Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Absurdism Free Essays

1 This thesis has been approved by The Honors Tutorial College and the School of Theater Dr. William F. Condee Director of Studies, Theater Tutorial Program Thesis Advisor Dr. We will write a custom essay sample on Absurdism or any similar topic only for you Order Now Angela Ahlgren Visiting Assistant Professor Thesis Advisor Jeremy Webster Dean, Honors Tutorial College 2 HAPPY DAYS: A MODERN WOMAN’S APPROACH TO ABSURDISM THROUGH FEMINIST THEATER THEORY A Thesis Presented to The Honors Tutorial College Ohio University In Partial Fulfilment Of the Requirements for Graduation From The Honors Tutorial College With the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater By: Rachel Collins 3 Table Of Contents Introduction †¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦.. †¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦4 On Absurdism†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦ 6 On Beckett†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦ 10 Happy Days Production History†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. 16 Feminist Theater†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã ¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. †¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦18 Beckett and Gender (Happy Days)†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. 23 Happy Days in Performance: A Feminist Perspective (Process)†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. 34 Happy Days in Performance: Reflection†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦ 40 Conclusion†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦48 Annotated Bibliography†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. 52 Creative Supplementary Materials†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦ †¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦59 Happy Days Rehearsal Notes†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. †¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦ †¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦.. 59 Happy Days Rehearsal Script†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦. †¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦74 Happy Days Program and Event Flier†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦ 92 Happy Days Production Photos†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦.. 94 4 Introduction This thesis examines the character of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days through performance and the lens of feminist theory and critique. In the wake of the Second World War, a number of artists in Europe attempted to find meaning in what some considered a meaningless world. The war had ravaged Europe, and it was difficult to find hope across the continent. Many artists during this time were concerned with existentialist ideas. These new social constructs led dramatists to experiment with new forms, which dealt with these existentialist philosophies through a dramatic medium. These forms experimented with language, de-railed linear plotlines, and placed characters in bizarre situations. Martin Esslin, the producerjournalist turned scholar, coined the phrase â€Å"the Theatre of the Absurd† in his book of the same title. One of the major writers of this new form of drama was Samuel Beckett. Since Beckett’s plays began to be performed in the 1950’s, theater critics have typically viewed performances of Beckett’s works through the lens of existentialism, and his style prompted many to consider him an absurdist. Absurdist theories were able to frame the dramatic works for that time, but as the social constructs of Western culture, especially those concerning women, have changed, so has dramatic criticism of women. As half a century has passed since the initial writing of Beckett’s plays, it is important to consider them, especially those with strong female characters, through a modern feminist critique. Beckett’s writing took place during the second women’s movement. The Second World War had changed people’s views on morality, and society was forced to 5 redefine its standards. Before the First World War, class structure in Europe was rigidly defined. People â€Å"knew their place† and the gap between the rich and the poor was almost un-crossable. The war created opportunities for the lower class to advance in social position, but once it was over, society attempted to return to its pre-War structure. This cycle happened again after the Second World War. During the war, oppressed peoples in Europe were allowed to do things that they hadn’t been able to previously, but once it was over they were expected to return to their place in society. In Europe these people, including racial and religious minorities, the working class, and women, were fed up with these constraints. Women in particular strove to gain more equality in the job market and other venues. Beckett was in the interesting position of writing in the midst of this social revolution. In many ways, he was very familiar with the old world and traditions, where women’s place in society was subservient to her husband. But he was also looking forward to what the future could bring. His work in many ways anticipated the second women’s movement. Beckett’s early dramatic works are filled with male characters. Each of these men is attempting to answer the most basic of life’s questions: Who are we and why are we here? However, it was not until 1961 with Happy Days that he gave the stage over completely to the voice of a woman. In Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Krapp’s Last Tape, women were not given a strong voice on the stage’s playing space. With Happy Days and the character of Winnie, Beckett gave women a voice in his work. Traditionally, Happy Days has been viewed through an existentialist lens, much in the same way that Beckett’s other works are 6 viewed. This study, however, attempts to re-frame Happy Days through a new set of scholarly examinations: the ideas of feminist theory and theatrical performance. Through scholarly research and performance of the piece, I looked at this important work from a new perspective. In the twenty-first century, an actress cannot approach the part with the same background as a woman playing the role in the early 1960’s. While it is important to look at plays within the historical context and tradition in which they were originally performed, this view limits the performer. If one was to only look at a piece of work historically and not interpret it using modern approaches, theater would, I believe, eventually become stale and no longer relevant to the world other than from a historical museum. Happy Days needs a new evaluation. It is time to examine it through the eyes of a modern-day woman, because that is the person who will be performing this role today. On Absurdism Absurdism was a deviation from traditional French theater but not conscience movement in itself. At the beginning of the twentieth century the avant-garde movement was regarded in the same vein as the symbolists of the late nineteenth century: their art was attempting to achieve the same results. Symbolists were reacting against the naturalist and realist forms of art and believed that the only way to represent the truth and meaning of life was to do it indirectly, instead of through exact imitation of reality. Much of the world was trying to recover after two large-scale wars. During the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, the French were interested in looking at the past for inspiration for their drama. Myths, legends, and symbols were primarily 