International Women Stage Directors

International Women Stage Directors

Anne Fliotsos
Wendy Vierow
Foreword by Roberta Levitow
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 360
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    International Women Stage Directors
    Book Description:

    A fascinating study of women in the arts, International Women Stage Directors is a comprehensive examination of women directors in twenty-four diverse countries. Organized by country, chapters provide historical context and emphasize how social, political, religious, and economic factors have impacted women's rise in the theatre, particularly in terms of gender equity. Contributors tell the stories of their home country's pioneering women directors and profile the most influential women directors practicing today, examining their career paths, artistry, and major achievements. Contributors are Ileana Azor, Dalia Basiouny, Kate Bredeson, Miřenka Čechová, Marié-Heleen Coetzee, May Farnsworth, Anne Fliotsos, Laura Ginters, Iris Hsin-chun Tuan, Maria Ignatieva, Adam J. Ledger, Roberta Levitow, Jiangyue Li, Lliane Loots, Diana Manole, Karin Maresh, Gordon McCall, Erin B. Mee, Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer, Claire Pamment, Magda Romanska, Avra Sidiropoulou, Margaretta Swigert-Gacheru, Alessandra Vannucci, Wendy Vierow, Vessela S. Warner, and Brenda Werth.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09585-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Roberta Levitow

    In the 1970s, when I began directing plays in the United States, I was called a pioneer. Nina Vance catalyzed the regional theatre movement by founding Houston’s Alley Theatre in the late 1940s, and Zelda Fichlander founded Washington’s Arena Stage in 1950. But the doors that World War II had opened for women abruptly swung shut again in its aftermath. In the 1960s, the feminist movement inspired my generation to stake our claims for women’s voices in the theatre. We filled roles as playwrights and directors throughout the regional network and within the cultural capital of New York City. Today,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    Anne Fliotsos

    Although directors are the undisputed leaders of theatrical production, and women have been a part of that leadership, there is very little research and publication devoted to women as stage directors. After writing American Women Stage Directors of the Twentieth Century, we wondered how the stories and careers of American directors compared with those of other women directors around the globe. We were fascinated also to know how political and social contexts in various parts of the world have shaped the directing careers of those women. The result of our quest is International Women Stage Directors, a reference book targeted...

  6. Argentina
    (pp. 5-17)
    May Summer Farnsworth and Brenda Werth

    Women gained visibility as stage directors in Argentina during the 1980s and 1990s, in the aftermath of a repressive military dictatorship. Prior to that time, women’s participation in the theatre was mostly limited to acting, though a few pioneering women worked as stage directors as early as the 1920s. In the twenty-first century, Argentine women directors work in diverse theatrical arenas, from small experimental theatres to main-stage, big-budget productions. The national economic crisis of 2001 had widespread destabilizing effects on Argentina’s social, political, and cultural life. As a result, many contemporary Argentine artists, including some women directors, struggle to find...

  7. Australia
    (pp. 18-29)
    Laura Ginters

    Women performed in theatre in Australia from its earliest days as a penal colony in the late eighteenth century, and by the 1840s several were running their own companies and producing plays. Despite their early and continuing participation as actors, managers, directors, and playwrights, women remain underrepresented in Australian theatre. This is especially the case for women directors, and even more so in mainstream theatre.

    Feminism in Australia has largely followed the model of other western nations: a first wave of feminism in the late nineteenth century was mainly concerned with suffrage, and the vote was seen as symbolic of...

  8. Brazil
    (pp. 30-42)
    Alessandra Vannucci

    Women directors conquered Brazilian theatre starting in the 1980s, dealing with both cultural and logistical obstacles, such as the clearing of time for artistic activity from the day’s domestic work and earning a living wage. The rigid social morality, the reason for most women’s withdrawal from the arts during the twentieth century, persisted even after the end of the military dictatorship in 1985, yet in the twenty-first century the same driving force seems to heighten the creativity, charisma, and diversity that are characteristic of the women who stand out in the field of theatre direction. One common factor that seems...

