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Toward a New History of Women in the

Modern Theatre – an Introduction

Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva and Scott Proudfit

This volume rests upon two premises: (1) That collective creation is piv-
otal to the evolution of the modern theatre; and (2) That women have
been central to the emergence and development of collective creation.
Though written to be read as a self-contained work, Women, Collective
Creation, and Devised Performance is in fact the third volume in an ongo-
ing body of research into collective creation and devising practices from
1900 to the present. Our two previous studies, A History of Collective
Creation and Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance (Palgrave
Macmillan, 2013), argued that modern collective theatre-making praxis
may be best understood as an ongoing, resistant tradition emerging, in its
European and North American contexts, circa 1900 and running through-
out the twentieth century and on into present-day devising practices. Our
goal at the inception of this body of work had been to contest the broadly
accepted view of collective creation as a minor phenomenon peculiar to the

K.M. Syssoyeva
Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, USA
S. Proudfit
Elon University, Department of English, Elon, North Carolina, USA

© The Author(s) 2016 3

K.M. Syssoyeva, S. Proudfit (eds.), Women, Collective Creation, and
Devised Performance, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-55013-2_1

New Left political theatre of the 1960s and 1970s, associated in the main
with developments in the United States, Canada, Quebec, and England
(and to a lesser extent, France). Working in collaboration with an interna-
tional team of scholars, we sought to elucidate the aesthetic, processual,
and political links between theatrical devising in the contemporary period,
collective creation practices of the 1960s and 1970s, and pre-war experi-
ments in collaborative theatre-making—and to do so from an internation-
alist perspective. In so doing, we worked to draw out both resemblances
and divergences in collective practice, and in the aesthetic, social, and/or
political impulses underpinning those practices, in their particular cultural
and historical contexts.
This new volume seeks to deepen that historicization by investigat-
ing the centrality of women to the development of collective and devised
theatre-making in the modern and contemporary period. Our project is
twofold: to historicize the enormous, ongoing contribution of women
to collective creation; and to investigate questions about the relationship
between gender and collaboration, authority, authorship, and attribution.
Women must be credited with a central, foundational, and continued
role in the development and transmission of practices of collective and
devised theatre-making since the start of the twentieth century. A cur-
sory scan of a few prominent names in North America and Europe hints
at the consideration women demand in the history of collective perfor-
mance praxis: directors such as Joan Littlewood, Judith Malina, Ariane
Mnouchkine, Elizabeth LeCompte, Tina Landau, Anne Bogart, Ruth
Maleczech, JoAnne Akalaitis, Lin Hixson, and Julia Varley; pioneering
teachers such as Viola Spolin, Suzanne Bing, Rena Mirecka, and Roberta
Carreri; companies and networks such as Lilith, WOW Cafe, At the Foot
of the Mountain, Spiderwoman Theater, Guerrilla Girls, Omaha Magic
Theatre, Split Britches, SITI Company, Nightwood Theatre, Théâtre
Expérimental des Femmes, The Magdalena Project, FEMEN, and Pussy
Riot; choreographers such as Anna Halprin, Yvonne Rainer, Aileen Passloff,
Trisha Brown, and Mary Overlie; playwrights such as Caryl Churchill,
Hélène Cixous, Deb Margolin, Muriel Miguel, and Megan Terry. And yet,
the deep engagement of women in collectively generated performance has
been grossly under-historicized.
This volume traces a sprawling lineage, revealing a hitherto unac-
knowledged web of transmission—connecting, by way of example, the
educational play movement spearheaded by such reformers as Dr. Maria
Montessori in Italy, Margaret Naumberg in New York, and Neva Boyd of

Chicago’s Hull-House, to the theatrical devising pedagogies of Suzanne

Bing in 1920s’ France and Viola Spolin in 1930s’ Chicago, to the collec-
tive practices of (among others) Théâtre du Soleil and the Living Theatre
in the 1960s, to the nomadic performances of the women of the Odin
Teatret in 1980s’ Europe, to Pussy Riot’s recent protests in Russia. In
so doing, the book further elucidates a history of modern theatre begun
in our previous volumes, in which the seemingly marginal and disparate
practices of collective creation are revealed as central, and women practi-
tioners further revealed as primary progenitors, renovators, stewards, and
disseminators of these practices. The history of the modern theatre is a
history of collaborative methods and the history of collaborative methods
is a women’s history.

