Lives in Play
Autobiography and Biography on the Feminist Stage
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Title Page, Copyright
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In the spring of 1998, performance artist Karen Finley stood on the steps of the Supreme Court after arguments for National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley et al. and told the world that Senator Jesse Helms had been sexually harassing her through his political attacks on her and other artists— Holly Hughes, Tim Miller, and John Fleck—now known as the NEA Four...
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Introduction: Lives in Play
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Over the last decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, performances that draw their material from the lives of real women have been very near the center of feminist theatrical practice. A broad range of reasons can be mustered to explain the phenomenon, many of which start...
I. Autobiography: The Body and Self in Performance
1. Performative Lives, Performed Selves: Autobiography in Feminist Performance
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If any art form, theatrical or otherwise, might be said to be the proving grounds for a performative approach to identity, performance art is the obvious first choice. Although performance art itself is a nebulous genre—a loosely bound set of artistic practices that assembles the art object from the actions of the live performing body—the binding focus on...
2. Autobiography and the Rhetoric of the Embodied Self
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While over the last two decades, theories of performativity dominated the academic discourse of gender (and to a lesser extent that of theatrical performance), feminist performers have been reluctant to embrace the concept quite so thoroughly. In the previous chapter, we have seen the ways in...
3. The Autobiographical Play and the Death of the Playwright: Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis
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When Paula Vogel’s play How I Learned to Drive opened in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1999, the playwright celebrated a homecoming. Hailing from the same suburban Maryland town in which her play is set, Vogel had just won the Pulitzer Prize for the play; her longtime collaborator, Molly Smith, had just been named artistic director at Arena Stage; and...
II. Biography: Staging Women's Lives
4. Staging Women's Lives, Staging Feminist Performances
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In the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol, a visitor can stroll along a parade of great men, admiring the busts, standing figures, and horsed figures carved in Italian marble and other polished chunks of stone. The parade marches on in traditional style until it reaches the suffragists, a memorial to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan...
5. A Life in the (Meta)Theater: Writing/Rehearsing/Acting Out
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Inherent in a wide variety of feminist biography plays, as the previous chapter argues, is the notion that the act of biography is itself a performance— a performance that is scrutinized alongside the acts and performances of these plays’ purported subjects. This phenomenon calls attention to, among other things, the degree to which women’s lives in history...
6. Performing Race and the Object of Biography
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The corpus of staged feminist autobiography and biography admittedly has been, like the body of feminist drama in general over the last decades of the twentieth century, a largely white affair. Typically, the texts and performances that comprise this corpus, like many of the plays examined in the previous two chapters, have consistently taken a protective, nonconfrontational...
Conclusion: Performing Global Lives
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In November 2009, a working group convened at the annual conference of the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) on the subject of contemporary women playwrights. Tasked with advocating for the work of contemporary female playwrights of the previous twenty years, participants brought together a rich assemblage of playwrights, from established...
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 1 B&W figure
Publication Year: 2012