Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Feminism and Homosexuality in Theater Essay Example for Free
Feminism and Homosexuality in field of operation EssayFeminism in theater has a very close relationship with the depiction of homosexualism onstage. Playwrights and performance subterfugeists who advocate feminism have seen theater as a puissant alikel to set most(predicate) the public understand their watch overs. The work of artificeists such as Lillian Hellman, Holly Hughes, and Anna Deavere Smith shape the discussion of feminism and quirkiness in the theater. Lillian Hellman was a butterflywright whos known for commands that discussed the psychological and social manifestations of evil.Her work was revolutionary because she created absolute female characters at a time when men ruled American theater. On the keep down of queerness, Hellmans most relevant work was The Childrens instant (Champion and Nelson 156). While The Childrens Hour sends a powerful message on the topic of homosexuality, Hellman herself wasnt a homosexual and her work may have reflected he r bearing toward the subject. Hellman described the play to a reporter as not sincerely a play to the highest degree lesbianism, but a perch (Griffin and Thorsten 27). According to Hellman, the bigger the lie, the better it gets.The Childrens Hour, which opened on Broadway on November 20, 1934, calico a grim but clear depiction of Hellmans view. The Childrens Hour is about the lives of twain young women who opened a groom for girls. Eventually, their lives are gradually ruined when one of the students accuses them of lesbianism. The characters of Martha Dobie and Karen Wright were realistically rendered by Hellman, resulting in a Broadway hit that would have 691 performances. This was a milestone of an achievement since America at the time was very conservative and homosexuality was a tabu subject (Griffin and Thorsten 27).Homosexuality was so taboo a subject in the Western world that the play was banned in Chicago, Boston, and London. While the play earned critical success in France and New York, it wasnt awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1935 because the subject matter was still thought to be too sensitive at the time. Critics from New York however, protested the refusal of conservative bodies in the theater industry by forming the Drama Critics Circle. The organization has since and then presented its own awards for plays they thought were relevant to art and nine (Griffin and Thorsten 27).Hellmans guardedness toward the free of homosexuality is reflected on the plays morality, which though clearly polemic and shocking at the time, was nevertheless morally acceptable to the majority of audiences. unmatchable glaring example of this is the accompaniment that in the play, the accusation that Martha Dobie and Karen Wright were engaged in a lesbian relationship was simply a lie. An prototypical malicious teenager named Mary Tilford who studied in the school for girls fabricated the story. In fact, Karen was engaged to Dr.Joe Cardin, whom sh e really loved. Martha may have really been a lesbian in the story, but fearing for her sexuality, she committed suicide aft(prenominal) revealing her thoughts and feelings to Karen (Griffin and Thorsten 28). Despite her sensational plays often associated with left-wing politics and feminism, Hellman considered herself largely a moral writer. The getting even of homosexuality was primarily just a tool in the story to illustrate Hellmans view that good tribe sometimes bring about harm because of their unwillingness to challenge evil.Karen was clearly painted in the play as a heterosexual and Martha seemed to have paid for her crime (homosexuality) with her life. Aside from reaffirming the norms of American society at the time, the play alike apparently satisfied the morality of the conservative audience (Griffin and Thorsten 28). The Childrens Hour may have shied away from directly defending homosexuality, but it nevertheless showed the gradual opening of society to the broader roles of women. Martha and Karen were women who earned their own money, thus sending a message that they were independent and had some sort out of power to satisfy their desires.These female characters were different from another of Hellmans characters named Regina in The Little Foxes. While Regina depended on others money and the things she got from her manipulation of men, Martha and Karen had the education and administrative skills which led to the success of the all girls school they founded. Joe, Karens partner, also symbolized the growing number of egalitarian men at the time. He was very supportive of his partners wish to continue her career after their marriage and he also respected her dedication to the school she co-founded.He even defended Karen and Martha to his aunt after Marys mother convinced other parents to civilise their children out of the school because of the lesbianism charge (Griffin and Thorsten 28). In effect, art object the play was hesitant to probe t he reality of homosexuality much deeply, it did affirm in the audiences mind the expanding role and power of women in society. Hellman force have been too guarded about lesbianism, but performance artist Holly Hughes was definitely vocal about her views about homosexuality and homosexual relationships.Hughes was an openly homosexual performance artist and writer of various plays and books that amount on the topic of homosexuality. Her work has both been debated and celebrated by artists and intellectuals. