Killing "woman" : gender and violence in selected plays by Sheila Callaghan and Marisa Wegrzyn
One of the most popular manifestations of spectacle in the theatre is violence. Frequently, violence on the stage manifests in the form of violence towards women at the hands of men. As a woman violence and intimacy designer, I wanted to find works that challenged and subverted this popular staging and question what those works have to say about gender, violence, and gender performance. Two playwrights who are challenging long-held dramatic representations of women and violence are playwrights Sheila Callaghan and Marisa Wegrzyn. Callaghan and Wegrzyn are two of the founders of the Kilroys, a group of femme-identifying literary managers, playwrights and producers living in Los Angeles, California, who organized in 2013 to promote the work of female and trans playwrights. Not only do their most representative works contain several acts of violence committed by women characters, but the nature of these portrayals of violence strays from “traditional” representations of violence. Using a range of relevant theoretical lenses, I will analyze four representative plays--Sheila Callaghan’s Roadkill Confidential and That Pretty Pretty; or, the Rape Play and Marisa Wegrzyn’s The Butcher of Baraboo and Killing Women to investigate how these works disrupt essentialist notions of gender and identity, with special attention to the implications and meanings of their dramatic representation of onstage acts of violence committed by women. Through critical analysis of these works, this dissertation seeks to increase understanding of how these performances of violence challenge heteronormative notions of gender. As the context in which these violent acts occur is crucial, this dissertation analyzes the gendered implications of the setting, plot, and characterizations of each work. Additionally, this dissertation explores how designing the violence within these moments may help reinforce the gender disruption created by Callaghan and Wegrzyn.
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