Explores how women playwrights illuminate the contemporary world and contribute to its reshaping

Table of contents

Introduction: Critical Visions
Penny Farfan
I. Replaying the Canon
1.         Feminist Adaptations / Adaptations of Feminism: Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad
Penny Farfan
     2.    Indigenizing the Colonial Narrative: Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife
Denise Varney
     3.    Does Revenge Fall Softly? Yaël Farber’s Molora
Catherine Cole  
     4.    Indecent Collaborations and / in Queer Time(s)
Katie N. Johnson and Sara L. Warner
II. Representing Histories
5.         The Bloodstained Distance: Adrienne Kennedy’s He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box
            Alisa Solomon 
6.         Unmaking a Devil’s Bargain: Suzan-Lori Parks’s Father Comes Home from the Wars and the Idea of America
Soyica Diggs Colbert and Robert J. Patterson
     7.    “A Change Is Gonna Come?” Protest and Racial Progress in debbie tucker green’s ear for eye
Lynette Goddard  
     8.    Maternal Agency and Reproductive Justice in Lisa Loomer’s Roe
Sharon L. Green
III. Staging Lives
     9.    The Mythic Migrant, the Witnessing Self: Hélène Cixous and Le Dernier Caravansérail: Odyssées
Emine Fişek
    10.   Exceptional Embodiment in Anna Deavere Smith’s Let Me Down Easy
            Ryan Claycomb
    11.   Acting and Reenacting the Malvinas/Falklands War in Lola Arias’s Minefield/Campo minado
            Paola S. Hernández
    12.   Fun Home: Lesbian Feminism Meets Broadway Musical Theatre
Stacy Wolf
IV. Re-imagining Family
    13.   A ‘rock inside the flesh’: Motherwork in Marie Clements’s The Unnatural and Accidental Women
Karen Bamford and Sheila Rabillard
    14.   Quiara Hudes’s Water by the Spoonful and the Dramaturgy of Free Jazz
Natalie Alvarez and Jimena Ortuzar
    15.   British Muslim Feminism and the Marriage Trap: Alia Bano’s Shades
Meenakshi Ponnuswami
    16.   Lesbian Interspecies Performance: Holly Hughes’s The Dog and Pony Show (bring your own pony)
Kim Marra
V.  Navigating Communities
     17. Bread of Life: Whiti Hereaka’s Rēwena
Diana Looser
     18. Transcultural Memory and Food in Julia Cho’s Aubergine
Esther Kim Lee 
19.       Truth and Absurdity on the London Stage: Liwaa Yazji’s Goats and its Audiences Margaret Litvin with Liwaa Yazji 
     20. “I Will Tend Your Garden”: The Terms of Proximity in Grace Passô’s Por Elise
Honey Crawford
VI. Articulating Intersections
     21.  Dominique Morisseau’s Blood at the Root: Intersectionality and the Jena Six
Juliet Guzzetta  
22.       Economic Disenfranchisement and Gender Inequality in Emma Dante’s mPalermu
Francesca Spedalieri
23.       The Magic of Change: Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s The World of Extreme Happiness
Xing Fan
     24.  “But nostalgia’s a disease”: Viewing Lynn Nottage’s Sweat in the Age of Trump
Courtney Elkin Mohler
VII. New World Order(s)
     25.  Miss Piggy the Seer in the Land of Trump’s Blind: Elfriede Jelinek’s On the Royal Road: The Burgher King   
Sue-Ellen Case 
     26.  Has She “Escaped Alone” to Tell Us? Caryl Churchill: ‘Messenger’ for the Twenty-First Century
Rosemary Malague
     27.  Climate Change and the Capitalocene in Colleen Murphy’s The Breathing Hole
Wendy Arons
     28.  The Ghosts of Greenham Common in Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children
Lesley Ferris
Afterwords: Emerging Currents: Fighting on Two Fronts
Lesley Ferris
Notes on Contributors