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) refused to investment firm Hughes work in the summer of 1990 because of its sensitive subject matter, which resulted in a fierce debate and dissension in the world of performance art. One of Hughes most disputable pieces is a play entitled rise up of pepperiness. Lynda Hart, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote that the Well of Horniness is both transgressive and aggressive because it dismantles th e audiences preconceived notions about lesbian homosexuality. The play is loosely based on a classic clean about lesbian homosexuality written by Radclyffe Hall. Hughes play became very successful and eventually invigorate two sequels Part II Victim Victoria and Part III In the Realm of the senseless (Hart and Phelan 60-61). The play is mostly representational, with the plot repeatedly interrupted by mock commercials and commentaries (Hart and Phelan 60-61). The memorable characters of Well of Horniness include Georgette, Rod, and Vicki. Georgette is Rods sister and Vicki is Rods fiancee. Vicki and Georgette are members of a sorority called Tridelta Tribads. Georgette meets Rod and Vicki at a restaurant, and Georgette soon recognizes Vicki as someone she knows from her past sorority. Vicki instantly desires Georgette and stares at her longingly.While dining at the restaurant, Vicki drops her fork underneath the table. As she goes down to pick it up, shes drawn instead to Georgette s legs, which Hughes writes, were two succulent rainbows leading to the same pot of gold (Hart and Phelan 61-62). The aggressive affirmation of homosexual reality disguise in comedy is performed in the play as Vicki continues to give Georgette cunnilingus while Rod delivers a monologue on honeymoon getaways. In productions of the play at East Village, Manhattan, this scene is performed explicitly with Georgette in a comedic manner to Vicki underneath the table.Vicki then gets up and says shes feeling a little too hot and goes to the bathroom (Hart and Phelan 62). Rod tells Georgette that he senses something fishy but he cant ready his finger on it (Hart and Phelan 62). Georgette then replies, Im working on it. The comedic conversation happens in the background of a play that is filled with references to fish, eager beavers, muff-divers, and other terms associated with lesbianism (Hart and Phelan 62). In contrast to The Childrens Hour, Well of Horniness certainly drives home its message on homosexuality in a more direct, striking manner.Hughes play doesnt hide behind other issues or concerns such as the lie or evil in Hellmans play, and instead hits audiences with the reality of homosexuality right away. It is this controversial disposition of Hughes work that has made her notorious for conservative critics and even lesbians and other homosexuals who review her work. Hart though, thinks that Hughes play efficaciously challenges heterosexual hegemony. Its borderline messages and controversial nature opens up a hopeful new space of visibleness for feminism and its supporters (Hart and Phelan 62).The popular scene from Well of Horniness is even more notable because it shatters lesbian stereotypes. Lesbians at the time were thought of as homosexuals who generally assumed male identities. Vicki though, was already engaged to Rod and even so still desired other women. Vickis performance of oral sex for Georgette in close law of proximity to her fiance destr oys any notions the audiences might have regarding lesbianism and the sexuality of women. Since the play is representational, Rods character in general stands for heterosexual hegemony, which explains why the character is named Rod to refer to male phallic symbol.Hughes shows that homosexual realities are chance throughout society despite the blind functioning of heterosexual institutions, such as marriage, as the play points out. Unlike Hellman, Hughes seems more concerned with homosexuality than feminism, although the sanction of women might also be addressed by her aggressive plays. Through the clear depiction of women as freely desiring beings, Hughes is able to free women from societal stereotypes. Women isnt a year of human beings who can only desire men.Instead, its a fuzzy category that mostly refers to female human beings who may desire any sex and express that desire in different ways. Overarching Hellman and Hughes work may be the amazing work of Anna Deavere Smith, p erformance artist, playwright, writer, and professor. Smith has received numerous awards and is widely known for her performances which have her assuming the identities of more than twenty people. Smith employs few props, such as chairs and tables to differentiate identities in her performances. All the identities she plays are real people who are interviewed beforehand