By Alexi Siegel
It is here where I shall address the dreaded F-word. That’s right. Feminism. Which I shall be clear strives for the equality between the two genders not an over-bearing female dominated society reminiscent of the Amazons where men are slowly killed off and only kept around for their semen. From the beginning of time women have been getting the shaft because they were missing a… shaft. Even though we started off on seemingly equal grounds with Adam and Eve, problems of gender have grown dramatically since then and I mean dramatically both in the figurative and literal sense.
Theatre, which claims to be a progressive art form that allows for freedom of expression, still leaves women in the castles by themselves weeping while the men get to be gallant and are lopping each other’s heads off (aka doing the fun stuff). Male playwrights write the majority of shows, with the majority of the characters being male because that is what they know. Even if a female actor does get the occasional chance to grace the stage, their roles are never nearly as complex as their male counterparts. Where are the Lady Macbeths or Antigones of the modern theatre world?
I was thrilled to get the chance this week to attend KCACTF and see what the best and the brightest in Region IV had to offer in theatre. I was unbelievably excited to attend the workshop on Women in Theatre, oh wait, there wasn’t one. To be fair, there wasn’t a workshop about race or sexuality so at least we were consistently ignoring the prevalent issues in theatre today. Even though the shows themselves brought up some of the issues, there was no conversation afterwards. Why do a show that starts a conversation if you aren’t going to finish it?
The productions selected to perform represented a perfect slice of the issue. The shows were male dominated both in numbers and in strength of characters. Every single show (except for two which I will discuss later) had a larger number of male parts than female by over half every time.
However, the issue is not solely in numbers but the types of parts that are given to women. Three of the shows held promise that they would have strong females or at least an equal footing with the male parts, but they all ultimately fell short.
Morehead State University’s production of Amelia Earhart held an exciting prospect simply from the title. I thought: A show about America’s first female pilot, a pioneer not only in aviation but also in equality, how exciting! I was as misguided as the lovely lady herself because the show portrayed a woman who was created and pushed around by the two male characters onstage. Our strong, independent lady turned into a joke, running around popping her foot up while she kissed her husband.
There was little hope to begin when it came to She Stoops To Conquer, the restoration comedy put on by Valdosta State University, since the 18th century is not known for its women’s movements. The title once more alluded to the fact that perhaps this was about a woman who was able to use all of her abilities to triumph over all. However, the production put an emphasis on its male leads and the ensemble’s physical comedy, which, while amusing, ultimately detracted from the sexual jokes that the female leads could have used to gain power.
The production Memigery by University of South Carolina Upstate was a piece with a strong sense of ensemble, yet if closely inspected, the three women in the eight-person cast had very different stories to tell. While the men in the cast told stories about times in their lives when they were scared or discovered something new, the thread in the women’s stories was the destruction of their confidence by men. The third woman did not even get to tell a story.
The saving graces and two best shows of the week so far have been the play Breath, Boom, produced by NC A&T State University and North Carolina Central University’s production of The Bluest Eye. Coincidentally, these shows were casts filled with unbelievably talented women that took amazing risks physically, vocally, and emotionally to tell the heart-wrenching stories that their scripts called for. Breath, Boom told the story of Prix and her difficult journey to get out of the female gangs. The Bluest Eye told the story of Pecola, a young girl driven to hate and feel shameful of her very being by the horrific events in her life. The women of these productions masterfully navigated their complex characters, proving that women are more than capable of handling an intricate piece of work and making it breath taking.
So here it goes. The F-word. Congratu-fucking-lations to the ladies in theatre and their beautiful work. May progress continue to be made in playwriting, acting, and all technical design elements in theatre because a woman should never be told she cannot do the hard work just because she lacks something between her legs. The extra space just means more room for her talent.