As we did in the first two volumes, we have left it to individual writers in
this collection to use the terminology of collaborative theatre-making—
that is, collective creation and devising—as each sees fit. At times, this
produces slippage: one person’s devising is another’s collective creation;
indeed, one person’s collective creation may be another’s directorial dom-
inance. This, we contend, is a problem inherent both in the nature of
academic and professional jargon—which, like all language, refuses to stay
put and signify neatly—and in the nature of collective theatre-making.
Theatre is innately multivocal, and its practices, involving complex group
interaction, quite varied; collective creation both extends and foregrounds
that multivocality and processual variation. Our easy relationship to the
terminology employed by the writers with whom we are collaborating is
an extension of our commitment to such polyphony—and of our faith that
a close reading of the vagaries of usage may prove more fruitful than any
effort to establish terminological dominance.
That said, we do have our own perspective(s), derived from our shared
investigations in this field, as researchers and editors.

Collective Creation
In preparation for our first two volumes, we spent considerable time
discussing how best to define collective creation, the terminological pre-
decessor to devising. Broadly construed, collective creation refers to group-
generated theatrical performance. The devil is in the details. Does collective

creation imply Left politics? If a particular theatrical collective is politically

to the right, is it then not practicing collective creation? Does collective
creation imply the generation of a new work ex nihilo, as Deirdre Heddon
and Jane Milling proposed in Devising Performance (Palgrave Macmillan,
2005)? If a collaborating performance group develops the mise en scène
for an existing play script without the aid of a director, would that then
fall outside the parameters of collective creation (due to the pre-existing
script)—and if so, what do we call it? Conversely, if the group creates an
entirely new work of performance through improvisation, which is then
“set” and “edited” by a playwright in the privacy of her study, with a mise
en scène likewise improvisationally generated, then modified and set by a
director—is that still collective creation? And what are we to make of the
“fact” that nearly all the “leaderless” collectives of the 1930s and 1960s
have repeatedly been demonstrated to have had strong leadership? And
so on.
With the aim of teasing out resemblances in collaborative theatre-
making across eras and cultures, we wanted to keep our definition of col-
lective creation broad enough to account for a multiplicity of practices
that might be reasonably considered to fall under its purview (including
practices that were not so defined by their practitioners), and yet limited
enough that we did not collapse into relativism. After all, it is commonly
argued that, to differing degrees, all theatre is collaborative. Therefore,
some theatre historians might reasonably contend that all theatre (along
with film, television, circus, dance, and a great many other collaborative or
cooperative art forms we might name) is collective creation. This defini-
tion was of course too broad for our purposes. In the end, we arrived at a
working definition:

There is a group. The group wants to make theatre. The group chooses—or,
conversely, a leader within the group proposes—to make theatre using a
process which places conscious emphasis on the groupness of that process, on
some possible collaborative mode between members of the group, which is,
typically, viewed as being in some manner more collaborative than members
of the group have previously experienced.1

The autological awkwardness here (a sort of infinite ingress produced

by the repetition of group, groupness, collaborative, more collaborative)
arises from the problem of the political “baggage” of the more nuanced
(or at least, varied) terms we might use in place of the neologism groupness:

collectivist, communitarian, communistic, democratic, anti-hierarchical....

