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Open Access Publications from the University of California

No Longer A Boys Club: Developing a Feminist Directorial Approach for The Drowning Girls

  • Author(s): Ganem, Claire
  • Advisor(s): Ginther, Amy
  • et al.

The art form of directing has been primarily male-dominated since its formation in the late nineteenth century. Due to the rise of naturalism in the theatre, part of a director’s job is determining “truthful” behavior on the stage. In many ways, this job is representative of a patriarchal “regime of truth” proposed by the social theorist, Foucault, who argues that power lies in the hegemonies that decide the subjective truths of our society. Foucault adds that power shows itself through disciplinary actions. These disciplinary actions are present in the theatre, as many directors use their power to punish, manipulate, or objectify actors to achieve a “truth” on stage that lines up with that director’s preconceived notions of social conventions and gender.

In this paper, I argue that a feminist-based directing process should be used to prevent dangerous disciplinary actions towards actors. I then develop my own type of feminist-based rehearsal process for a production of The Drowning Girls by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson, and Daniela Vlaskalic that took place at the University of California Santa Cruz in February 2018. Through the use of communication, collaboration, relationships, and synthesis, I created a directorial methodology that aimed to break down the power structure created between actor and director. I conclude that the performance was more effective because the rehearsal space emphasized actor autonomy and created an environment of safety which helped actors reach a level of emotional vulnerability on the stage.

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