Reconciling the Past and the Present

Feminist Perspectives on the Method in the Classroom and on the Stage
  • Elizabeth C. Stroppel


Micropolitical practice encourages women to recognize the role of gender and sex-power relations as they apply to individual identity and positionality,1 especially as these factors exist in the margins.2 Through such praxes, feminists strengthen their political goals while simultaneously challenging the homogenous superstructure of male hegemony. Along these lines, the classroom is often perceived as a marginal space for women because of the superstructures inclination toward male adversarial notions.3 This situation is particularly apparent within the acting training classroom, where students must utilize their whole selves as instruments of enactment in order to participate.4 In addition, part of the nature of acting techniques implies that such techniques are aesthetic tools, constructed from specific ideological bases.5 Whether inadvertently or not, acting choices remain by and large aligned with the prevailing power structure. Acting methods as political choices, however, are generally not addressed within the average acting classroom. The focus in classrooms generally remains on developing a product rather than on investigating the politics of a process.


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  1. 1.
    The term “positionality” refers to a persons placement in any given context, seen as relational and moving, and defined by gender, race, class, and other socially significant dimensions. See, for instance, Francis Maher and Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault, The Feminist Classroom (New York: Basic Books, 1992), 22.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, for instance, Esther Beth Sullivan, “Women, Woman and the Subject of Feminism: Feminist Directors,” Upstaging Big Daddy: Directing Theatre as if Race and Gender Matter, Ellen Donkin and Susan Clement, eds. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), 28.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Patricia Schroeder makes the point that realism is an aesthetic structure that may be implicated in the political ideology that led up to its construction but is not inherently oppressive because of an alignment with patriarchal values. See Schroeder, The Feminist Possibilities of Dramatic Realism (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996), 41.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See Charlotte Canning, Feminist Theater in the U.S.A.: Staging Women’s Experience (New York: Routledge, 1996), 54Google Scholar
  5. Sue-Ellen Case, Feminism and Theatre (New York: Routledge, 1988), 123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 9.
    See Shelia Stowell, “Rehabilitating Realism,” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 6.1 (Spring 1992): 81–88Google Scholar
  7. Janelle Reinelt, “Realism, Narrative and the Feminist Playwright—a Problem of Reception,” Modern Drama 32 (March 1989): 115–27.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See, for instance, Elin Diamond, “Brechtian Theory/Feminist Theory,” TDR 32.1 (1988): 82–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Janelle Reinelt, After Brecht: British Epic Theatre (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Tadashi Suzuki trains actors to use their whole bodies to speak expressively by concentrating on the stomping of the feet and the control of breath. See Suzuki, “Culture is the BodyActing (Re)Considered: Theories and Practices, Phillip Zarrilli, ed. (London: Routledge, 1995), 155–60.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Feminist theatres base much of their work around validating women’s emotions as well as reassessing the stereotyped figure of the “hysterical woman.” Alison M. Jagger refers to emotions that women and other subordinated people feel as “outlaw emotions,” because they are incompatible with dominant perceptions and values. See Jagger, “Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology,” Women, Knowledge and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy, Ann Garry and Marilyn Pearsall, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1996), 180.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Lisa S. Starks, “Hyper-feminisms: Poststructuralist Theories, Popular Culture, and Pedagogy,” Gender and Academe: Feminist Pedagogy and Politics, Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994), 113.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Judith Butler argues that gender is a “social temporality,” constructed through the repetition or performance of behaviors linked to cultures. This is salient to the materialist feminist position that seeks to understand how reality is shaped by such socially determined factors. See Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversive Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 139–41.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Elaine Aston, Feminist Theatre Practice: A Handbook (London: Routledge, 1999), 91.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Teresa de Lauretis, Technologies of Gender (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© David Krasner 2000

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  • Elizabeth C. Stroppel

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