From history and politics to fantasy and farce, the first flourish of women's theatre in Canada questioned the discourses that formed and informed ideas of gender, sex, and sexuality. While still seduced by an abiding belief in the truth of separate spheres that mark out the hierarchies of men's and women's roles, these plays, in a variety of genres, challenged conventional notions of the private and public in the service of women's rights and social reform. Blowing up the Skirt of History revives ten theatrical comedies that staged the promise of social change, empowered a counterpublic of politically vocal and socially powerful women's voices, and put women's artistic work and lives in the spotlight. When middle- and upper-class women participated in the theatre - as audience members, as playwrights, and as producers - they in turn signalled its authenticity and acceptability. Informed by feminist materialism and public sphere theory as categories of reclamation and analysis, the book's general introduction situates the plays in Canadian women's history, politics, ideologies of gender, theatrical modernism, colonialism, and a newly industrializing nation. Introductions to each work explore the playwrights' biographies, their political activity, and their literary output. Additionally they recount each play's production history and historicize the ways in which it intervenes in the ideologies of the age. Blowing up the Skirt of History reconstructs a long-overlooked corpus of early dramatic writing and restores it to Canadian theatrical history. These plays, and others like them, are exemplars of the types of theatre that became increasingly appropriate to and supportive of middle- and upper-class Anglo-Canadian women's culture over the turn of the twentieth century.
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Number of pages: 352
Dimensions: 235 x 159 mm
"Kym Bird's Blowing up the Skirt of History is a dynamic and compelling anthology [that] collects some of the earliest English plays from different regions in Canada. With verve and humour, Bird uses public theory and feminism to analyze the plays' constrained performance of nationalism and racial privilege. Bird's energetic writing style will certainly appeal to undergraduate students and help make early Canadian theatre more accessible. Blowing up the Skirt of History is an important work for anyone interested in early Canadian drama and feminist literature." Canadian Literature