  9. Bulgaria
    (pp. 43-55)
    Vessela S. Warner

    Bulgarian women made assertive steps in theatre directing after 1944, when the communist state granted free professional training in the performing arts, built and subsidized some thirty-five theatres, and provided equal-gender employment opportunities. Comprising a small number in the heavily politicized occupation of directing during the totalitarian period, women often persevered through professional and moral compromises. Since the collapse of Eastern European communism in 1990, Bulgarian women stage directors have fearlessly faced the challenges of an open-market economy and free competition. Although in the beginning of the twenty-first century they still represented a minority in the business, their achievements have...

  10. Canada
    (pp. 56-69)
    Gordon McCall

    As the second-largest landmass country in the world and defined as the largest country in the Western Hemisphere, Canada is a nation made up of ten provinces and three territories with a population of thirty-four million citizens. Spread across its vast expanse, Canada’s bilingual regional and independent theatre scene serves as a connective tissue of the nation’s social, cultural, and political identity.

    In addition to the formation of an ever-increasing number of English and French language theatre companies beginning in the 1970s, the national theatre scene experienced significant growth in the number of important women directors, such as Brigitte Haentjens,...

  11. China
    (pp. 70-82)
    Jiangyue Li

    Contemporary Chinese theatre has become increasingly dynamic because of the growing role of women directors. Women stage directors in China are contributing to the intercultural global context by integrating modern, postmodern, and traditional forms of theatre while exploring gender politics. Although women directors emerged in the late 1500s, it was not until the 1900s that they made significant inroads in Chinese theatre, particularly with modernist and feminist productions.

    Opportunities for women in China surpass those of women who live in many other countries (LaFleur 166). Most women work outside their homes and have equal employment rights with men. These working...

  12. Cuba
    (pp. 83-94)
    Ileana Azor

    Women Cuban theatre directors presented their first scenic works at the turn of the 1940s. Without a doubt, the long road traveled from then has been more than successful. These women, most of them actors in their origins, have combined personal poetics with the most artistic influences from Europe, the United States, and Latin America.

    Since the mid-nineteenth century, Cuban women have been part of the feminist movement. According to historian Julio César González Pagés, there are four periods of the women’s movement, from the beginning of their struggles in 1880 until they won the right to vote in 1934....

  13. Czech Republic
    (pp. 95-108)
    Miřenka Čechová

    The oldest record of women’s participation in cultural events in the Czech region comes from the twelfth century, when Czech language was added to Latin plays or performed by conjurers during “profane” festivities. Although the oldest Czech-language drama dates from the fourteenth century, the first plays and performances in modern Czech emerged in the final third of the eighteenth century, when the Czech National Revival raised cultural awareness and helped to solidify the national identity. As a result, the Czech language was restored as the official language of the Czech people, and this led to the founding of the first...

  14. Egypt
    (pp. 109-121)
    Dalia Basiouny

    The first Egyptian woman to direct for the stage was Fatma Roushdy in 1930. Though her seven plays as a director were successful, the work of this actor-turned-director did not encourage many women to follow in her footsteps. The directorial efforts of women in the theatre were sporadic throughout most of the twentieth century, and, with a few exceptions, they did not reflect a clear vision or commitment to the craft until the rise of contemporary Egyptian women directors in the last decade of the century. In the 1990s a few women artists started carving names for themselves in the...

  15. France
    (pp. 122-135)
    Kate Bredeson

    There is no correct way to refer to a woman who practices stage directing in France. All French nouns are gendered, and the term for director (le metteur en scène) is masculine. Some women stage directors go by metteur en scène femme or femme metteur en scène (basically, “director woman” or “woman director”); others call themselves metteuse en scène or metteure en scène, adding a feminine ending to the masculine term. As Marie-Josée Brakha points out, this terminology is unsettling. Using only the masculine form of the word, she argues, “[I]t allows us once again to deny women their place...