7 used as subject matter. Particular emphasis was placed on the structure of language, for â€Å"the ‘poetic avant-garde’ represent[ed] a different mood; it is more lyrical, and far less violent and grotesque† than the theater of the absurd (Esslin 25). Productions tackled the mystery of dreams and desire through traditional dramatic conventions. Paris, which has been the cradle of a number of new artistic movements, was the birthplace for new schools of thought, and the avant-garde of Paris drama â€Å" is this part of the ‘anti-literary’ movement of our time, which has found its expression in abstract painting, with its rejection of ‘literary’ elements in pictures; or in the ‘new novel’ in France, with its reliance on the description of objects and its rejection of empathy and anthropomorphism† (Esslin 26). Theater artists realized that this was an important advancement for their art form as well, and began to experiment with these forms through dramatic constructs. Esslin choose the word â€Å"absurd† to describe these plays based on the word’s definition, which means â€Å"out of harmony with reason or propriety; incongruous, unreasonable, illogical† (Esslin 23). The work of the absurdist playwrights, including Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Tom Stoppard, and David Mamet, carry these attributes. Most of these dramatists claimed they are not trying to be â€Å"absurdist. † Even Esslin, who coined the phrase, states that â€Å"the writers in question [are] individuals[s] who regard themselves as lone outsiders, cut off and isolated in his private world† (22). This phrase has, however, been accepted widely to describe plays of this type, because the authors in question â€Å"can be seen as the 8 reflection of what seems to be the attitude most genuinely representative of that era in style, execution, and philosophy† (Esslin 22-23). Esslin borrowed these notions of existentialism from the ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Camus’ essay â€Å"The Myth of Sisyphus† (1942) deals with existential issues, such as a lack of a God or omnipotent presence and fixed moral standards. Throughout the essay he stages an argument around suicide to examine what he considers the absurdity of life. In short, he believes that â€Å"the absurd enlightens [himself] on this point: there is no future† (Camus 58). He delves into the idea that life has no true purpose, and even when many humans discover how mundane life is, they still choose to continue living. Esslin quotes Camus: A world that can be explained by reasoning, however faulty, is a familiar world. But in a universe that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranger. His is an irremediable exile, because he is deprived of memories of a lost homeland as much as he lacks the hope of a promised land to come. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes the feeling of absurdity. (Camus qtd. in Esslin 18) With these ideas of man’s insignificant place in the world, humans, not God, determine their own existence. In the absence of the influence of a higher power, there is no longer any certainty in an afterlife, or in anything, as humans are fallible beings. This then creates a philosophy that is based more on the individual versus the collective. Sartre on the other hand explains a more hopeful interpretation of existentialism. While Camus stresses the human’s inability to break the cycle of absurdity, Sartre asserts that humans are absurd because their free will always puts 9 them in complete control of their fate. In his book Existentialism and Human Emotions, Sartre asserts: Man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet, in other respects is free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. The existentialist does not believe in the power of passion. He will never agree that a sweeping passion is a ravaging torrent which fatally leads a man to certain acts and is therefore an excuse. He thinks that man is responsible for his passion (Sartre 23). A person is therefore in complete control of his or her own destiny. There is no God, so there is no set of doctrines or moral code to follow. The only thing that one has to rely upon is his or herself, and that reliance is what creates absurdity. Life has no meaning, because â€Å"before you come alive, life is nothing; it’s up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing else but the meaning that you choose† (Sartre 49). Therefore, life is meaningless unless one chooses to give it meaning. The philosophies of Camus and Sartre are critical to understanding the existential elements of the absurdist works. Another aspect of absurdism is that it attempts to create a world that accentuates the strange and bizarre. In short, it â€Å"strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought† (Esslin 24). It has a chaotic structure that creates the illusion of an irrational universe. The plots are unclear, as well as the relationship between the characters. There is ambiguity in space, time, and relationships between characters. Words and phrases are repeated so that language itself becomes inadequate and incomprehensible. Reality is skewed so that the viewer does not know the difference between fact and fiction. Plays tend to be 10 cyclical in that they end in the same place they started. These never-ending cycles create an illusion of despair, and remind the audience how continually hopeless life can be. There is also a strong vaudevillian presence within absurdist drama: this creates an element of humour that therwise might be absent, and also highlights that as desperate as life can be, there are still moments of laughter within misery. The plays are funny and tragic at the same time, and they utilize traditional clowning techniques as well as orchestrated pauses to convey their messages. Therefore, â€Å"the Theatre of the Absurd has renounced arguing about the absurdity of the human condition; it merely presents it in being† (Esslin 25). Although absurdism is a widely defined genre, Beckett is considered by many scholars to be one of the pioneers of the form. When considering other playwrights and plays as absurdist, many scholars to this day compare the writers and works to Beckett’s canon. Therefore Beckett, although he does not consider himself to be an absurdist writer, is one of the major contributors to this style of theater. His works are numerous and his unique style is what brought absurdism to the forefront of dramatic movements of the late twentieth century. On Beckett Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1906 to Protestant middle-class parents. After he pursued his education in Ireland he was offered a teaching fellowship in Paris, which he accepted. There he met James Joyce and a variety of other artists. Joyce, impressed by Beckett, stated that â€Å"he thought Beckett had promise–a rare 11 gesture for him† (Alvarez 12). It was during the late 1940’s and into the early 1950’s that Beckett â€Å"began his lifelong association with Paris† and his fascination with the French language and linguistics in general. It was then that Beckett began writing; he published his first novel Murphy in 1938. After spending time in Ireland with his mother, Beckett returned to Paris when World War Two began. He volunteered for the Red Cross and was involved in the war in many ways, from helping with wounded soldiers, to joining radical political groups and trying to aide France’s war effort. He was forced to flee Paris when friends in a radical political group were arrested. Once the war ended, Beckett returned to Paris. It was during this post-war period that he wrote a number of dramatic works, including his most famous