- International Women Stage Directors ed. by Anne Fliotsos and Wendy Vierow
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Although directors such as Anne Bogart, Elizabeth LeCompte, Ariane Mnouchkine, Julie Taymor, and others have gained significant recognition, scholarship dedicated to exploring the artistic work and experiences of women stage directors is still minimal. Thus, Anne Fliotsos and Wendy Vierow’s International Women Stage Directors fills a distinct gap in theatre scholarship surrounding the work of women directors and serves as a natural and necessary expansion of the work begun by the duo in American Women Stage Directors of the Twentieth Century (2008).
In this edited volume, Fliotsos and Vierow bring together twenty-four essays, each chronicling the work of women directors around the globe from countries including Argentina, Canada, Greece, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and more. In addition to highlighting the work of prominent women directors from each country, each chapter also provides a look at the surrounding social, cultural, political, and economic contexts in which these women are working—a wise strategy, as many readers may be unfamiliar with the specific sociopolitical workings of each country and, perhaps more importantly, many of the women directors highlighted in the text are confronting or subverting these sociopolitical contexts as part of their theatrical work. Thus, the text’s goal is twofold: to expose readers to women directors from around the world “who could not be ignored for their [artistic] contributions” and to illuminate the geopolitical contexts that inevitably shape the directors’ work and experiences as women and as artists (2).
The book’s introductory materials firmly establish the project’s import and concisely articulate its parameters. Roberta Levitow, cofounder of Theatre Without Borders, is a logical author for the foreword; her passion for global theatre practices and international theatre artists, particularly women, provides an exciting opening and a credible endorsement; as Levitow powerfully notes, “The stories of these women theatre artists . . . are larger than the confines of their theatre buildings or performance spaces” (ix).
In the introduction, Fliotsos carefully spells out the inspiration for the book. Particularly striking is her refreshingly candid articulation of the limits of the project. She notes that the text does not “claim to include a scientific sample representative of the entire globe” and admits that one of the limitations in coverage was finding qualified contributors—theatre scholars and practitioners who speak from “a point of authenticity” because they are from or have lived and worked in that country (1). However, this limitation becomes one of the text’s great strengths, as the authors’ firsthand knowledge gives each chapter credibility and rich details about the directors’ work. Fliotsos also astutely situates this work amid other scholarly works on women and directing [End Page 367] such as Aston and Case’s Staging International Feminisms, Donkin and Clement’s Upstaging Big Daddy, and others, thus contextualizing the project and offering readers additional sources to explore.
Despite any limits, the selection of countries featured in the book is sensible and thorough, with nearly every continent represented as well as several unexpected but fascinating countries such as Egypt, Kenya, and Bulgaria included. Admittedly, I was surprised not to see countries such as Italy and Spain included, considering their significant legacies in theatre’s historical development, and the text would benefit from the inclusion of more Asian countries such as Japan or Korea. However, this is a minor quibble, as my appreciation for the diversity of the countries included trumps any concerns about exclusions.
Organized alphabetically for easy navigation, the essays are written in clear, accessible prose. Drawing from interviews with directors as well as articles and reviews, the authors pack an impressive amount of information into their chapters. For consistency, all the essays follow the same basic structure, first addressing the broader sociopolitical context for women’s rights in that country, then considering the country’s directorial fore-mothers, then describing contemporary artistic working conditions, and finally featuring biographical and artistic profiles of three to five directors. These profiles of individual directors are the most...