Each insinuates an array of historically conditioned political associations
into the definition—and it is precisely narrow historical specificity that
we sought to circumvent. As we looked at patterns of collaborative prac-
tice across some one hundred plus years and multiple languages and cul-
tures, we found a mutualistic impulse at work that transcended ideological
Yet if political specifics change—communist, New Left, feminist, anar-
chist, fascist,2 etc.—collective creation (in the West at least) nonetheless
tends toward the ideological, be it religious or political. In collective
theatre-making, process is typically perceived as paramount, with artistic
and/or political outcomes seen as deriving from methods of group inter-
action. And as we note in the first volume,

processual method may well be ideologically driven in so far as [...] collabor-

ative creation has often constituted a kind of polemic-in-action, against prior
methodologies that the group has known: an investigation, a reinvigoration,
a challenge, an overthrow. The extrinsic and/or oppressive structure, if you
will, that the group perceives itself to be challenging through the genera-
tion of a new methodology may be aesthetic, institutional, interpersonal,
societal, economic, political, ethical, or some admixture thereof.3

Victor Turner’s paradigm of performativity in social structure offers

a useful lens through which to examine tendencies of collective cre-
ation. Richard Schechner, in his introduction to Turner’s Anthropology
of Performance, reminds us that Turner “taught that there was a continu-
ous process linking performative behavior—arts, sports, ritual, play—with
social and ethical structure: the way people think about and organize their
lives and specific individual and group values.”4 Building upon this line of
thought, we might productively think of collective creation,

as straddling the threshold between the performativity of social life and

performance as such—positing that collective creation foregrounds the cre-
ative action of social and ethical structuring in a dynamic interplay with the
creative action of performance making. That theatre should lend itself to
such an encounter seems a logical outgrowth of the dialectical play between
drama’s traditional concern with the social and the intrinsically social nature
of making and sharing drama. Viewed in this light, the particular politics
of particular collectives become subsumed into a spectrum of possible
socioethical impulses and outcomes—collective creation appearing less as a

manifestation of any one ideological position than as a genre of performance

making that positions itself at the intersection of social and aesthetic action.5

The historical shift to the term devising (a word which emerges into
increasingly widespread usage in Canada, England, and the United States
in the 1990s) marks an apparent practical shift away from overt emphasis
on the perceived political potential of communitarian collaborative prac-
tices, to a more emphatically aesthetic emphasis on the generation of new
work, irrespective of the politics of group dynamic. Devising, simply put,
seems to lean toward some version of creation ex nihilo, and away from a
concern with ideologies of group practice.
Yet this apparent ideological shift in the terminology is deceptive.
Russian director Vsevolod Meyerhold, for instance, introduced the term
collective creation (kolektivny tvorchestvo) into Russian theatre in his writ-
ings of 1906, to describe experiments at his Povarskaya Street Studio in
1905; yet the practices he explored there with actors, composers, design-
ers, and fellow directors today look a good deal like much of contem-
porary, director-led devising: leveraging the generative creativity of the
theatrical group, facilitated by an aesthetic leader with a strong vision and
ultimate decision-making control, motivated principally by aesthetic con-
siderations. Conversely, in the political context of Russia’s first Revolution
and the aesthetic context of the Moscow Art Theatre’s model of the
auteur-director, Meyerhold’s collective-creation-light appeared radical
indeed.6 History plays fast and loose with definitions.
In a similar vein, the term “collective creation” can be usefully applied to
the communist and communist-inflected theatre collectives that emerged
in England and the United States (Workers Theatre), Russia (Bolshevik
government-sponsored mass spectacles, for instance), and Germany
(including, in addition to Workers Theatre groups, Erwin Piscator’s
Piscator-Buhner, 1928–1931, and the “Brecht collective” of the 1920s
and 1930s): yet such groups, while collectivist, were also emphatically
hierarchical; such was the nature of the left political systems upon which
they modeled themselves. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we find
that many contemporary companies which present as director-led devising
groups, with a strong directorial public face, may in practice be heavily
reliant upon a radically collective process in the rehearsal room (though

often, in the current era, one developed with a temporary pool of actors,
hired by a small, director-producer-led core company); as British theatre
scholar Alex Mermikides has argued, the drivers for such hybrid practices
are frequently economic: sole attribution being easier to market, and long-
term collective process being difficult to fund.7
Our purpose in unmasking the tensions and histories encoded in the
language of collective creation and/versus devising is not to throw out the
terminological baby with the bathwater. There is value in current efforts
to distinguish between collective creation as a more overtly socio-political
practice emphasizing collective action in artistic context, and devising
as a more emphatically aesthetic practice emphasizing the generation of
new works of performance by a theatrical group, irrespective of social or
political impetus. Rather, our purpose is to take up the call implicit in the
writings of Alex Mermikides and Jackie Smart, to attend to the realities
of practice—interpersonal, social, political, economic, aesthetic—that lie
beneath the surface of loose habits of usage driven by marketing (personal
and economic), linguistic trends, and the vagaries of attribution.