play, Waiting for Godot (Bair 381). After Godot Beckett wrote Endgame (1957) and Krapp’s Last Tape (1958). Shortly after the premier of Krapp he began writing Happy Days in October of 1960. Happy Days came at an interesting time in Beckett’s career: because of the success of Godot, Endgame, and Krapp, â€Å"celebrated playwrights, [and] other dramatists who studied his plays wanted to share their ideas, and in most cases, to pay him homage† (Bair 527). His new fame also caused rifts in Beckett’s personal life. He and his partner Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil were planning on getting married, but wanted to keep the ceremony under wraps. They were making their relationship official because Beckett had realized current French law would not allow Suzanne to inherit the estate or his money if he were to die. They wanted to get married in England because â€Å"as an Irish citizen whose financial affairs were concentrated in 12 England, he had to be married there to insure the legality of the ceremony and Suzanne’s right to inherit his estate† (Bair 530). However, since Beckett and Suzanne had been living in Paris, he had to reside in England for two weeks before the ceremony was legal, according to English law. During these few weeks, Beckett hid himself from the public eye in the Bristol Hotel and worked on his Happy Days manuscript. Like his early plays, Happy Days is an examination of life in an absurd situation. A woman, Winnie, is buried alive in an ant hill in a scorched landscape, while her husband Willie prattles around behind the landscape. Winnie is first buried up to her bosom and then to her neck in a large hill (presumably an abandoned ant hill, as one single emmet wanders the mound). She spends her days chatting about seemingly mundane nonsense, all with the hope that Willie might just be listening to her. While Winnie endures blistering heat, increased immobility, and a strident bell that keeps her from falling asleep, â€Å"she remains to the bitterest end, implacably optimistic and talkative† (Alvarez 108). Her unfailing hope in the future is both depressing and hopeful. It is her optimism that causes so many audience members to be moved by Winnie. In one Beckett biography, Diedre Bair asserts that as a result of Beckett’s increasing fame, Suzanne found it more difficult than usual to deal with her new husband. According to Bair: She resented his fame and felt that he should have made a more public acknowledgement of her important role in bringing it about. She wanted to be known as the helpmate who had made his success possible. He wanted nothing at all known about himself, least of all details which he considered of no more 13 than domestic import. He felt he had demonstrated his gratitude to her by marrying her when both considered the ceremony a mockery. (533) Bair believes the couple grew apart as the years passed: â€Å"They had nothing in common anymore, but neither thought of parting. Beckett began to envision their relationship as one in ineluctable bondage, and from then on, veiled references to their situation began to appear in his writing† (Bair 534). It is conceivable that much of the Happy Days plot was derived from his personal life, because it was written during the events surrounding his secret wedding. Other biographers, including James Knowleson, assert that Beckett and Suzanne had a loving relationship. While they were having problems in their small apartment, they felt if they moved to a bigger space they would have more time to live independently of each other. Therefore, Knowlson notes â€Å"the [bigger apartment] allowed them to live parts of their lives independently-without one disturbing the other, if he or she did not want to be disturbed† (423). Knowlson also mentions in this biography that Beckett had a mistress named Barbara during this part of his life, but that Beckett still felt (even though he waited almost a quarter of a century to marry her) that he was committed to Suzanne. In this account the marriage was troubled, but the couple was working through their problems. Because of their fiercely independent personalities, both wanted and desired independent space: their union worked best when there was a good combination of time together and time apart. It is this examination of Beckett’s married life that is pertinent to Happy Days, as Beckett’s view on the institution of marriage and lifelong commitment is explored throughout the text. 14 As Beckett is from Ireland and his English dialect is influenced by that country, Happy Days has Irish undertones in plot and form. While Beckett spent a majority of his life in France, his strongest ties were to his Irish roots. He was fascinated by the old ways or the old words that the Irish used, such as emmet (an ant). The way Beckett manipulates language is particularly Irish. Beckett’s use of the language is distinctive, utilizing traditional Irish techniques of â€Å"repetitive . . . words or sentences; . . . transformations, division, contraction, shortening and lengthening of words; and the minimization of the number of different words per sentence, but also exaggeration through redundance† (Van Slooten 48). Beckett also was very attached to music in the Irish tradition. He wrote to utilize â€Å"vocal techniques and sound effects [including] the sound of vowels and consonants and the alternately winded, syncopated, and pounding rhythms† to shape his texts† (Van Slooten 48). What is most interesting about this concept is the life and mobility that the Irish language gives to a piece like Happy Days, where the central character is trapped in a hill. The dialect itself requires a wide range of emotion and tonality in its expression, so that â€Å"stage directions such as ‘sad’, ‘suppliant’, ‘very excited’, ‘irritated’, ‘laughing’, ‘explosive’, ‘melancholy’, and the individual diction for different characters indicate how much importance [Beckett] attached to these matters and show how his words should be voiced† (Van Slooten 58). Because of the nature of the language in Happy Days, it is important to evaluate it through the Irish musicality to find the momentum of a play that contains little to no stage movement otherwise. 15 This â€Å"Irishness† can be seen in a London performance of Happy Days at the Old Vic Theater in 1975 (later transferred to the Lyttleton Theater in 1976). In this production, Dame Peggy Ashcroft played Winnie, Harry Lomax played Willie, and Peter Hall directed. Despite Ashcroft’s positive reputation, this particular production received a number of mixed reviews. One reviewer, Rosemary Pountney, believed that Ashcroft’s biggest weakness was her lack of vocal range. She believed that while Ashcroft had a great vocal capacity, Pountney loathed the Irish accent that Ashcroft attempted: Her greatest strength as an actress, the marvellous flexibility of her voice, was flattened and deadened in an attempt to convey an Irish accent—not a strong Irish accent, but, much more difficult for a non-Irish woman, the suggestion of one. A ‘non-accent’ accent resulted, with Dame Peggy’s superb voice not merely out of tune but restricted in its range, as though straitjacketed. Thus Winnie’s fluctuations of mood†¦ were dulled and Act 1 seemed to lack impact (Pountney). Although Ashcroft did not do the dialect justice, Pountney addresses that Beckett had written a musical quality to his dialogue, which in many cases is what â€Å"scores† the actress through the piece. The repetitions in the script work as guidelines and create the score of the production. Pountney was impressed by understanding of the Irish nature of the piece, but not so much their enactment of it. It is important to