This work analyzes the relationship between gender and performance on stage in a wide-ranging series of essays that combine theoretical analysis, close reading, and performance criticism. The author suggests that the self-referential dimensions of theatre participate in revealing the performance-like conventions of gender. She argues that the mimetic apparatus of performance denaturalizes gender even when the play's narrative insists upon patriarchal images of femininity and masculinity. The book looks at Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Brecht, Yiddish theatre, and contemporary productions by the Ridiculous Theatre, Mabou Mines, Split Britches and others, finding feminist fissures within the performance conventions of patriarchal drama. This book calls for a theatre-based re-examination of canonical drama. Moving beyond the psychoanalytic approaches that have dominated feminist theatre criticism over the last decade, the author offers alternative techniques for investigating the relationship between theatre and gender.
Alisa Soloman is a theatre ciritic, teacher and dramaturg in New York City. She is Associate Professor of English and Theatre at CUNY and a staff writer at the Village Voice.