As we work through the histories of collective practice, we necessarily
encounter its embryonic manifestations: proto-collectives, straddling the
spheres of collaborative parity and traditional hierarchies of theatrical labor.
Consideration of these transitional or hybrid practices may serve to further
our understanding of the field. An excellent example in the United States
is the Group Theatre (1931–1941). Headed by a triumvirate of artistic
directors, committed to greater creative parity between director and play-
wright (a “new” notion in American theatre of the period), emphasizing
ensemble over individual, and engaging in ongoing experimentation with
improvisation, the Group Theatre was a good deal more collective in spirit
than the commercial theatres against which it defined itself—and a good
deal less collectivist than the communist Workers Theatres of the same
period. By no reasonable stretch of imagination could the Group Theatre
be broadly categorized as practicing collective creation; and yet, it holds a
significant place within a history of evolving collective practices.
Two other examples of proto-collectivism appear in this book. The first
is the early directorial work of Hallie Flanagan, director of the Federal
Theatre Project (FTP) of the Works Progress Administration—the sub-
ject of Chapter 4, “A Democratic Legacy: Hallie Flanagan and the Vassar

Experimental Theatre,” by Elizabeth Osborne. Osborne’s chapter is con-

cerned specifically with Flanagan’s influence on a generation of young
women theatre-makers, through her work at Vassar College. Though a
significant strain of work conducted by the FTP would fall squarely into
collective creation models circulating in the period—in particular, Living
Newspapers, a form of docudrama frequently relying upon teams of
(often unattributed) writers, influenced by developments in Russia as well
as the Workers Theatres of the United States, England, and Germany8—
Flanagan’s work at Vassar was not collective creation. Like the later work
of the Group Theatre, Flanagan’s Vassar productions would appear to
have been a kind of hybrid or intermediary method: “traditional” theatre-
labor hierarchies yearning toward greater communitarianism. This was far
from accidental; Flanagan, during her European travels, had been greatly
impressed by collectivist principles at work in aspects of Soviet theatre;
arguably, her early explorations into how such ideals might serve to mod-
ify the leadership role of the director would reverberate through the net-
work of FTP theatres as a result of her influence.
The second such example, also emerging from the interwar period, is
that of director and teacher Alexandra Remizova of Moscow’s Vakhtangov
Theatre, the subject of Chapter 5, “Alexandra Remizova: An ‘Actors’
Director,’” by Andrei Malaev-Babel. Remizova came to her work by way
of collective creation, as a very young actress with the Vakhtangov Theatre
at the start of the 1920s, during Yevgeny Vakhtangov’s tenure as artistic
director. For Vakhtangov, modernist theatre-making practices were merely
a stepping stone on a path toward a freely creative society; speaking on
professionalism in the theatre, he once remarked:

The time will come when the theatre will be an ordinary event of our life.
Theatre will simply be in a square. Everyone, who feels himself capable, will
act. Theatre will be free of charge—there will be no admittance fee, or per-
formance honorarium. It will be a free art for free people. Narrow profes-
sionalism will disappear, all naturally talented actors will play.9

