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Strindberg, Women, and Albee

Those of us in the BU community have been fortunate in that we have had the opportunity to explore August Strindberg in much more depth than most others. Not only did we read “Miss Julie” in Dramatic Literature, but many of us were lucky enough to see a student produced, directed, and acted version of “Creditors,” his brilliantly written, 1989 play. However, it strikes me that I have not even begun to understand how influential Strindberg is to the dramatic community. Upon reading this article, it has become clear to me that my fundamental understanding of contemporary theatre has been greatly affected by this man, referred to as “‘that other guy’ not Ibsen or Chekov” (Fisher).

This article really got to me, in that the connections being made between Strindberg (who I consider part of the old, yet quite important theatre) and authors such as Williams and Albee are very unclear to me, due to the fact that I do not know enough Strindberg work. If he truly is to be considered one of the fathers of modern theatre, I wish I knew dad better.

This is not to say I am blaming the theatres for not producing more Strindberg, nor am I saying we should teach him as one of the biggest bricks for modern theatre. But to know that, more than “Miss Julie,” he wrote plays inspiring “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and other such staples of American theatre, would aid me in my own discovery of what is contemporary theatre? How did we get from there to here?

This question is not an easy one for me to ask or answer, so mostly I’m just leaving it out there. But it’s fascinating to me that I have been dismissing Strindberg as “merely” a great writer, and not crediting him with creating such a strong foundation on which others have continued to build upon.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I then was to read that apparently people consider Strindberg to be a misogynist, to which Sue Prideau and I are both in firm agreement against. His plays, to me, appear to be a declaration of ownership of the female body and mind, not unlike current shows such as Eve Ensler’s poetry or Carol Churchill’s work on describing the new role of gender. Not only does “Miss Julie” tackle sex as a central, yet flexible topic, “Creditors”, as well, employs Tekla as a woman who has fully mastered herself and who she is. Tekla works towards her own person gain and enjoyment, not trying to better the lives of the men in her life, and it is this sort of ownership over her own person that makes Strindberg not a misogynist, but an early advocate for women’s equality in personal and political lives

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