Should theatres put on seasons of work grouped together on the basis that all the plays were written by women? This is the question addressed by the Guardian’s theatre blog.
It’s a variation on an old quandary (do bookshelves dedicated to the work of women or black writers bolster their presence in the bookshop or consign them to a ghetto?) But this time, the Guardian was prompted to consider it because of a “female-themed season” at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond.
Ultimately, blogger Natasha Tripney came to the conclusion that the idea was justified. It’s particularly interesting that season of “new, overlooked and forgotten work by female dramatists from 1800 to 2007” seems to have turned into a season of feminist plays. Of the first play in the season, The Years Between, by Daphne du Maurier, Tripney says:
It highlights the restricted lives of women at the time and the repercussions for those who tried to fight against these limitations.
Then, trying to answer the question of whether a season of plays by women is necessary, she elaborates:
I don’t recall seeing much on stage of late that examines the subtle balance of power between women and men, particularly within the context of marriage, in such forensic detail…
At first I wondered whether it was even necessary to designate a group of plays that happen to be written by women as a themed season, but then I thought more about the work itself and the power these plays still exerted. They still spoke to me in a very particular fashion, in a way that left me questioning whether there is a need for more contemporary drama that deals explicitly, as these plays do, with the changing role of women in society. Or have we gone beyond that now? Is the “woman question” still one worth asking on stage?
The question that needs askis is not: do we need seasons of plays by women? It is: do we need seasons of plays by feminists?