In the years following Vakhtangov’s premature death in 1922, the com-

pany shifted away from the collective creation structures Vakhtangov had
begun elaborating with his troupe,10 hewing to the Stalin-era model of
master directors. As a professional director, Remizova came of age in the
post-Vakhtangov period, in an institutional setting that followed estab-
lished theatrical practices; as such, she did not herself practice collective

creation. But as Malaev-Babel argues, she had internalized Vakhtangov’s

communitarian ideals, and these inflected her teaching practices and mod-
ified her leadership style, marking her as an actor-centered director to a
degree not typical in Russian theatre practice of the period. It also marked
her directorial vision; much like the contemporaneous Hallie Flanagan,
Remizova believed herself to be collaborating with society at large, with
the “spirit” of the times; this imbued her work with a strong current of
social relevance. Remizova’s case has particular resonance in the Soviet
context: first, in that like other women director-teachers working within
the hierarchical, cooperative directing structures of the Soviet theatres,
her contributions were obfuscated by the prominence of male colleagues
further up the chain of command; second, in that as a discussion of col-
laborative method in the Soviet theatre her case makes critical inroads
into under-historicized terrain; and third, in that her directorial career
(Soviet Russia produced few women directors), emerging as it did out of
her training and work with Vakhtangov, raises questions about the ways
in which collective creation may have served to empower women theatre

The “history” which follows is—necessarily—preliminary, fragmentary,
limited in scope. Our aim at this stage is to prompt further historical
investigation. Our hope is to add a significant puzzle piece to the ongo-
ing recovery of legacies of female theatre artists in the modern and con-
temporary period, and to sketch out a few of the paths of innovation and
transmission which have become visible to us in the course of our ongoing
research. We are painfully aware of the limited global scope of our current
offering. As noted above, this work focuses on the United States, Canada
and Quebec, and parts of Europe; it also gestures toward West Africa,
but does not voyage there. It is also predominantly Caucasian in empha-
sis. This particular bounding is the result of the current state of English-
language scholarship in collective creation and devising practice. And it
is unfortunate, because collectively generated creative practices—by both
women and men—have robust ancestries in a number of performance tra-
ditions lying beyond the borders of the cultures represented herein. This,
we hope, will be the subject of our next phase of investigation.
Our first two volumes argued that in its European and North American
contexts modern collective creation may be productively regarded as

having evolved in three overlapping waves, each marked by distinctive

ideological, aesthetic, and processual characteristics, shaped by both local
and global events, political and cultural. The time periods in question are,
roughly speaking, the first third of the twentieth century, the mid-1950s
to the mid-1980s, and the mid-1980s into the present.

The First Wave

The first wave, spanning a period from the dawn of the twentieth century
through the start of World War II, and following close upon the rise of
the modern director, was driven by an array of oft-contradictory aesthetic,
political, and social impulses. These include (to borrow from our earlier

the search for the total artwork, necessitating new models of collaboration
with designers, composers, and writers, and an actor capable of conceiv-
ing her work within a complex mise en scène—possessing, in other words, a
directorial/choreographic sensibility. They also include the modernist fas-
cination with popular, often physical, theatre traditions—especially mime,
vaudeville, and commedia dell’arte, forms generated by a performer-creator.
Institutional inspirations were likewise diverse and included models of
group interaction at once collective and hierarchical, such as Catholic and
Russian Orthodox monasticism and Soviet communism. Political impulses,
too, varied, from the antimonarchist turn in prerevolutionary Russia to
Bolshevik collectivism less than two decades later; progressive protest in the
Depression Era United States; Polish nationalism following the collapse of
the Russian Empire and defeat of Austria and Prussia in World War I; com-
peting forces of nationalism and antifascism in interwar France; Communist
leanings among the German left of the Weimar period.11

It is in this period, for the purposes of our introduction, that we wish to

linger, for already in the first wave we begin to see a striking emergence of
women generating new theatre-making processes which would reverber-
ate through the century to come. Three examples—two from the United
States, and one from France—will serve here to illustrate the creative fer-
ment of this period of women’s collective theatre-making, and its ties to
movements for social change.
In the United States, much new theatre-making originated from the
Settlement House Movement, which had strong ties to the Little Theatre
Movement. Thus toward the close of the nineteenth century we find Jane

Addams of Hull-House (founded in 1889) importing the New (European)

Drama of social concerns onto stages accessible to America’s urban poor;
she is supported in this endeavor by her partner, Ellen Starr, who posits
(like her British and, later, Russian counterparts), that the working class
might benefit even more from making theatre than from watching it—and
that the theatre they make, moreover, must be rooted in physically expres-
sive forms that would free the laboring body from the constraint of hours,
days, years of mechanistic motion.12

