October 26

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Festival Fatale at The Darlingurst Theatre making herstory October 27!

FestivalFatale

27 October, Eternity playhouse.

You can grab your tickets here.

 

Who is your favourite female philosopher?

I was asked this question in a small café in Leichhardt over ten years ago. I was a joint convener of a fortnightly philosophy club essential to which was the weekly reading, the hard questions and the cheap red wine.  Like all good questions, the one posed was a trap and any answer presumed to be carefully crafted. Any feeble reply would be followed up by my antagonist.

A year or so later I was asked to give a talk entitled “Can women be philosophers?” I sat on the stage between two very bright women who were new to philosophy. One gave a robust speech on the power and literary might of Simone de Beauvoir, and the other on the expanding definition of philosophy to absorb cultural studies. But I had been reading Helene Cixous, and I countered with my “No. Women cannot be philosophers” paper. I was well prepared this time. The women beside me were confused and alive with stimulated rage. Our post talk discussion devolved into a ‘we should stand together’ argument, but an intuitive understanding had transpired forging unbreakable tendrils between us. The men in the room were lost. Between trying to seduce me and clutching at their Kant and Heidegger’s they scrambled to help me properly understand my own words. This was one of the many moments in my life when I experienced true female power.

 

The future must no longer be determined by the past. I do not deny that the effects of the past are still with us. But I refuse to strengthen them by repeating them, to confer upon them an irremovability the equivalent of destiny, to confuse the biological and the cultural. Anticipation is imperative.

Hélène Cixous (The laugh of the Medusa)

 

One of the most frightening moments of my life was when I woke to find men were not in control. I had conferred upon them all this power, and they were not powerful. Above the fear was my anger at being duped and used as a puppet. But beneath that was the terror that the little boys were as foolish as they presented. Languages like mathematics and economics were designed out of ego gratification and jargon was a wall, not a tool. The unpaid labour of women was the unacknowledged bedrock of all their accomplishments from chemistry to architecture. The responsibility of woman is not simply to free herself. It is to free all of us. No society can continue under the current structure. Everything must be remade. A good man will look to a woman and hear her. But more essential than his listening, is her saying. And she must say something new.

 

And why don’t you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven’t written. (And why I didn’t write before the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great – that is for “great men”; and it’s “silly.” Besides, you’ve written a little, but in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way; or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then, as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty – so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time.

Hélène Cixous (The laugh of the Medusa)

 

None of the worlds current problems can be solved until women take responsibility for solving them. We must get together and we must speak in order to find our voice. It is urgent. It must happen now. We must practice on each other until we can sense our power, and crystalise it into language. We must find the strength to stand up to bullies, boys and the misogynist we built in ourselves to protect us. Forge bonds, not through sweetness, through declaration, rigor and calling forth the leader in each other. Demand better from each other. Reposition our harsh critic away from judge and toward tutor. Gather where ever we can, hear each other and inspire greater works to pour from us for next time.

And so we come to the Festival Fatale, the short festival sponsored by Darlinghurst Theatre Company held at Eternity Playhouse. The festival aims to produce and create ground-breaking, contemporary and vibrant feminist theatre for audiences in Sydney. This year, 2018 sees the day long festival celebrating women’s writing, and bringing women into the room to talk, laugh, eat and drink and celebrate the glorious sound of our beautiful voices. As a critic of multiple artforms, I maintain that there is something very special about theatre and the way it can touch. What better environs for the uniqueness of the woman’s written voice to find its place and strengthen its power?

In talking to Tara Clark, the festivals general manager I felt that same sense of female power I have been lucky enough experience often in my life. The thrill of ambition, the audacity of making a thing happen in the world. With writers like Monikka Eliah and Susie Conte in the line-up, the organisers Tara Clark, Lizzie Schebesta and Leila Enright have put together a powerful team of performance professionals coming together to celebrate the female voice.

I asked Tara what was so important about this festival. “The main purpose of Festival Fatale is to put women artists and women’s stories in the spotlight. It’s about normalising the idea of an all-female line up. At the moment, an all-female line up is something remarkable and something almost always curated on purpose. An all-male line up isn’t seen in the same way. It’s just normal.” she said.

I couldn’t agree more. Talking about what it is like to be a part of this sort of activity, she said: “I’m a woman and a practicing artist myself. I believe that if you have an issue with something you need to work to address it. If you’re not willing to work toward addressing it, then you have no right to have an issue. I don’t have time for complaints without action.”

There is not much to say beyond that. What is better than women getting together to celebrate women and collaborate on where to go next and how-to problem solve? Building on the tremendous success of the 2016 program, the 2018 plan is a larger, more ambitious project suitable for the powerhouse growth female theatre artists have been experiencing in Sydney in the last two years. We’ve come so far, but have so far to go. As Hélène Cixous would say:

I shall speak about women’s writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies – for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text – as into the world, and into history – by her own movement.

Hélène Cixous (The laugh of the Medusa)

The Festival Fatale is on at The Darlinghurst Theatre Saturday October 27.

You can grab your tickets here.

WITS

 

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