Women in theatre are always up or down, the virgin or the whore, over-run with emotions or a stone cold bitch. There is rarely a happy medium for women on the stage. But there is an in-between. There is a middle ground between being an extreme, and being a bore. Despite the fact that every woman knows that they as individuals are never ‘one or the other,' there is a near epidemic of this happening on stage. Women playwrights recognize this as a problem. Most are trying to fix this, some in an obvious way and others a little more subtly. The first step toward this is by writing more ‘genuine' female characters; genuine here meaning more dimensional, more complex, and more true-to-life representations of females.
With many women tackling this issue, educating their peers and taking a more fearless approach to writing, it would seem that the world would start to ‘get it.' Unfortunately, women playwrights are suffering from the same stereotypical treatment their characters are receiving. Therefore, the women that are appearing more and more on stage since the 1970s are on a quest. Sometimes it is background noise, and sometimes it is the main protagonist's battle. Either way, women characters have begun to struggle with identity openly and tirelessly because women around the world are doing the same thing. Although identity as a word is defined in a hard-fast rigid kind of way, identity as a cultural state of being is not so black and white.
[...] You can't be more or less a Virgin. It's different for men. There are no absolutes for guys. I have to earn the right to wear white when I walk down the aisle (The Mineola Twins, 113). Vogel speaks volumes in just that small bit of dialogue. She has set the play in the fifties, which provides a nice political background. During the late 1940s and early 1950s the government pushed people into a suburban lifestyle which forced women, among other things, back into the household as purely a housewife. [...]
[...] Many grapple with society's idea that women are born the way they are, and that from birth to death we are the same person. Men on the other hand, they create themselves and their circumstances. They are born a clean slate. Society takes this idea from the Bible of course, which faults women for bringing evil to men, as Eve brought the apple to Adam. But society is a purveyor of the extremes, so that while many women are portrayed as being born into their identity, not all are born evil. [...]
[...] Even more bizarre because it follows the graphic telling of a childbirth ritual that some ancient tribe follows which forces mothers to experience childbirth over and over again. It is as though the play is trying to warn society that thrusting the identity of motherhood upon unwilling women is harmful, and in some cases deadly. Motherhood carries many layers of identity for women, and one of them is fear. In an earlier scene, when Mia is telling the end of the childbirth story, Sandy interjects with: Sandy: (Whispering) You're afraid. [...]
[...] If you create it for yourself, then you have to go through the ugly and draining task of pealing the layers of society and culture back until you find what resonates with you. Without contest, men have an advantage over women in this realm. Although they are not immune to having ideals and assumptions forced into their being, ironically enough it is more acceptable if a man wants to shed these ideals and forge a new path. Becoming a man.' It is no wonder that while women playwrights are fighting battles about identity in real life, it starts to worm its way into their work, their themes, and more importantly, their characters. [...]
[...] Tina Howe says in an interview years and years, the only way I could have an identity was by making people laugh” (Interviews with Contemporary Women Playwrights, 226). She is referring to the pressures of growing up in a family of mostly males who were by society's standards highly intelligent and successful. It is hard to create an identity that is true to a female character onstage when the audience is coming in with so many preconceived notions about women in theatre. [...]
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