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American Women Playwrights (July 2022): Distinctive Points of View

By Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco

Distinctive Points of View

Three studies can be singled out for offering different lenses through which to view American women playwrights. The first is Modern American Drama: The Female Canon, edited by June Schlueter, which opens with a debate on the term “canon” and how this collection of essays represents who is deemed important right now at “a particular moment in America’s cultural and literary history.” The volume is notable for some unusual inclusions, for example an essay on Meredith Monk’s opera/music theater; an essay on how differently Wendy Kesselman’s My Sister in This House and Jean Genet’s The Maids treat the same historical source; and “Gender Perspective and Violence in the Plays of Maria Irene Fornes and Sam Shepard,” which explores the similarities in their styles and approaches even as it questions “the relative obscurity of Fornes” versus the commercial success of Shepard. The second standout title is Joan Herrington’s The Playwright’s Muse, which covers exclusively late 20th-century Pulitzer Prize winning playwrights and includes both critical appraisals of their work and interviews. The only women profiled are Wasserstein, Vogel, and Margaret Edson, whose one play, Wit, won the Pulitzer in 1999. The third is Patricia Schroeder’s The Feminist Possibilities of Dramatic Realism (1996) which investigates the work of playwrights whom she sees as “feminist realists.” After an introductory chapter exploring the development of realism and its feminist critiques, Schroeder considers white women working in mainstream American theater between 1900 and 1940; the work of early 20th-century African American women playwrights; and late-century playwrights who adhere to the outlines of realism but adapt them in experimental ways to express feminist concerns.

Works Cited