The Revolution Will Be Dramatized: Pondering the Role of the Performing Arts in History

By Rachael Nuckles Earlier this month, the official filmed version of Broadway’s Hamilton premiered on streaming platform Disney Plus. This production fits our blog’s theme of “revolution” in several ways. Not only does the plot retell some key moments of the historical Revolutionary War, but it relies on nonwhite actors to do so. As I wrote in a previous post about Broadway’s Slave Play, theater … Continue reading The Revolution Will Be Dramatized: Pondering the Role of the Performing Arts in History

A Backstage History: Reflections on Stage Management and Gendered Labor

By Rachael Nuckles Before I devoted my life to full-time graduate school and academics, I was working hands-on in the world of technical theater as a stage manager and designer. It’s a world I hope to get back to after obtaining my degree, though maybe in a different capacity than before. Stage management often requires a considerable amount of emotional energy that isn’t always part … Continue reading A Backstage History: Reflections on Stage Management and Gendered Labor

A Radical Moment in Theater: “Slave Play,” Accessibility, and Discomfort on Broadway

By Rachael Nuckles “At the MacGregor Plantation, nothing is as it seems, and yet everything is as it seems. It’s an antebellum fever-dream as three interracial couples converge to rip open history at the intersection of race, love, sex, and sexuality in 21st-century America.” (Slave Play Official Website) (Promotional shot of actress Joaquina Kalukango. Photo courtesy of Slave Play Instagram account @slaveplaybway) Theater has a … Continue reading A Radical Moment in Theater: “Slave Play,” Accessibility, and Discomfort on Broadway

Dangerous Direction

by Kellyn Johnson

In her postmodernist, critical essay For the Etruscans, poet and theorist Rachel Blau DuPlessis seeks to define the ‘feminine aesthetic’:

“Female Aesthetic”: the production of formal, epistemological, and thematic strategies by members of the group Woman, strategies born in struggle with much of already existing culture, and over-determined by two elements of sexual difference—by women’s psychological experiences of gendered asymmetry and by women’s historical status in an (ambiguously) nonhegemonic group.[1]

I posit that her definition, meant to work within literary theory, also provides a critical framework for the work of women in other creative processes. As Maggie Humm emphasizes, “feminist aesthetics focuses on women’s social subjectivity, not simply on visual imagery, and feminist art aims to transform the asocial, sexist values of traditional aesthetic.”[2] In particular, I believe that the work of women directors in theatre and film both physicalize Duplessis’s definition and fulfill Humm’s directive, reflecting women’s psychological, political, and physical experience as Other in a largely patriarchal system.

While much critical work has been done regarding the work of actresses and women playwrights, there exists an overwhelming lack of critical theory regarding the work of women theatrical directors. Women filmmakers receive slightly more attention in the work of E. Ann Kaplan, Mary Hurd and Barbara Quart, but aside from largely biographical projects such as Anne Fliotsos and Wendy Vierow’s impressive American Women Stage Directors of the Twentieth Century, women directors as a group remain largely unexamined. Continue reading “Dangerous Direction”