[Starr and Addams] made artistic activities central to the Hull-House educa-
tional program; Addams worked especially hard to establish the settlement’s
Dramatic Section (beginning in 1893), which gave theatrically gifted mem-
bers of Hull-House opportunities to perform in the plays of Shaw, Ibsen,
Galsworthy, and Hauptman, and has been cited by some as the unofficial
start of the Little Theatre Movement in the US.13

By 1914, Hull-House, in institutional partnership with the Chicago

School of Civics and Philanthropy, had established the Recreation Training
School of Chicago, known informally as the Hull-House School. Under
the direction of sociologist Neva Boyd, a leading proponent of the rec-
reational play movement, The Hull-House School offered a one- to two-
year-long social group-work training program, consisting of dramatic arts,
gymnastics, dance, group games, play theory, and social problem theory.
It was at the Hull-House School, under the tutelage of Boyd, that Viola
Spolin—best remembered for her groundbreaking work in improvisa-
tional games for actor training, broadly disseminated via her 1963 text-
book, Improvisation for the Theater—received her training in recreational
play and games, working with immigrant children from 1924 to 1926.
This lineage of transmission—from Addams and Starr, to Boyd, to Spolin,
and from Spolin to the radical US collectives of the 1960s, including the
Living Theatre and the Open Theater, as well as the Chicago Improv
Comedy Movement developed at Second City under the leadership of
Spolin’s son Paul Sills—is the subject of Chapter 3 by Scott Proudfit:
“From Neva Boyd to Viola Spolin: How Social Group Work in 1920s’
Settlement Houses Defined Collective Creation in 1960s’ Theatres.”
Spolin was not alone in seeing a fruitful connection between children’s
imaginative and dramatic play and the generative capacities of the adult
actor. In 1915, director Jacques Copeau and his principal collaborator,
actress Suzanne Bing, established a course of actor-training for students

aged six to fourteen, focused upon sound, movement, and gymnastics.

This line of development is the subject of Chapter 2, “Raising the Curtain
on Suzanne Bing’s Life in the Theatre,” by Jane Baldwin. Though Copeau
periodically taught the children, Bing was the principal teacher, and her
work there experimental. In 1916, Bing would combine her own sys-
tem with ideas drawn from her investigations into Jacques-Dalcroze’s
Eurhythmics. In 1918, Bing and Copeau would further explore childhood
play in New York, where Bing taught for a time at Margaret Naumberg’s
progressive Children’s School, founded on the principles of John Dewey
and, especially, Maria Montessori, with whom Naumberg had trained in
Italy. In this atmosphere of “creativity, play and freedom,”14 Bing would
further develop such theatre-training activities as games, animal observa-
tion, mime, dance, rhythmic movement, and story dramatizations. Bing’s
experimental work with children would ultimately serve as the basis for her
work with adult actors at the Vieux Colombier School, and later, with the
“Copiaus,” Copeau’s de-facto collective creation company in Burgundy.15
The pedagogical developments of the Vieux Colombier School and the
Copiaus, in turn, would prove central to the emergence of French mime
and of the French collective creation lineage associated with the work of
Jacques Lecoq and Ariane Mnouchkine. They would also mark the work
of Copeau’s nephew, director and teacher Michel Saint-Denis, who, in
turn, would develop the curriculum for five schools internationally, among
them Juilliard in New  York, the Old Vic in London, and the National
Theatre School of Montreal.16
Back in the United States, the movement to create a working-class
theatre from the multi-ethnic, multilingual immigrant laboring force that
crowded into the rehearsal halls and auditoriums of settlement houses at
the close of each long day, in search of education, relaxation, and self-
expression, spread rapidly—and blossomed, most of all, at New  York’s
Henry Street Settlement. Established in 1893 among the immigrant tene-
ments of New York’s Lower East Side by social activist Lillian Wald, by
1915 Henry Street had grown its own theatrical wing, the Neighborhood
Playhouse. The Neighborhood Playhouse, too, was headed by women:
the young, German-Jewish activist philanthropist sisters Alice and Irene
Lewisohn. The Neighborhood Playhouse would contribute significantly
to the development of political, community, and collective theatre practice
in the coming decades. Beyond its worker-centered mission, it was also a
space for women theatre artists,