This book foregrounds some of the ways in which women playwrights from across a range of contexts and working in a variety of forms and styles are illuminating the contemporary world while also contributing to its reshaping as they reflect, rethink, and reimagine it through their work for the stage. The book is framed by a substantial introduction that sets forth the critical vision and structure of the book as a whole, and an afterword that points toward emerging currents in and expansions of the contemporary field of playwriting by women on the cusp of the third decade of the twenty-first century. Within this frame, the twenty-eight chapters that form the main body of the book, each focusing on a single play of critical significance, together constitute a multi-faceted, inevitably partial, yet nonetheless integral picture of the work of women playwrights since 2000 as they engage with some of the most pressing issues of our time. Some of these issues include the continuing oppression of and violence against women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and ethnic minorities; the ongoing processes of decolonization; the consequences of neoliberal capitalism; the devastation and enduring trauma of war; global migration and the refugee crisis; the turn to right-wing populism; and the impact of climate change, including environmental disaster and species extinction.
The book is structured into seven sections: Replaying the Canon; Representing Histories; Staging Lives; Re-imagining Family; Navigating Communities; Articulating Intersections; and New World Order(s). These sections group clusters of plays according to the broad critical actions they perform or, in the case of the final section, the new world orders that they capture through their stagings of the seeming impasse of the politically and environmentally catastrophic global present moment. There are many other points of resonance among and across the plays, but this seven-part structure foregrounds the broader actions that drive the plays, both in the Aristotelian dramaturgical sense and in the larger sense of the critical interventions that the plays creatively enact. In this way, the seven-part structure establishes correspondences across the great diversity of dramatic material represented in the book while at the same time identifying key methods of critical approach and areas of focus that align the book’s contributors across this diversity. The structure of the book thus parallels what the playwrights themselves are doing, but also how the contributors are approaching their work. Plays featured in the book are from Canada, Australia, South Africa, the US, the UK, France, Argentina, New Zealand, Syria, Brazil, Italy, and Austria; the playwrights include Margaret Atwood, Leah Purcell, Yaël Farber, Paula Vogel, Adrienne Kennedy, Suzan-Lori Parks, debbie tucker green, Lisa Loomer, Hélène Cixous, Anna Deavere Smith, Lola Arias, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, Marie Clements, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Alia Bano, Holly Hughes, Whiti Hereaka, Julia Cho, Liwaa Yazji, Grace Passô, Dominique Morisseau, Emma Dante, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Lynn Nottage, Elfriede Jelinek, Caryl Churchill, Colleen Murphy, and Lucy Kirkwood.
Encompassing several generations of playwrights and scholars, ranging from the most senior to mid-career to emerging voices, the book will be essential reading for established researchers, a valuable learning resource for students at all levels, and a useful and accessible guide for theatre practitioners and interested theatre-goers.

Penny Farfan is Professor of Drama at the University of Calgary.
Lesley Ferris is Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of Theatre Emeritus at The Ohio State University.

Finalist: Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) 2022 Excellence in Editing Award

- ATHE Excellence in Editing Award

“Presents an opportunity to discover twenty-first century women’s theatre through the array of ‘critical perspectives’ deployed, and to increase our appetite for greater equality, diversity, and inclusion in the plays we study and ultimately the theatre we see.”
—Elaine Aston, Lancaster University

- Elaine Aston

“This terrific volume is chockful of incisive critical engagement from some of our most astute feminist critics, writing about some of the world’s most innovative, observant women playwrights.  I’m impressed by the range of contents and forms these writers address, and by how these plays are forged very much for and from the urgent historical moment.”
—Jill Dolan, Princeton University

- Jill Dolan

 “Comprehensive and compelling . . . The contents reflect an inclusive and diverse global mix of recent dramatic/performance works by women artists, discussed by an impressive group of contributors. As such, the volume has much to offer to teachers, students, scholars, and artists alike.”
—J. Ellen Gainor, Cornell University

- J. Ellen Gainor

“A valuable contribution to the field, bringing together a diversity of theatrical perspectives both creative and scholarly.”
—Leah Lowe, Vanderbilt University

- Leah Lowe

"Inspiring in its addressing of intersectionalities of class, race, gender and sexuality, it is equally inclusive in the range of performance types explored... An excellent collection." 
Unfinished Histories

- Susan Croft

"Penny Farfan and Lesley Ferris’s new collection of essays provides a compelling and accessible picture of dramatic works written in the last two decades by women from a wide range of different contexts. The book’s twenty-eight chapters examine some of the most representative works by both experienced and emergent voices on the global scene, as each of these playwrights critically represents the many ways in which violence, oppression and segregation are embodied in a world marked by the massification of social movements advocating change, such as Black Lives Matter or Me Too."
Theatre Research International

- Yennadim Reales Medina

"… there is a wealth of recent playwriting by women that warrants systematic explication and high-profile scholarship.… 28 chapters on as many plays can provide rewarding insights that engender a desire for even more…. The essays are endlessly fungible for teaching purposes, inspiring many kinds of curation…. Each essay is concise (averaging eight pages) yet never breezy in tone, well-suited to assigning along with a play text…. The book is highly readable…"

- Tracy C. Davis

“The book certainly achieves its aim of creating an appetite for discovering hidden and emergent theatrical voices; in doing so, it provides a wealth of material for amplifying the canon of plays encountered in theatre scholarship… [and] creates a fertile ground for further discussions around decolonization, equality, and diversity in the theatre and in the classroom.”
New Theatre Quarterly

- Marissia Fragkou

The scope of this volume and the intersectional feminist approach are a boon as a teaching resource and a reference for scholars across disciplines. The essays offer succinct, lucid analyses of plays from a variety of traditions that undergraduates will find approachable. In addition to the global breadth of women-authored drama, the plurality of voices from junior feminist scholars to pioneers of the field, and the intersectionality of critical approaches, another aspect to celebrate about this volume is its immediacy. The plays and perspectives represented in this collection are highly current and topical, speaking to global cultural, economic, and political questions immediate to ongoing conversations in the field and classroom."

- Jennifer-Scott Mobley