Creating the Self in the Contemporary American Theatre

By Robert J. Andreach | Go to book overview
Save to active project

1
Women's Theatre

In the summer of 1990, Karen Finley became a cause célèbre in the world of performance art when she was denied an NEA grant for which a peer panel had recommended her. But that fact alone, interesting though it is for the light it sheds on the process and politics of government support of the arts in America, does not warrant the space accorded Finley in this book. Her solo piece, We Keep Our Victims Ready, does because the obscenity her detractors see in it supposedly was the reason for the denial. A victim is a living being sacrificed to a deity, the sacrifice being the ritual that actualizes the deity's myth. Since myth and ritual imply traditional narrative and prescribed form, Finley's performing the piece establishes the deity, or ruling culture, that exacts the sacrifice. Since the performance is allegedly obscene, it also establishes her irreverent, or nontraditional, attitude toward the dominant culture.

In the imaginative world of We Keep Our Victims Ready, there are many voices but only one body. The voices are those of the disembodied victims of a dominant culture that disfranchises minority selves by confiscating their bodies. And where the ruling culture does not break the spirit but dispossesses it, the master pursues the fugitive, allowing it no sanctuary. "Whenever I see a rainbow in the sky," the performance artist rages in the solo piece, "I only see an angel being raped."1

The dispersed selves, or spirits, speak through Finley, who becomes their medium in a performance that recovers their sanctity by purging her body of the masculine culture's depredation. By offering her body, by sacrificing it in the ritual, she returns to a time that approximates the present, a time in the beginning of Western theatre when women playwrights, denied access to power, empowered themselves:

-1-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Creating the Self in the Contemporary American Theatre
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 244

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?