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Codifying the National Self

Spectators, Actors and the American Dramatic Text


Edited By Barbara Ozieblo and María Dolores Narbona-Carrión

Theater has always been the site of visionary hopes for a reformed national future and a space for propagating ideas, both cultural and political, and such a conceptualization of the histrionic art is all the more valuable in the post-9/11 era. The essays in this volume address the concept of «Americanness» and the perceptions of the «alien» – as ethnic, class or gendered minorities – as dealt with in the work of American playwrights from Anna Cora Mowatt, through Rachel Crothers or Susan Glaspell, and on to Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Nilo Cruz or Wallace Shawn. The authors of the essays come from a multi-national university background that includes the United States, the United Arab Emirates and various countries of the European Community. In recognition of the multiple components of drama, the essays for the volume were selected in order to exemplify different aspects and theories of theater studies: the playwright, the play, the audience and the actor are all examined as part of the theatrical experience that serves to formulate American national identity.


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Feminist Revisions of Classic Texts on the American Stage 87


Feminist Revisions of Classic Texts on the American Stage Sharon FRIEDMAN New York University Revisioning the classics, often in a subversive mode, has evolved in- to its own theatrical genre in recent years, and many of these produc- tions have been informed by feminist theory and practice. The avant- garde feminist theater has become a site for imaginative re-interpre- tations of myth, classical and modern drama, as well as the novel. As feminist critics began to use historicist, psychoanalytic, and deconstruc- tive approaches to probe constructions of gender absorbed and inter- preted by dramatic works, playwrights and directors – working in this cultural milieu – have experimented with form and language to subvert representations of gender ideology woven into canonical texts, estab- lished genres, and theater practices. These productions transcend repro- duction and adaptation to become theatrical dialogues with their source texts. The aim is to “invoke that work and yet be different from it” (Fischlin and Fortier 4). Feminist re-visionary theater emerges from the intersection of avant- garde performance and the tradition of literary and dramatic adaptations of the classics. Aesthetically, it engages various approaches to intertex- tuality – ways in which texts and performances echo or are linked to earlier renditions, whether by allusion, by assimilation of formal and thematic features, or by divergence from the classic story. Playwrights and directors continue to employ a range of strategies associated with modernist theatrical adaptation: transposing historical or geographical setting and using the skeletal plot to comment on contemporary experi- ence; or creating...

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