Lives in Play

Autobiography and Biography on the Feminist Stage

Subjects: Theater and Performance, Gender Studies, Women's Studies, Writing
Paperback : 9780472035984, 272 pages, 1 B&W photograph, 6 x 9, April 2014
Hardcover : 9780472118403, 272 pages, 1 B&W photograph, 6 x 9, August 2012
Ebook : 9780472028535, 264 pages, 1 B&W figure, August 2012
See expanded detail +
Or shop at these retailers: Amazon - Kindle

Life writing's significance in women's theater and performance from the '70s to the present

Look Inside


Lives in Play explores the centrality of life narratives to women's drama and performance from the 1970s to the present moment. In the early days of second-wave feminism, the slogan was "The personal is the political." These autobiographical and biographical "true stories" have the political impact of the real and have also helped a range of feminists tease out the more complicated aspects of gender, sex, and sexuality in a Western culture that now imagines itself to be "postfeminist."

The book covers a broad range of texts and performances, from performance artists like Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, and Bobby Baker to playwrights like Suzan-Lori Parks, Maria Irene Fornes, and Sarah Kane. The book examines biography and autobiography together to link their narrative tactics and theatrical approaches and show the persistent and important uses of life writing strategies for theater artists committed to advancing women's rights and remaking women's representations.

Lives in Play argues that these writers and artists have not only responded to the vibrant conversations in feminist theory but also have anticipated and advanced these ideas, theorizing gender onstage for specific ends. Ryan Claycomb demonstrates how these performances work through tensions between performative identity and the essentialized body, between the truth value of life stories and the constructed nature of gender and narrative alike, and between writing and performing as modes of feminist representation.

The book will appeal to scholars in performance studies, women's studies, and literature, including those in the growing field of auto/biography studies.

Ryan Claycomb is Associate Professor of English, West Virginia University.

"This volume will be of particular interest to feminist scholars, and those studying the epistemologies of solo, biographical, and autobiographical performances."
--The Drama Review

- Tanya Dean

"Offers insightful observations about the meaning of the body in autobiographical performance and the role of the audience in the specific context of feminist performance...Offers a valuable introduction to students or non-specialists seeking background in this particular field."
--Amelia Howe Kritzer, Comparative Drama Conference Series

- Amelia Howe Kritzer

"...a most welcome addition to the literature on theater, in particular scholarship on feminist practices."
—M.D. Whitlach, CHOICE

- M.D. Whitlach

"Through a series of detailed analyses that make use of narrative and performance theory alike, Claycomb illuminates the ways in which feminist auto/biographical performance utillizes concepts of performativity alongside more traditional notions of the embodiesd self to advance a feminist politics... the vast body of work that Claycomb situates as feminist auto/biographical peformance speaks to the politcal potiential of the genre."--Modern Drama

- Lisa Sloan

"For scholars of feminist theatre and feminist theory, there is much to recommend Lives in Play. Claycomb has an impressive grasp of these fields, and makes a strong case for their coconstitutive nature; the book is admirably nuanced in its analysis, and expansive in its objects of study... for the specialist audience for whom Claycomb writes, and as a corrective to trends in the canon formation of feminist theatre criticism, the book is valuable, and perhaps even necessary, in the strong case it makes for returning dismissed or understudied works by female playwrights and performance artists to a place of critical value."
--Theatre Survey


- Patricia Elise Nelson

"Ryan Claycomb’s monograph provides a comprehensive overview of the work of significant feminist playwrights in the 1990s."--Theatre Research International

- Cindy Rosenthal