This post is part of a series for our Her Side of the Story encounter, May 13-14 2016 located at the National Theatre School of Canada. We invited theatre artists from across Canada to reflect on how their work in theatre is influenced by their perspective as women. Are they conscious of promoting a “feminine perspective” or is it something that is intuitive? Imago Theatre would like to thank all of the artists who responded to our questions for their thoughtful, insightful responses. We will be sharing these responses on our blog for the first two weeks of May. We will also be creating a publication of selected quotes, which will be available for free at the Her Side of the Story readings, long-table discussion, and cabaret.
What does the feminine perspective mean to you?
When I was in my twenties, I had a close female friend who acted in contemporary mainstream plays. I noticed that she usually played the part of the nice girlfriend of the male lead who was having troubles. My friend had dreamed of playing the big dramatic roles that she had studied in theatre school but the reality of the situation was that those roles didn’t seem to exist in contemporary plays. I decided that I would write a play for my friend. That is how I started writing plays with strong women as the protagonists.
I was mistaken in thinking that there were no good roles for women at that time. Toronto had brilliant female playwrights like Carol Bolt who were writing very exciting roles for women. I had just moved to Toronto from Vancouver so I wasn’t familiar with the Toronto theatre scene.
To me, in theatre, a feminine perspective should be no different from a masculine perspective. Drama is about conflict. The main character is supposed to be in conflict with other characters or outside forces and if it’s a comedy- s/he wins and if it’s a tragedy- s/he loses. But if your protagonist is a woman and she loses, then she’s not viewed as a tragic hero but as a victim. Why is that? I think it’s more about our social responses to the play than the play itself.
RE: Feminine and Masculine perspectives on stage
Many of our perceptions of plays are based on the cultural mores of the time in which we see them. I had never liked Ibsen’s play, “A Doll’s House.” I had seen several productions and I thought of Nora as a weak, simpering, scheming woman and her husband, Torvald, as a pompous bore. I saw a production in Vancouver last year that completely changed my views of the play. (Slamming Door Artists Collective- directed by Tamara McCarthy) It emphasized the sexuality of the marriage and the play took on new dimensions that were never apparent to me, before. Theatre is a miracle in that you can revisit an old story and discover new truths, whereas, in film, the story is trapped in the attitudes of its time period.
What stories need the most telling?
I used to want to write about strong extraordinary women because I didn’t think there were enough stories written about them. Now I find that I look for stories that interest me. It no longer matters whether the protagonist is male or female.