  16. Germany
    (pp. 136-147)
    Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer

    The history of women in German theatre is necessarily linked to the developments in arts and politics as well as the shifting nature of what has been perceived as Germany or Deutschland over the course of the last millennium. Within this unstable cultural and political conglomeration, the first two women to make names for themselves were Hrosvitha von Gandersheim (ca. 935–ca. 1002) and Hildegard von Bingen (ca. 1098–1179), recognized as the earliest women playwrights in Central Europe. Among professional practitioners, Friederike Caroline Neuber (1697–1760) takes a prominent position as impresario of her own troupe and radical reformer...

  17. Great Britain
    (pp. 148-160)
    Adam J. Ledger

    Great Britain is a country with a long history of both theatre and the women’s movement. However, in a 2007 newspaper article Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of London’s National Theatre (NT), claims that some male theatre critics simply cannot ignore the gender of women directors. Hytner claims that the critics write “misogynistic” reviews and are especially unfair to gay women directors (Hoyle). The critics refute this, but, as this chapter reports, the number of women directors remains disproportionally low in comparison to men. Yet women are beginning to occupy significant roles: one example is the director Jude Kelly, formerly the...

  18. Greece
    (pp. 161-173)
    Avra Sidiropoulou

    Feminist theatre or “women’s theatre” as such is not a Greek phenomenon. Albeit a European Union member state since 1980, due to its very unusual social and political circumstances, Greece has never experienced the activism of the booming feminist movements in the United States or countries like England, France, and Germany. Nevertheless, women’s artistic activity in the country has been rising steadily; in the theatre women have occupied positions of power as producers or artistic directors of established institutions while stabilizing their status as artistic equals to men. In particular, despite the fact that the directing profession has been male-dominated...

  19. India
    (pp. 174-186)
    Erin B. Mee

    In India, while there are professional and commercial theatres and companies in most cities, the majority of urban theatre is best described as amateur theatre in the economic sense with professional standards of performance and production, mounted in rented theatre halls by companies composed of theatre experts and enthusiasts who have other jobs to support them.¹ Most of these companies are run by a director-producer, actor-director-producer, or playwright-director-producer; only very rarely are freelance directors hired. In India, then, women directors run their own companies and produce their own work by necessity.

    Since the 1990s there have been an increasing number...

  20. Ireland
    (pp. 187-197)
    Karin Maresh

    Women have been directing for the stage in Ireland since the early twentieth century. They have found work and achieved critical and popular success in spite of the sometimes-volatile political situation and the conservative religious and social forces that have historically limited women’s rights in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    Although some in Ireland began to talk of a need for more equality between men and women by the early 1800s, no actual organized women’s movement existed until the 1870s. The establishment of groups such as the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association coincided with a...

  21. Kenya
    (pp. 198-210)
    Margaretta Swigert-Gacheru

    It has only been since the 1990s that the directorial dynamism of Kenyan women like Mumbi Kaigwa, Mkawasi Mcharo Hall, and Caroline Odongo has been brought to light on the Kenyan stage. Before that, there were a rare few pioneering African women directors working from the 1970s—Janet Young from Gambia in West Africa and Mumbi wa Maina from the African Diaspora—who set high directorial standards for those who would follow. But it wasn’t until after the 1985 United Nations International Women’s Conference was held in Nairobi that Kenyan women began to come forward and seize the directorial baton....

  22. Mexico
    (pp. 211-222)
    Ileana Azor

    In Mexico, the history of theatre directing by women is a relatively recent phenomenon. Nonetheless, the work of women directors in the last half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first exhibits the quality and diversity of their work throughout the country and, in many cases, internationally.

    Women directors have founded and directed independent theatre companies, and they have also engaged in the commercial sphere as well as in dramaturgy and acting. However, the most significant aspect about these artists is that their approaches vary widely, both in terms of style and themes, forming a rich and creative landscape....

