After play by Jera Ivanc
18 March 2022
What is feminism? What is a feminist text? What is a text? What are social, gender, theatre roles? What does it mean to be a woman, a feminist, a man? What is a feminist performance? What is a feminist revolution? What is the mobilising potential of theatre? What happens if we take gender quotas seriously? These are the questions I ask myself as I am writing scenes of my new play, featuring seven women trapped in a closed theatre – the roles and the actresses who created the roles before the closure. So, what happens when beautiful Vida, Helen of Troy, Pope Joan, the intersex athlete Stanisława Walasiewicz and the astrophysicist Vera Rubin, Marianne, the personification of liberty in Delacroix’s painting, and Dolores, the statue of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, step out of the dimmed stage of the closed theatre? Do they mourn, in a drunken fashion, their unborn, abandoned and murdered children like their predecessors in Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls? No. In their search of meaning, they conceive a feminist revolution.
If the maternal Dolores and the bare-chested Marianne are two sides of the same coin, of women in the male imaginary, Vera and Stana are two sides of human being, head and body; Joan, Vida and Helen are a striking but futile combination of the earlier dichotomies; the patriarchal restraint of their roles, especially the theatre and gender ones, is the tightest, so nothing they do or say has any effect, neither a word nor a bullet; as if nothing in theatre is real. Until, due to a disturbance in space-time caused by the scientific-athletic acceleration, they find their lines.
In response to her critics that she writes about men (despite her homosexuality), Marguerite Yourcenar’s said that only male characters allow her to investigate fundamental human dilemmas. Women do not speak man. This is why staging older texts quickly falls into the trap of self-fulfilling prophecy when reproducing conservative social stereotypes under the guise of new readings and progressive art, representing the world as it is (was), not as it should be. #girlsandmoregirls is an attempt of rebellion against traditionalism and anti-intellectualism, a kind of Aristophanic utopia that believes in non-violent change, including in theatre, because it believes in human beings. In women who, with their diverse experiences of sex and gender, cover all spheres of human activity, utter relevant and contemporary views of the world and their position in the world. Regardless of the gender quotas. Or precisely because of them.