Cambria Press Publication Review: Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s)

Congratulations to Professor Lynne Greeley (University of Vermont) on the outstanding review of her book Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s) in the journal Women’s History Review.

women-in-theatre

The book review praises Fearless Femininity because:

Greeley has assembled a very large ‘cast’ of female artists: their ranks include the ‘first feminists’ (p. 215) Megan Terry and Bobbi Ausubel; Martha Boesing, cofounder of the feminist Minneapolis theatre company, At the Foot of the Mountain; Spiderwoman Theater, the Indigenous all-female (and all family) company; and commercially successful representatives of ‘third-wave’ feminism, such as playwrights Eve Ensler, Rivka Solomon, and Sarah Ruhl. Greeley also discusses the work of playwrights and performers who challenge not just the masculinity of American theatre but confront its whiteness and hetero-normativity: Latina playwright Caridad Svich; African American playwright Lynn Nottage; and artists Adelina Anthony, Young Jean Lee, and Najla Said, who (respectively) work from the perspectives of Ch/Xicana, queer, Asian American,and Arab/Palestinian American theatre and performance. Greeley brings to her research a deep-rooted knowledge of both American theatre history and feminist work’s place within it. Throughout the book she stresses women’s choices, their agency and activism, in crafting female or female-identified characters, ones made in the face of an art form and profession that has historically been dominated by men.

The journal review further recommends the book because “students of American theatre history, American women’s and gender history, and the histories of American feminism will have much to learn from Greeley’s own fearless approach to her subject.”

Fearless Femininity is part of the Cambria Contemporary Global Performing Arts Series headed by Professor John Clum (Duke University).

Order this book on Amazon.

  • Hardcover: 588 pages
  • Publisher: Cambria Press (February 6, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160497883X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604978834

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Interview with Lynne Greeley on Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s)

Cambria Press Author publication theatre women's studies
Cambria Press Interview with Lynne Greeley on her book Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s)

The following is an interview with Dr. Lynne Greeley on her book, Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s), which is currently on display at the ATHE conference in Montreal. You can also browse the book here.

Q: What led you to write this book?

I decided to write Fearless Femininity by Women in America Theatre 1910s-2010s because feminists, for the most part, in the United States have historically rejected the conventions of femininity. My position in the study is to reclaim the idea of femininity from its negative stereotypes and proclaim its importance to feminism by demonstrating how artists in theatre have used it for over one hundred years as a dramaturgical tool to empower women both onstage and off. Seeking a feminist femininity in plays and performances by American women, I demonstrate how artists in theatre have proved that the performance of the feminine no longer belongs to a mystic created by men but to the women who choose to be, to do and to sell as they please. In so doing, I also show the development and change of feminism itself as through time the representations of women on the stage have come closer to the lives of real women.

Q: What do you hope your readers take away from your book?

I hope readers will be inspired by the choices the writers and performers have created for their characters. The book shows what happens when women writers create female leads that claim their agency and act. None of the characters written by any of the included playwrights is passive, even though the world inside the play is often hostile, and not all the characters succeed as they seek self-fulfillment or the realization of an ideal. Happy endings are not a motif. However, all the plays and performance texts are political—indisputably political—thereby asserting not only the power of theatrical performance to inspire social change but the efficacy of art’s influence over life. My hope is that readers, like the audiences attending productions of the plays, will move forward with new visions of what the world can be and who they are in it. In addition, their sense of the importance of women in American theatre will be expanded with their view of a century of intelligent, experimental, fearless, and highly theatrical artists at work.

Q: What other research do you believe is needed on this topic?

Very little work has been done on the workings of femininity as a dramaturgical tool. Both recovering femininity and the women who use it for empowerment is a new direction for critical analysis. Furthermore, the ongoing study of gender and power in theatre is crucial for bringing balance to an art form still very much dominated by men with many female artists yet undiscovered or unrecognized. In addition, as the plot of the book moves from the push of the first wave of feminism for the vote alongside the African American protest of lynching, to the second wave’s demand for social and economic equality, to the third wave’s expectation that all voices have a right to be heard, women’s issues are again taking center stage. With mainstream playwrights such as Lynn Nottage, Caridad Svich, Sarah Ruhl, and Eve Ensler achieving acclaim in what has been called a new renaissance of women playwrights, the possibilities remain endless for researchers to discover other female and female-identified artists in regional, local, alternative, or educational theatres who are changing lives through performance.

This book is part of the Cambria Contemporary Global Performing Arts, headed by John Clum (Duke University).

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Cambria Press New Book! Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s) by Lynne Greeley

Women Theatre
Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s) by Lynne Greeley is now available!

Excerpts from Fearless Femininity by Women in American Theatre (1910s to 2010s) by Lynne Greeley; this book is in the Cambria Contemporary Global Performing Arts by John Clum (Duke University):

On the performance of the feminine no longer belonging to men:
“From the beginning of the twentieth century, when women were claiming the right to be in a public space while keeping their private reputations intact, to the beginning of the twenty-first century, when female artists claim and display their own bodies by choice, artists in American theatre have proved that the performance of the feminine no longer belongs to a mystique created by men but to the women who choose to be and do and sell as they please.”

On the idea of femininity:
“Whether contemporary females, transgender, or queer people love, hate, or are indifferent to the idea of femininity, their cultural conditioning creates personal responses to it that are rarely neutral. What is new about this writing is the demonstration of the intimate relationship between femininity and feminism, a combination that has created a century of powerful—and not always feminine—feminists.”

Browse the book by clicking here. Order by April 30 and take 35% off the hardcover list price–use coupon code CAMBRIA188 at www.cambriapress.com).

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