The relationship between women and the houses they inhabit has been repeatedly explored in literature and drama, where the house operates as a complex, often contradictory referent for women’s social position. The principal location of women’s lives through history, a house represents, on the one hand, a space of restrictions and limitation; and on the other, a creative domain. In drama, playwrights have used the setting of a house to inform conflicts surrounding women’s freedom, and have manipulated spatial dramaturgy to enrich these subjects. As ongoing experiments in the performance of gender, I am staging a series of workshops in the large mansion that houses the Women’s Studies and Gender Studies (WSGS) Program1 and the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership at my university. These include a workshop of Ibsen’s A Doll’s Housewith undergraduate student actors and a full production of Maria Irene Fornes’s Fefu and Her Friends, with faculty from several departments cast in the eight female roles. Both plays concern a house in relation to central female characters, and in both, this relationship is intricately connected to the play’s action and its significance. With these projects, I set out to explore the potential of staging in domestic architecture to amplify conflicts concerning women and houses in the plays. I have found, in fact, that staging in a house goes further, to reveal previously obscure dramaturgical aspects of the plays, the dynamics of which, in turn, suggest further explorations in feminist performance-based research, both academic and pedagogical. Potential extensions of these experiments include the use of live performance as a methodology for research on gender for disciplines beyond theatre, such as history and anthropology, and as means of pedagogical innovation and community-building across disciplines.
Shanahan, AM. "Playing House: Staging Experiments About Women in Domestic Space." Theatre Topics 23(2), 2013.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
© Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.