Absurdism

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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. Angela Ahlgren Visiting Assistant Professor Thesis Advisor

Jeremy Webster Dean, Honors Tutorial College

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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

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Table Of Contents Introduction ……………………………………………………………..……………4 On Absurdism………………………………………………………………………...6 On Beckett…………………………………………………………………………...10 Happy Days Production History…………………………………………………….16 Feminist Theater………………………………………………………….…………18 Beckett and Gender (Happy Days)………………………………………………….23 Happy Days in Performance: A Feminist Perspective (Process)………………….34 Happy Days in Performance: Reflection…………………………………………...40 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………48 Annotated Bibliography…………………………………………………………….52 Creative Supplementary Materials…………………………………………...……59 Happy Days Rehearsal Notes………………….…...………………………………..59 Happy Days Rehearsal Script……………………….………………………………74 Happy Days Program and Event Flier……………………………………………...92 Happy Days Production Photos……………………………………………………..94

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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 “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

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redefine its standards. Before the First World War, class structure in Europe was rigidly defined. People “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...
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