “crazy” Medea is, and how that’s not necessarily the best representation of women, but isn’t any diverse representation of women valid? Medea was certainly the subject of her story.