emphasizing a synthetic approach to staging that integrated dance and

drama (necessitating, in turn, a team approach to production), [while] pro-
viding training and performance opportunities to the impoverished immi-
grant communities of the Lower East Side, developing street festivals and
pageants which celebrated the diverse performance traditions of an immi-
grant population (especially dance), facilitating the coexistence of profes-
sionalism and amateur, community-centered work, and providing a venue
for such workers’ theatre collectives as the Freie Yiddishe Volkbuhne, the
radical Jewish performance group of the Bundist Arbeiter Ring (Workmen’s

The Playhouse’s most enduring offshoot was its School of Theatre,

founded in 1928 by Irene Lewisohn and board member Rita Morgenthau,
“to provide theatre and dance training for the working class community
in which it was based.”18 In the 1930s, the Neighborhood Playhouse and
School would play midwife to the radical dance movement: “two gen-
erations of experimental dancers [...] trained or taught there, including
Blanche Talmud, Helen Tamiris (who later directed the Federal Dance
Project of the WPA), Edith Segal, Anna Sokolow, and Martha Graham.”19
From 1935, it would become home to the training program developed by
Sanford Meisner.

The Second and Third Waves

The second wave of collective creation praxis spans a period from approxi-
mately the mid-1950s into the early 1980s. Behind the scenes, however,
collective creation was beginning to re-emerge almost the moment the
war ended; Joan Littlewood and Ewan MacColl’s collective set off to war
in 1939 with a theatre history reading list, preparing them to get straight
back to work as soon as they’d set down their guns;20 Judith Malina (who
first encountered collectivist theatre principles while studying directing
with Erwin Piscator at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in
1945) co-founded the Living Theatre with Julian Beck in 1947, though
they would not come to collective creation till several years later.21 The
second wave was marked, in the main,

by the utopic, communitarian ethos, antiauthoritarianism, and Marxist-

inflected politics of the generation of ’68  in noncommunist states (e.g.,
France, America, Canada, and England). It was informed, too, by aesthetic
possibilities arising from developments in avant-garde dance, music, and the

visual arts. This is the period of collective creation associated with the striving
toward fully participatory artistic democracy and the leaderless ensemble.22

This period saw the rise to prominence of numerous women theatre-

makers, many of them discussed in the chapters of this book—among the
best known internationally, Joan Littlewood, Judith Malina, and Ariane
Mnouchkine. With the feminist movement and its tools of consciousness-
raising came a wave of all-women’s collectives, many formed by theatre art-
ists unhappy in the male-dominated collectives with which they had begun.
This exodus has been well documented; see, for example, Victoria Lewis’s
article, “From Mao to the Feeling Circle: The Limits and Endurance
of Collective Creation,” in A History of Collection (Palgrave Macmillan,
2013). We might think here of Lilith a Woman’s Company, At the Foot of
the Mountain, Théâtre Experimental des Femmes, Nightwood Theatre,
Women’s Theatre Group, and Monstrous Regiment, to name a few of
the most visible. But this was also a period in which less widely celebrated
women theatre artists were carving out significant creative space in com-
panies dominated by the names of their male leadership: here we might
think in particular of the women of Grotowski’s Laboratory Theatre,
discussed in Virginie Magnat’s Chapter 14, “Women, Transmission, and
Creative Agency in the Grotowski Diaspora,” and the women of the Odin
Teatret, discussed in Adam Ledger’s Chapter 15, “The Women of Odin
Teatret: Creativity, Challenge, Legacy”—as well as the actress-creators
of the Gardzienice Center for Theatre Practices, among them Mariana
Sadowska, Dorota Porowska, Elżbieta Rojek, and Joanna Holcgreber—
who would co-create, transform, and transmit, globally, a vital legacy of
“third theatre” collective performance practice and pedagogy.
The third wave can be said to have begun in the early 1980s; it contin-
ues into the present day. Broadly speaking it is characterized by a postu-
topic impulse,