about a social issue.The result of her lengthy monologues is a stunning commentary on the differences that fracture a community. One of Smiths most popular acts is called On the Road, which she has been performing since 1982. In one of her performances, Smith interviewed 25 men and women from Princeton University on subjects such as the universitys eating clubs which are exclusive to men, assault against women, and the designate of black students among others. The fifty-minute dialogue that results from this research entertains and delights audiences at the same time.Smith usually invites her subjects to attend he r performances and their reaction is usually positive. Many of them even laugh out loud when they recognize their own selves in the numerous identities performed. close to of them though, get unsettled when they see their views juxtaposed with others from the community (Hart and Phelan 35). This unsettling of the self may be one of the important goals of Smith in structuring her acts through such a unique manner. According to Smith, her goal is to find American character in the ways that people speak (Cohen-Cruz 148). She said that the spirit, imagination, and the challenges of the time can then be captured by inhabiting the words of the people in the community. Unlike other actors who try to project realistic characters on the stage, Smiths emphasis is more on the filtering of the self through a single actor. She doesnt assume that she has all the experiences of her subjects, but that she can learn many things from these experiences (Cohen-Cruz 148). Feminism has been one of the subjects of Smiths performances for a very long time.In one Princeton performance entitled Gender Bending, Smith reminisced how women from septet Sisters colleges had been imported to Princeton throughout history to provide weekend entertainment for members of fraternities. Feminist definitions of the body, the AIDS crisis, and modern literary representations of homosexuality are also discussed in the show. Smith tackled all these issues by impersonating the subjects she interviewed and playing them onstage (Hart and Phelan 37). In a way, Smiths work is closer to reality than both Hellman and Hughes work because it merely projects the phonate of real people onstage.What makes Smiths performance more striking though than a unsubdivided video recording of interviews is that only one face speaks for all of the subjects. Through this technique, Smith is able to dep allowe the adjacent symbols of color, gender, and other characteristics of her subjects. Without the physical character istics that differentiate one subject from another, audiences are forced to consider all(prenominal) subjects view as a part of a unity that is the community. Stereotypes are then magnified as audiences realize that differences are oftentimes imaginary and unjust.Instead of masking the call for the empowerment of women through discussions about evil such as what Hellman did, or aggressively attacking the audience with controversial representations of lesbians such as what Hughes demonstrated, Smith is able to give voice to real women by simply lay their views side by side with others from the community. Smith puts real context in her performances, which makes the issue more immediate to viewers. Her acts send the message that gender discrimination is really happening right now and many people are unconsciously participating in it.They call for an immediate response to pressing social issues while entertaining audiences at the same time. For ordinary citizens, norms in society are always difficult to challenge, let alone break. Revolutionary works by Hellman, Hughes, and Smith are very valuable in that they overhaul people to cross the bridge, so they can see the other side. While some audiences may loathe the oftentimes crude and vulgar images in their work, their act of watching alone is enough to gradually gimmick the norms of society. Norms always have to be challenged so that societys morality and humanity doesnt go on oppressively stagnant.Once taboo subjects are discussed, they cease to haunt the people concerned and become an issue for everyone. As modernity pushes people to think more about the effects of gender on society and the self, feminism and homosexuality will continue to be relevant topics in theater and other forms of art in the future. Hellman, Hughes, and Smiths work will also continue to shape the discussions on these topics. These lead brilliant writers represent different sides of the spectrum and their work should be read by anyon e interested in exploring the relationship between feminism, homosexuality and theater arts.Works Cited Champion, Laurie and Emmanuel Sampath Nelson. American Women Writers, 1900-1945 a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. Cohen-Cruz, Jan. Local Acts Community-based carrying into action in the United States. New Brunswick Rutgers University Press, 2005. Griffin, Alice and Geraldine Thorsten. Understanding Lillian Herman. Columbia University of South Carolina Press, 1999. Hart, Lynda and Peggy Phelan. Acting Out Feminist Performances. Ann spike University of Michigan Press, 1999.