The search for mainstream feminist theatre: : a critical analysis of the plays of Catherine Butterfield
Thompson, Jennifer M.
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The focus of this thesis is to explore if a feminist playwright can write in a realistic style with a mainstream target. It concentrates on the work of one female dramatist, Catherine Butterfield, and three of her full-length plays: Joined at the Head (1993), Snowing at Delphi (1994), and Life in the Trees (1995). Butterfield?s work is particularly noteworthy for its explorations into human relationships and its use of comic realism. However, Butterfield is yet to become widely known for her contributions to contemporary American drama and there are no known published studies of her work. The following questions are explored in this study. First, can Butterfield?s work be considered feminist? Second, can a feminist author work in a realistic vein? Third, does Butterfield?s work merit a new definition for women?s theatre? In order to answer these questions, a model is established that defines feminist theatre as theatre that includes a female subject, challenges male-dominated ideologies, critiques the exclusion of women from the center stage, and promotes women?s issues and equality. As this thesis explores, feminist scholars debate whether or not a feminist playwright can utilize a historically male-dominated form such as realism due to its maleestablished rules and guidelines that specifically apply to male playwrights, male subjects, and male spectators. This thesis concludes that Butterfield does exhibit a feminist sensibility. Because she does not have an overtly political agenda, she is capable of bringing subtle feminist discourse to a diverse audience. The thesis shows that throughout each of Butterfield?s plays there are several recurring themes. These include the search and definition of one?s self, gender relationships and communications, and the state of American society today. She maintains a neutral ideology which adopts a more humanist perspective and appeals to a wide audience by exploring human issues that are not gender specific. The thesis demonstrates that Butterfield?s emphasis on human relationships and feelings places this author in the growing realm of accessible and inclusive dramatic writing that can be categorized as humanistic feminism.