note that Happy Days was originally written in English, whereas most of Beckett’s works were previously written in French. Beckett stated that his reasons for writing in French were because it gave him a strict structure around the language. Because French was not his native language he was forced to be selective when he chose words, he chose words selectively, and did not inadvertently 16 embellish the language (Van Slooten 48). Although he translated all of his plays himself from French to English, there is still an element of sparseness to the language. Since Happy Days was originally in English, the style of the writing is different. Although there are pauses in the dialogue, the sentence structure flows differently than the sparse language of Godot or Endgame. Therefore, Beckett’s use of the English language in my production is paramount to understanding it through performance. Happy Days Production History Happy Days was performed for the first time on September 17, 1961 in New York at the Cherry Lane Theater. The production starred Ruth White as Winnie and John C. Becher as Willie; Alan Schneider directed the production. Schneider and Beckett had a long career as collaborators. Schneider directed a number of Beckett’s plays, including the American premier of Waiting for Godot, and Film? among many others. Because of prior commitments Beckett was unable to come to New York to supervise direction of this production. The two men therefore corresponded in letters to relay information, and according to Bair â€Å"Beckett’s letters could easily become a textbook for Happy Days should [anyone] ever decide to publish them† (536). As with any Beckett performance, the directions given to the actors were thoroughly specific, as Bair describes: They are long and painstaking, filled with minute directions for action and how it should correspond to speech; detailed descriptions of lighting, even to the physical properties, brand name and positing of each individual bulb; and a series of drawings in pen and ink done by Beckett to show exactly how he wanted Winnie and her mound to appear, and what the position of Willie should be at all times in relation to her. (536) 17 At many times throughout the process, Schneider was worried that he was not doing Beckett or his script justice, since the directions were so specific. He remained worried until the show opened to an eager audience. The reviews of the play were mixed, as they had been for many Beckett plays before, but the reviewers who liked the production were not shy in their praises. In The New York Times, Howard Taubman praised the performance, especially White’s, stating that she: conveys a profound sense of the dark, empty spaces of Winnie’s life. She uses her voice to achieve a remarkable range of nuance. Her eyes, her lips, the very lines in her face suggest mood and feeling. She fusses bravely with the black shopping bag that seems to contain all her worldly possessions. Her attempt to be invincible turns into a pitiable failure. At the end, with the silly, feathered little hat atop the head projecting out of the mound, she seems like a puny, weary Earth Mother of a mean, despairing world. (Taubman) The performance was praised for its ability to not only inspire viewers to look at life’s deep existential and sometimes disheartening questions, but also to reveal compassion, which is rare in Beckett’s works (Taubman). Ruth White’s performance was so revered that she received a 1962 Obie Award for Distinguished Performance. While the first few performances were received well, they were still looked at from a primarily masculine perspective. The majority of theater reviewers were male, and so the comments on the productions came from a male perspective. At this time however, a different group of artists was exploring theater from a feminist perspective. They experimented with dramatic forms to ighlight the female experience, which they believed to be lacking in society. It was during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s that feminist theater began to be produced. 18 Feminist Theater For many centuries the theatrical arts were dominated by men. Notable feminist scholar Sue-Ellen Case states that when the second-wave feminist movement began in the early 1960’s, â€Å"the singular term ‘feminism’ was often employed to describe a variety of political and critical re alms. This term was interchangeable with the term ‘the women’s movement’† (62). The feminist movement was divided into a number of philosophies. In the theatrical world, there are two major approaches that scholars have identified as self-conscious approaches to feminist work: that of the radical or cultural feminists and that of the materialist feminists, otherwise known as socialist or Marxist feminists. Both of these groups influenced how the experiences of women were presented on stage. The most common form of feminism in the United States and democratic European countries was what Case identifies as radical feminism. This particular form of feminism â€Å"is based on the belief that the patriarchy is the primary cause of the oppression of women†¦ the patriarchy represents all systems of male dominance and is regarded as the root of most social problems† (Case 64). Radical feminist performers and theater practitioners have concerns with the style of realism, because of â€Å"the nature of realism as a conservative force that reproduces and reinforces dominant cultural relations† in which man is superior to woman (Dolan 84). They believe that most male playwrights write about the male experience from a male perspective, even if writing female characters, and that the male experience is directly linked to patriarchal society. According to Jill Dolan: 19 By rejecting both realism and the genderized posturings of the of the maledominated experimental theater groups, the new feminist theater meant to create woman identified productions. This work, created by women for women, focused on woman’s experience with one another and their connections to each other through gender and sex. Identifying with each other as women was meant as an antidote to their oppression under patriarchy (85). Radical feminists believe that realism is inherently patriarchal, so they want to create a new form of realism for the female spectator so she â€Å"can find a coherent identity in the mirror image they hold up† (Dolan 99). It was the continual oppression of the feminine gender that most radical feminists wanted to examine. One of the most significant oppressions that women felt was that of sexual oppression from a maleoriented society. For centuries, â€Å"male culture made women’s bodies into objects of male desire, converting them into sites of beauty and sexuality for men to gaze upon† (Case 66). Many women as a result were afraid to discuss intimate details about their biology or their sex lives and desires. Radical feminists wanted to challenge social norms and allow for women’s issues to rise to the surface, to reclaim women’s place in history. They wanted to portray women’s collective struggles against the â€Å"patriarchal backdrop on which women have been victimized,† to highlight the centuries of male dominance in the theater (Dolan 88). In radical feminist theater, Brechtian and Artaudian techniques were often utilized. The Verfremdungseffekt, otherwise known as the distancing effect, is a technique Bertolt Brecht used in his epic theater to ensure that the audience would not become emotionally attached to the characters and could serve as an external political observer. In contrast, Antonin Artaud believed that the theater should contain an aspect of cruelty. He did not intend cruelty to