Feminism and Theatre by Sue-Ellen Case

By Sue-Ellen Case

This vintage research is either an advent to, and an summary of, the connection among feminism and theatre.

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A kind of self-conscious illusion was produced'. 24 This patriarchal critical tradition of aestheticising male transvestitism on the stage rests upon the same principles the Church used to exclude women in the first place: that the male gender within the practice of celibacy is the appropriate site for public performance and artistic production. Aesthetics merely replaces spirituality in this formula, insisting that the male appropriation of the female role, which Traditional History: A Feminist Deconstruction 25 stifles the physical playing of sexuality, transferring it to the symbolic system of language, is the source of the aesthetics of theatre.

Rosalind tells Orlando how, as a boy, she had taught a man to court a woman: He was to imagine me his love, his mistress: and I set him every day to woo me. At which time would I, being but a moonish youth, grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing and· liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion something and for no passion truly anything, as boys and women are for the most part cattle of this colour. ii 378-89) Boys, by virtue of their age, were cast in a social role similar to that of women - dependent on and inferior to the adult male.

In 1920 there was a production of Callimachus at the Art Theatre, and in 1924 a production of Paphnutius at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. In 1926 the Roswitha Club was formed and new translations by Waley and Tillyard were published. With the exception of one production in the 1920s by a women's theatre group in New York, productions of Hrotsvit in the United States have been limited to college theatres. One need only contrast Hrotsvit's production record with that of Aeschylus (the first male playwright in the Western tradition) in order to perceive the prejudice of stage practice.

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