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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canadian feminist women directors : using the canon for social change Ferguson, Sarah Alexandra


This thesis explores how five Canadian women directors who define themselves as feminists have engaged with work from the traditional Western theatre canon. However, that world actually is created by the social expectations, cultural mores, and theatrical conventions of its time. Audiences have been indoctrinated to accept unquestioningly the value of these texts while the plays’ valorized status masks social constructs that are continually reinforced and surreptitiously naturalized through their repetition. At the crux of this thesis is the notion that while repetition is used as a tool for social instruction, it can also be used as a tool for social change. Therefore, I explore how the Canadian feminist women directors whom I have interviewed use the uniqueness of performance in different ways to challenge social structures within canonical texts. In the individual chapters, each director first shares her education, training, experience, and influences; then she articulates her own feminist perspective and discusses its impact on her career and work process; and finally she reflects on how she directed a text from the Western theatre canon and used the liminal space of performance to challenge the text’s embedded gender constructs. At the end of each chapter, I present the critical response I found for each production, including reviews, individual statements, and academic investigations, and assess the extent to which the director’s intent was understood by her audience and reviewers. In the final chapters, I examine each individual director’s interview responses in the context of the others’ and situate them within the spectrum of feminisms. In general, the directors used liminal space to expose gender as a construction and destabilize social expectations based on gender. However, what also emerged from these interviews is that while there is no broad consensus of what constitutes ‘feminist’ work, each director must temper her feminist perspectives if she wants access to the upper echelons of directing in Canada and the benefits that it entails.

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