mean causing physical pain for an actor 20 r audience, but cruelty in the way of making violent or disturbing actions on stage so the audience member is forced to deal with uncomfortable topics. Brechtian techniques are used in feminist theater to alienate the audience and Artaudian to make them feel uncomfortable as they are faced with the breaking of cultural norms. Radical feminist performances, however, differ from those traditions in that radical feminist performances generally consist of a ritualistic element, which created t he illusion of timelessness. This differs from Brecht’s usual usage of historical events to urround his plotlines. These performances also highlighted the biology of women and the power they held as a result, whereas Brecht largely concentrated on the politics and Artaud on the cruel intentions. While this was the intention, often â€Å"the body is curiously lost in [performance], perhaps because truly considering the body in space means dealing with the representational apparatus, which the feminine aesthetic is inadequate to handle† (Dolan 97). This struggle between rejecting and embracing realism is used as a means to advance feminist ideologies through performance. Dolan and Case discuss one other type of feminist performance: that of the materialist feminist. The major idea materialist feminism expounds is that all oppression comes from societal construction, and that capitalism is the major determinant in this construction. This can be seen through a historical labor production as Dolan explains: Production is the central human action played out in the market place and, for women, in the domestic sphere. The organisation of the forces of production and the role of wages create the situation of the worker. In the market place, the woman worker has generally been paid lower wages than the man and retained in a subordinate position without upward mobility. In the domestic sphere, unpaid housework and unpaid 21 reproductive and child-rearing labour have been instrumental in shaping the condition of women. The nuclear family is perceived as a unit of private property, in which the wife-mother is exploited by the male as well as by the larger organisation of capitalism (Dolan 83). Therefore, the materialist feminists believe that there should not be a distinction between genders, but that all genders should be treated with equal weight. Instead of viewing women as a gender, they are treated as a class, much like middle class, upper class, or working class. In short, the woman lives in a system that provides free labor to her husband or her employer. She provides free labor for her husband â€Å"by producing future workers as babies and by preparing the labourer for each day’s work† (Case 84). As a result, this form of feminism has been most prominent in European countries, as the class structure is more defined in those countries than in North America. The only way that a woman can liberate herself from this structure, according to this form of feminism, is to enter the workforce. According to Simone de Beauvoir1 in her revolutionary text The Second Sex (1949), when a woman receives employment she is liberated from her husband and can be her own member of the social structure. She then â€Å"ceases to be a parasite [and] the system based on her dependence crumbles; between her and the universe there is no longer any need for a masculine mediator† (Beauvoir 679). In patriarchal society, men have the liberty of having their occupation not determined by their gender. Women who try to deviate from this norm are subject to oppression, as â€Å"the woman who does not conform devaluates herself sexually and hence socially, since sexual values are an integral feature of [a patriarchal] society† (Beauvoir 682). Materialist feminists believe that by changing the economic structure, 22 the social structure will soon follow. If women are given equal opportunities in the workplace and are treated as men, they will not be sexualized and demoralized as before. Therefore, in performance, materialist feminists do not see it necessary to portray women as accurately as they would in life, because that is not the aim. The aim is to see women as a class, not as a performer of gender. Materialist feminists believed that the theater could be used to advance their gender in society, but they felt that the radical feminists were slightly misguided. They felt that if women were still working under the constraints of a male society, they were weakening women until she could only exist as a representation on stage. Therefore, the materialist feminists wanted to discover â€Å"how to inscribe a representational space for women that will point out the gender enculturation promoted through the representational frame and that will belie the oppressions of the dominant ideology it perpetuates† (Dolan 101). The materialist feminists deviated from the idea that â€Å"patriarchy is everywhere and always the same and that all women are ‘sisters’† and instead used their theater to underscore â€Å"the role of class and history in creating the oppression of women† (Case 82). The most successful way to make their points, they believe, is by highlighting the arbitrary nature of gender and its performance in society, and to assert that all real differences between individuals are the results of class inequalities, which in turn manifest in gender inequality. They wish â€Å"to reveal the complicity of the representational apparatus in maintaining sexual difference,† and prove that it is not as important to maintain these differences on stage as it had been in works of realism (Dolan 101). 23 It is through the performance ideologies of radical and materialist feminism that most feminist theater of the late twentieth century can be categorized. Also, many subsequent forms of feminist theater have been widely influenced by these theories, either directly or because the performers choose explicitly to deviate from the feminist theater norm in order to make their own points on gender in society. However, even today, much of feminist theater employs techniques of distancing, alienation, highlighting differences between sexes. They are less concerned with making sure gender is represented accurately on stage in accord with realism, or talking about issues that are traditionally considered feminine, such as women’s sexuality, body, and life experiences due to gender. Beckett and Gender (Happy Days) Beckett is often criticized as being sexist. This claim comes mainly from the way the Beckett Estate, which is in control of all of Beckett’s works, deals with gender when giving out performance rights to companies. Beckett has made it very clear that only men are allowed to perform the roles for men, and women are allowed to perform the roles for women. His estate has filed a number of lawsuits on companies trying to change the gender roles in his works and has been successful in most instances (Jeffreys). Though some have gotten angry at the iron grip that the Beckett Estate seems to have on Beckett’s works, there is a logic to the demand that each gender represented in a play must be played by an actor of that gender. Beckett intentionally wrote a part for a man so a man could play it, in the same way that he wrote a part for a woman to play. He wrote very clear male and female voices. The female voice 24 specially that of Winnie, is inherently unique. She does not speak about herself or her troubles in the way that Vladimir and Estragon do in Godot. She does not speak about prostates or having an erection, she speaks about lipstick and quotes Shakespeare. Therefore, it is imperative to explore gender and choice of language