Womens history enters stage right

Women! Live on Stage! pushes its audience to explore an unexplored history

by Tatum Fjerstad

The history of women in theater is, like much of womenís history, a struggle for recognition.

There was a time when women of the theater could not solely be actors. For example, in 13th-century China, in order to support their art, women had to subject themselves to prostitution.

Theatre Unbound, a company founded by and focused on women, strives to unearth the forgotten history of women in theater. The theater hopes that by looking at the past, change can come in the future.

ìWomen! Live On Stage! a brief history of women in theatre” follows the journey of a young actress who auditions for a play about womenís history. To get the part she must learn the history and help the other players complete each scene so they can finish the play.

The cast tells the story in six vignettes through six women from different countries (such as English playwright Hannah Cowley) who influenced theater and helped to make drama what it is today.

ìWomen!,” first performed at the Fringe Festival in 2004, was written by Anne Bertram, Jeannine Coulombe and Lindsay Hockaday. In the year or so since its first performance, the play has been rewritten several times.

When the show premiered at the Fringe Festival, the audience wanted more background information, said Stacey Poirier, artistic director of Theatre Unbound and player in the production.

ìThe history comes hard and fast and it can be a little difficult to follow,” she said.

Poirier said through those rewrites, the three female playwrights created a play with more defined characters and a smoother plot to engage the audience.

Coulombe studied both history and theater in college but didnít grasp the role women played in theater.

ìIt wasnít until after eight years of education that I realized how important women were in theater,” Coulombe said. ìThe history exists, and itís really rich. But itís just not mainstream in education.”

To uncover this rich history was not the only reason Coulombe said she and her co-playwrights wrote the play. They also wanted to give Theatre Unbound a signature work that supports their mission ó to create more opportunities for women in the theater world.

And so far, they have been successful.

ìWhile weíre a very small company,” Poirier said. ìWeíve noticed that other companies are starting to produce more shows with roles for women.”