Free falling bird : an encounter with the Trojan women of Euripides.

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The focus of this research relates to finding praxis for making theatre within a contemporary feminist framework with specific emphasis on writing for the theatre. It explores ways of opening up the possibility of feminist conversations beginning with the written text and how playwriting may problematise the representations of women on stage. This essay is a supporting document to my script, Free Falling Bird, as well as a supplement to the full production of the script in partial fulfillment of my MA degree in Theatre and Performance with a focus on playwriting. Firstly, I will establish a context by tracing the history and evolution of feminist performance practice, focusing especially on process, form and purpose, and introduce Sue-Ellen Case’s notion of contiguity as well as recent developments in post-feminism from theorists Elizabeth Wright and Elin Diamond. I will use the work of Roland Barthes, Richard Schechner, Hans-Thiess Lehmann and Catherine Bouko to trace parallel developments in the field of post dramatic theatre, especially with regards to the ‘death of the author’ and the decentralisation of the playwright as the maker of meaning. Finally, I will introduce Simone Benmussa and Helene Cixous’ term ‘spheres of disturbance’, as adopted by Elaine Aston, to propose how feminist playwriting may offer an intervention which disturbs the representations of women on stage. Secondly, I explore a practical model for creating and staging theatre which is located in the ‘sphere of disturbance’. Using a scheme proposed by Aston, I will offer an analysis of my own text and look at Diamond’s writing on narrative interventions in order to offer ways that the feminist text may be ‘ activated’ in performance. Finally, I return to the post dramatic, focusing on Hans-Thiess Lehmann’s notion of independent auditory semiotics, Liz Mills’ writing on acoustic spaces and Bouko’s ideas around the jazz body of the performer to investigate how the silenced female can articulate, speak and sound herself. I will lastly discuss how the combination of theory and practice articulated in this essay will feed into my own process as I work towards staging work which embodies and gives voice to the female experience.

Includes bibliographical references.