in Beckett’s works, because he was so deliberate with gender in his productions. In many ways, Beckett has represented his women stereotypically. Throughout his writing career, however, Beckett began to challenge his original notions and began to portray women more diversely. At the beginning of his career, when he was focusing on prose, most of Beckett’s women were overbearing and clearly antagonistic to men. For example, in his first novel Murphy, the main female character, Celia, is a prostitute that Murphy lives with. Celia makes many demands of Murphy, and is portrayed as an overbearing woman throughout. On the other hand, Beckett did move away from some established theatrical gender roles. In traditional gender roles, young women were often sexualized and are portrayed as â€Å"beautiful, chaste, and usually static† (Bryden 18). Some say that Beckett does not conform to this gender stereotype because most of his women are loud, overbearing, in grotesque circumstances, and older. For example, in Happy Days, Winnie is continually overbearing toward Willie, especially when giving him specific directions on how she wants things done. He cannot even go where he wants without Winnie screeching, â€Å"Do as I say, Willie, don’t lie sprawling there in this hellish sun, go back into your hole† (Beckett 25). Winnie has lost much of her vitality, and in a way is so far removed from it she is no longer bound to the stereotypes of youth. Instead, Winnie is 25 confined to stereotypes of age, as many older women are portrayed as meddling, controlling, and loving, just as Winnie is. Another gender stereotype would be the care that Winnie takes in preserving her appearance. Throughout the beginning of the play, Winnie is focused on making sure she keeps up her physical appearance. The act of obsessive grooming and the placement of value in physical appearance tend to be regarded as feminine traits. At the beginning of the play Winnie is following her morning routine. She brushes her teeth, checks herself in the mirror, and begins to apply lipstick. She is also concerned about the appearance of her hair. Winnie is in the middle of a thought when she anxiously cries out, â€Å"My hair! Did I brush and comb my hair? I may have done, normally do† (Beckett 22). In a number of productions of Happy Days, the design takes into account the idea that in Act II Winnie is unable to move her arms any longer. Therefore she is unable to tend to her personal appearance. In the 2007 production of Happy Days at the Royal National Theatre in London starring Fiona Shaw, the actress had blackened teeth, mussed hair, and a dirtied face at the onset of Act II. This showed that Winnie was unable to take care of herself, and this choice is even supported in the text when Winnie mentions, â€Å"Willie, look at me. Feast your old eyes, Willie. Does anything remain? Any remains? No? I haven’t been able to look after it, you know† (Beckett 62). Willie, as a man, does not tend to his appearance in the same vein at all, and to that effect does not help Winnie keep up her looks when she is no longer able. Winnie must give him orders on how to take care of his 26 appearance. Therefore, Beckett places the female in the stereotypical role of taking care of her appearance, while the male is placed in the role where he does not. Winnie is also obsessed with her declining looks. It is clear that she spends much of her time trying to impress Willie and feels that because she has lost her looks, she has lost what makes her desirable to men. She states, â€Å"Was I lovable once, Willie? Was I ever lovable? Do not misunderstand my question, I am not asking you if you loved me, we all know about that, I am asking if you found me loveable at one stage† (Beckett 31). Winnie believes that her lovability is directly attached to the past, and therefore her youth. It is generally considered typical of women, rather than men, to be obsessed with their own youth and beauty. Women are typically cast off as undesirable when they reach a certain age, whereas men have a much longer time frame before society deems them too old to be physically attractive. Winnie also remembers her beauty from before she was in the mound, stating: and now? The face. The nose. I can see it†¦ the tip†¦the nostrils†¦breath of life†¦ that curve you so admired†¦ if I stick it out†¦the tip†¦suspicion of brow†¦eyebrow†¦imagination possibly†¦. Cheek†¦no†¦no†¦ even if I puff them out†¦ no†¦no†¦damask. (Beckett 52) She truly believes that her looks are the only reason that Willie could have ever loved her, and now that they are gone, she has no means of attraction. It is stereotypically characteristic of a woman to have these thoughts, and the preoccupation fits the gender stereotype. Winnie is also a stereotypical woman in the way she remembers her past lovers. For example, she is very sentimental about the memories of her first ball and her first kiss. It was with â€Å"a Mr. Johnson, or Johnston, or perhaps I should say 27 Johnstone. Very bushy moustache, very tawny. Almost ginger! Within a toolshed, though whose I cannot conceive† (Beckett 16). According to most gender stereotypes, it is typical of women to be obsessive over past relationships. Winnie’s memory is no exception. She also remembers another lover before Willie named Charlie. It is a fleeting memory, where she contemplates the situation, stating, â€Å"Ah yes†¦ then†¦now†¦beechen green†¦this†¦Charlie†¦ kisses†¦this†¦all that†¦ deep trouble for the mind† (Beckett 51). Clearly, Winnie is saddened in her memories but clings to them because she has little left that she can value as a result of her situation in the mound. Holding onto her past lovers represents Winnie’s desire to hold onto her rites of passage, including her first sexual experiences. Beckett explores a number of other stereotypes, including the purse Winnie carries. A purse is traditionally considered a feminine object to carry and generally is filled with trinkets that women are prone to using or carrying around. For example, the bag that Winnie uses is filled with such objects as a compact mirror, a handkerchief, a bottle of medicine, lipstick, a brush and comb, and a nail file. Although it can be argued that Winnie is bound to her purse because of her lack of mobility and things to occupy her time, it can also be seen as a comment on the female gender and their stereotypical dependence on the purse or bag that they carry. Winnie has great faith in her bag, and is protective of and dependent on it, stating: There is of course the bag. The bag. Could I enumerate its contents? No. Could I, if some kind person were to come along and ask, What all have you got in that big black bag, Winnie? Give an exhaustive answer? No. The depths in particular, who knows what treasures. What comforts. (Beckett 32) 28 Winnie is so attached to her bag she believes that the objects themselves carry not only meaning, but life. In the second act Winnie contemplates, â€Å"It’s things, Willie. In the bag, outside the bag. Ah yes, things have their life, that is what I always say, things have a life† (Beckett 54). This materialistic view has been attributed to women in many instances. Someone who marries a person for their money or resources is more likely to be a woman than a man (even though it is a stereotype for both genders), as women are seen as a lower class, and to escape their place in the class structure they marry into their wealth as they are not as privileged to earn it themselves. There is, however, one stereotypically masculine object in the bag: the revolver. In many cases, the revolver is a symbol of power and dominance over others. In the past, men typically carried