  23. Pakistan
    (pp. 223-236)
    Claire Pamment

    Women stage directors in postcolonial Pakistan (1947– ) have played active roles in college and amateur theatre circuits, which have provided important avenues for experimentation in the absence of theatre training academies and university courses. Ironically, it was in the late 1970s, when new discriminatory laws against women were enforced, that women directors began to come into the spotlight. Some women actors took up direction in the emerging popular comedy theatre. Others, in reaction to the new laws, created a political theatre. As such, women directors in Pakistan reflect an exciting diversity of approaches in challenging both theatrical innovation and...

  24. Poland
    (pp. 237-250)
    Magda Romanska

    The issues facing women directors in Poland were always connected to the history of Poland’s liberatory struggle—first, under partitions, then, under Nazi and Soviet occupations. Although historically Polish theatre has gained worldwide renown predominantly thanks to its male directors such as Tadeusz Kantor and Jerzy Grotowski, Poland today has a thriving and influential cadre of young women directors, who have gained renown and respect in Poland and abroad.

    In 1772 Poland was partitioned by the Russian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, and Habsburg Austria, which divided the Polish Commonwealth among themselves. In 1795 after two more partitions, Poland ceased to...

  25. Romania
    (pp. 251-263)
    Diana Manole

    Women started directing professionally in Romania only at the end of the Second World War, and their number increased very slowly. During the communist dictatorship, from 1947 to 1989, very few women were accepted into the country’s only bachelor of arts program in stage directing and even fewer worked after graduation. After the fall of communism in 1989, Romanian mainstream theatre remained male-dominated, although more women pursued professional directing, working for state-and city-subsidized repertory theatres but often founding small, private companies and/or freelancing in Romania and abroad.

    For centuries, Romanian women were traditionally destined to be wives and mothers, while...

  26. Russia
    (pp. 264-276)
    Maria Ignatieva

    Since the emergence of the directing profession in Russia, and under the great influence of the first directors of the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) such as Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, the director was viewed by actors and society in general as the most powerful individual in the theatre and in the company—the guide who shared a great vision with a team of followers. Although there were several women directors in the thirties and forties, until after the death of Stalin in 1953 the profession in general was not associated with women. This prejudice is deeply rooted in the...

  27. South Africa
    (pp. 277-290)
    Marié-Heleen Coetzee and Lliane Loots

    Judge Albie Sachs’s words allow us to step into the minefield that is gender in South Africa. When looking at how women theatre directors have shaped and continue to shape a theatrical landscape, it becomes imperative to understand gender as one of the most invidious domains of oppression within a South African context. Often, when we imagine the landscape of South Africa’s history, the political understanding is overwhelmingly one of race and the apartheid legacy; however, Sachs offers a reminder that all power struggles are interconnected and gender remains the most prevailing.

    Narrating a history of women theatre directors in...

  28. Taiwan
    (pp. 291-302)
    Iris Hsin-chun Tuan

    Women started directing theatre in Taiwan in the 1980s. Although women directors are accepted in the social environment in Taiwan—which emphasizes equal opportunities for everybody—in practice, men have the advantage of being hired for big-budget, commercial productions and for getting government funding for large exhibition performances.

    The history of women’s rights in Taiwan is inextricably linked to its history and governance. At the end of the nineteenth century, Taiwan was given to Japan by the Ching (Qing) Dynasty in China after China’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of Imperialism. After being colonized by Japan from 1895 to 1945,...

  29. United States of America
    (pp. 303-316)
    Anne Fliotsos and Wendy Vierow

    Women have been directing professionally in the United States for more than a century, though making a living as a professional director has remained a challenge for most. When Julie Taymor and Ireland’s Garry Hynes swept Broadway’s Tony Awards for direction in 1998, it signaled a new era, for no woman director had ever won a Tony Award in directing up to that point.¹ Although hundreds of women direct professionally in American theatre in the twenty-first century, the majority are at small-to medium-sized theatres; very few earn the large salaries and prestige that Broadway theatre can secure. However, not all...

  30. Contributors
    (pp. 317-320)
  31. Index
    (pp. 321-327)
  32. Back Matter
    (pp. 328-330)