firearms on their person and were given guns to use in war, an arena that has only recently been occupied in a standard capacity by women. The shape of the gun itself can also be considered phallic. The gun, considered as a phallic object, can also be seen as a castration of Willie. Winnie has essential ownership over his manhood. This can be supported by one of Willie’s few lines, in which Winnie asks him what a â€Å"hog’s setae† is, to which he replies, â€Å"Castrated male swine. Reared for slaughter† (Beckett 47). Willie clearly sees himself as someone who is no longer in control of his masculinity and has fallen so far that his status is reduced to that of a pig. He is also so far gone that he is ready to be killed. He is on his deathbed, waiting to go to the slaughterhouse. This viewpoint is very alarming, and does shed a slightly negative light on women. Winnie, in many ways, 29 can be seen as a monster for having power over the gun and therefore Willie’s masculinity. It is again remarkable to note that Winnie, not Willie, is the owner of the gun as it suggests that Winnie is in possession of the masculine object, and thereby the power. It is in her bag, and though she seems repulsed by the idea of a gun, she is also somewhat fascinated and consoled by its presence. When considering the gun, Winnie states, â€Å"oh I suppose it’s a comfort to know you’re there, but I’m tired of you. I’ll leave you out, that’s what I’ll do. There, that is your home from this day out† (Beckett 33). It is also unclear whether or not Willie is attempting to reclaim the gun from Winnie or not. At the play’s end, when Willie comes out â€Å"dressed to kill† and comes to Winnie on the mound where the gun is resting near her, Beckett makes sure that Willie’s last lunge towards the mound is ambiguous (Beckett 61). One is unsure whether or not he is trying to reach for Winnie, or for her gun. Regardless of his motive, one thing is certain: he does not attain the gun; it remains in Winnie’s possession. It is fair to assume that if the play’s narrative would have continued, Willie would never have gotten the gun from Winnie. Therefore, though Winnie is considered stereotypical with the use of her purse to carry trinkets and her attachment to her purse, she also is the wielder of a surprisingly masculine object, and the male character is unable to have it for himself. Another notable point is that commonly arises in Beckett plays is the lack of mobility women usually have, which suggests that women have little room for advancement in this world. Scholar Mary Bryden points out that â€Å"in these plays, stasis 30 has more in common with aspiration than with condemnation,† meaning that those who are not moving have aspirations that are static, not that they themselves are condemned to some sort of hell (90). Nell in Endgame lives in a trash can. The women in Play (1963) are trapped in urns. While this lack of mobility can be seen in male characters as well (Nagg in Endgame, the male in Play), the effect is different. Other men are given mobility in Beckett’s works, when women are less likely to be given movement. Hamm is able to move, as is Krapp, Vladimir, Estragon, Lucky, Pozzo, and most notably Willie. Willie is given the option of mobility, whereas Winnie is not. Winnie is actually happy with her lack of movement, stating, â€Å"What a curse, mobility! † (Beckett 46). She is aware that at one time she used to be mobile, but blissfully unaware at how much easier her life was when she was mobile. She was able to hold a parasol above her head with ease instead of with pain and discomfort. She was not the object of spectacle when others passed by. She was independent in many ways because she was not bound to the earth. She even dreams of leaving her situation, and dreams that â€Å"if I were not held–in this way–I would simply float up into the blue. And that perhaps someday the earth will yield and let me go, the pull is so great, yes, crack all round and let me out† (Beckett 33). Winnie recalls these things many times and acknowledges that mobility would be best for her. But she remains complacent about her situation and still finds happiness in her utterly dependent state with Willie, because her aspirations cause her to stay immobile. Her mobility is in direct relation to her ambitions. Since her dreams are not going anywhere, neither is Winnie. 31 In other ways Beckett does break standard gender stereotypes when portraying his women. In a patriarchal society the wife is supposed to be the servant to the husband. While Winnie is holding up her parasol and her arm tires, she asks his permission to put it down, stating, â€Å"bid me to put this thing down, Willie, I will obey you instantly, as I have always done, honoured, and obeyed† (Beckett 36). It seems that Winnie is a woman who is completely dependent on her husband, and in many ways she is because of her situation in the mound. However, Willie is the one who serves Winnie. Willie is the one who brings her items when she demands them, answers to her voice when she calls out to him, and essentially does whatever she demands. Winnie, in effect, has not taken the role of the stereotypical married woman. She mentions that she serves her husband and is bound to do so. Therefore she does not leave because of her duty and her vow of marriage and her situation in the hill. Willie, in the same vein, is not trapped in the hill as Winnie is. He is able to leave the harsh environment whenever he would like and essentially let fate take Winnie. He doesn’t leave, however. He takes the abusive phrases from his wife and he stays with her until presumably the end of her days. In much the same way, sex in Beckett plays is just as forgotten and elusive to men as it is to women. Characters in Beckett plays remember that sex, at one time, existed. But now it is so far in the past that it is almost forgotten. Winnie’s only memories of sex seem to be poor, as she states â€Å"sadness after intimate sexual intercourse one is familiar with of course. You would concur with Aristotle there, Willie, I fancy† (Beckett 57). Ironically, the Aristotle quotation actually refers to men, 32 stating â€Å"the exhaustion consequent on the loss of even a very little of the semen is conspicuous because the body is deprived of the ultimate gain drawn from the nutriment †¦ [so] as a general rule the result of intercourse is exhaustion and weakness rather than relief† (Alexander). It is extremely interesting that Winnie, as a woman, references such a masculine viewpoint on sexuality. However, she does seem to agree with this overtly masculine philosophy. Through her condition in the hill, Winnie’s sexuality is gradually covered up. Cooker, or Shower, as Winnie is hard at remembering, has made numerous comments about her sexuality in regards to the mound. Cooker and/or Shower is a man and his wife, that occasionally pass Winnie and Willie, and make rude comments about the state that Winnie finds herself in. Beckett was well versed in German, and used these English names as a play on words. In German, the word â€Å"schauen† means to look, and â€Å"gucken† to watch: naming his onlookers Shower and Cooker was highly suggestive. The mysterious onlooker is curious as to whether her body is still good looking, stating, â€Å"can’t have been a bad bosom†¦in its day. Seen worse shoulders†¦in my time. Does she feel her legs? . . . has she anything on underneath? † (Beckett 58). She is infuriated by the comments, yelling, â€Å"let go of me for Christ sake and drop! Drop dead! † (Beckett 58). But her condition in the mound makes it impossible to defend herself. While man and woman are both foreign to sex, it is the woman who is trapped and made a fool of, and has no way to defend herself because of the condition the playwright has placed her in. Dolan makes a point to discuss this in her work, commenting on the role that sexuality plays in performance. She believes that â€Å"if power adheres in sexuality, and cultural feminists 33 assume power leads to violence against women, it becomes politically and artistically necessary to attempt to disengage representation from desire,† meaning that in feminist theater practices, women have to be presented as women, not the object of male sexual desire (Dolan 61). In Beckett’s production, Winnie is literally trapped and gaped at, proving Dolan’s point that in most of the modern canon, the representation of woman on stage is synonymous with desire. One of the scenes in Happy Days that concentrates most on sex is that in which Winnie discusses Mildred, commonly referenced as Milly, and the mouse. The story is quite frightening and underlines the idea that sex for women and for Winnie in particular has been terrifying and un-gratifying. In the second act, Winnie describes Mildred, a little girl who could have been Winnie as a young woman. She has been given a wax doll named Dolly. Milly sneaks out of her room to the nursery to undress Dolly, as she seemingly has been â€Å"forbidden to do so,† then suddenly out of nowhere a mouse appears and crawls up Milly’s leg (Beckett 55). She screams, and the entire household comes running to see what the matter is. It is at that moment that Winnie stops her story, and is too overcome to finish. It is clear from the language, that the story is one of Milly’s, or perhaps Winnie’s, first memories of sexuality and perhaps her own sexuality. Clearly the experience frightened her in regard to her sexual nature, because she abruptly stops her story by warning Willie that he â€Å"may close [his] eyes, then [he] must close [his] eyes- and keep them closed† (Beckett 59). While Winnie’s sexuality has shifted and her sex drive has been affected by her entrapment in the 34 mound, it is clear that even from a young age she was not accepting of her sexuality, or able to properly deal with it because she felt violated. Throughout Beckett’s work, gender stereotypes are present. However, these stereotypes are accompanied by a number of gender deviations from the stereotypical norm. Therefore, when considering the work of Beckett, it is valid to assert that although Beckett conforms to gender stereotyping, he is not bound by them. Even though his work is informed by a world on the verge of the second-wave feminist movement, he is beginning to break gender stereotypes that are inherent in his earlier works of prose and even drama. Therefore, Happy Days is an appropriate and interesting play to look at from an absurdist feminist perspective. Happy Days in Performance: A Feminist Perspective (Process) When mounting a production there are a number of individuals involved, and they all have a certain role to play. Actors, directors, producers, and the production design team all work together to create a final performance. In the fall, I spent most of my time researching the production and writing the preliminary part of my thesis. In the production, I held two roles: that of producer and lead actress. As a producer, it was my responsibility to be in charge of the logistical elements of the production. I was responsible for coordinating the space rental, finding rehearsal spaces, making the program and fliers, and essentially all of the production aspects of the performance. Some of my duties I gave to my director and stage manager to handle, which in a typical performance would not happen; however, since I was also taking on the role as the lead actress, I had to divide my time. In that role I was expected to memorize all of 35 my lines, have character ideas, personalize emotional responses and relationships, and have a set of actions to achieve my objectives. This role proved to be the most time consuming, as the Beckett script was repetitive and convoluted, making it difficult to memorize. Winnie is essentially the only character who speaks (meaning there are no other actors to rely on for help with lines and following the through line of the script, or the journey of the character throughout the play), and the nature of absurdist work makes it difficult to discover objectives and relationships. One of my first duties as producer was to assemble a production team. First, I chose a performance faculty advisor. I asked Professor Shelley Delaney because of her work with one-woman performances and her knowledge of the craft of acting. After making this choice, I was informed that Professor Delaney would not be able to help direct me in the production. I knew that as an actor I would not be able to assess my progress without the help of a director. Therefore, I asked Arielle Giselle Rogers to direct me. She graduated from Ohio University’s School of Theater with a BFA in Acting in 2011, and she is very experienced in directing and performing in onewoman shows, especially feminist works (she is the founding member of F-Word, a feminist theater performance group on Ohio University’s campus). I also needed a stage manager; someone to handle the day to day operations of rehearsal. For that I choose Jacob St. Aubin, a junior BFA stage management major because he is an impeccable organizer and very talented. I then needed a set designer to help with the construction of the hill that Winnie is buried in. I chose Ryan Myers, a senior BFA production design and technology major who specializes in set design, based on his 36 previous design and portfolio work. For costumes I turned to Megan Knowles, a senior BFA production design and technology major who specializes in costumes, because I had worked with her before and she has a very impressive portfolio. For the sound design I asked Aaron Butler, a graduate student in the School of Music, because of his work in other School of Theater productions in which he utilized minimalist soundscapes and experimental music. For the lighting design I asked Keri Donovan, a BFA production design and technology major who specializes in lighting design to create the effect of the fire and generally light the show. Finally, I solicited help from one other faculty member, Laura Parrotti, who was my vocal coach throughout the process. Professor Parrotti has been a vocal coach on a number of professional productions, as well as the main voice coach for the School of Theater students. Her advice on how to handle the Beckett text from a vocal standpoint was instrumental to the process. Rehearsals for Happy Days began January 9, 2012. The cast consisted of me (Rachel Collins) as Winnie and Sean O’Brien as Willie. Rehearsals were coordinated through a joint effort between Jacob and me, but he facilitated the rehearsal reports, space rental, and coordination of meetings with the production team. The first week of rehearsals consisted of table work, which was run by Arielle. Table work is generally the term used for the first week of rehearsal, in which the actors go through the script beat by beat and look at the academic and theoretical aspects behind the script that would inform the performance. Sean and I read through the script while Arielle gave notes. Then the three of us would discuss the scholarly background of the play, 7 characters, motivation, and my take on the thesis, etc. , with the group and began to come up with character ideas and how to shape the piece. The main aspect we discussed through these workings was the idea that Winnie is a woman who i How to cite Absurdism, Papers

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