dominated by an ethical imperative (over the ideological) and an interest in

the generative creativity of the actor. It is impelled above all by the develop-
ment and ever-widening dissemination of pedagogies of collective creativity
and actor-generated performance (emerging in particular from Grotowski’s
brief tenure in the United States, successive waves of graduates from l’Ecole
Jacques Lecoq, and workshop tours conducted by Théâtre du Soleil and
SITI Company). It is spurred, too, by intermediality and resurgent interest
in theatre as total artwork. Economic realities of the present decade have
given it renewed impetus.23

This is the period in which “collective creation” slips into “devising,”

and the rising presence of women theatre artists (writers and directors in
particular) has been hailed by the press in the United States and England,
a phenomenon discussed by Rachel Anderson-Rabern in “Collective
Creation Downtown 2014: Female Leadership and the Economics of
Everyday Living” (Chapter 17), and Alex Mermikides and Jackie Smart in
“Doing What Comes Naturally?: Women and Devising in the UK Today”
(Chapter 16). This is also a period which witnesses a resurgence of femi-
nist protest-performance, from the Guerrilla Girls of the 1980s in the
United States, to the global FEMEN movement (launched in Ukraine in
2008) and Pussy Riot in Russia (founded in 2011), the subject of Chapter
20, Julia Listengarten’s, “Pussy Riot and Performance as Social Practice:
Collectivity, Collaboration, and Communal Bond.”

What follows are the prominent themes which thread through the work of
the twenty-one scholars gathered here, and through the modern history
of women’s collective theatre praxis.

Emergence and Disappearance
One of the thematic continuities that binds the diverse case studies in this
volume is the idea of “emergence.” Time and again in the modern theatre,
companies committed to non-hierarchical, collective input from a group
of artists by necessity have made equal space for male and female practitio-
ners, offering women an alternative to the typically patriarchal hierarchy
of the commercial theatre. Moreover, experimentation with (or commit-
ment to) documentary theatre in the twentieth century within many col-
lectives has demanded a type of gender “consciousness raising,” as the
personal storytelling aspects of documentary theatre’s devising practices
have encouraged the emergence of women’s experience within artistic and
institutional structures. It is not coincidental, then, that so many promi-
nent recent and contemporary women directors have emerged from col-
lectives. But if women artists have arisen to visibility from within collective
practices, the story of their influence has all too frequently disappeared
back into those same practices.
The paragon of this group of women in the United States, Judith
Malina, is profiled in Cindy Rosenthal’s Chapter 12: “Judith Malina and

the Living Theatre: Storming the Barricades and Creating Collectively.”

Rosenthal describes the emergence and repeated re-emergence of this leg-
endary theatre-maker, who remained relevant and influential even after
the closure of the Living Theatre’s Clinton Street storefront theatre in
2013 and her personal relocation to the Lillian Booth Actor’s Home. In
particular, Rosenthal traces the under-recognized role that Malina’s work
played in the development of the Occupy Movement in recent years. As
she argues, Malina’s early street theatre is one of the primary roots and
inspirations for Occupy. But while Malina did not fail to recognize this
genealogy—as her final productions reveal—perhaps the Movement did.
Such forgetting, or at least not fully appreciating, of Malina’s far-reaching
influence is a reminder, of course, that women theatre artists have con-
tinually needed to demand acknowledgment, even in the sphere of group-
collaborative theatre. Patriarchy and hierarchy are not easily left behind.
This is suggested in the United States in particular by the significant num-
ber of women theatre artists in the 1970s who left male-dominated col-
lectives to form female-only collectives. The argument could be made that
the male-dominated collectives which experienced this exodus of female
members were not, as yet, truly creating “collectively.”
Equally troubling is the possibility that collective creation, no matter
how gender-equitable in practice, may contribute to the suppression of
women’s voices and the erasure of their work by the very nature of pro-
cesses that often operate without easily traceable attribution. The creative
contributions of women artists—writers, teachers, actors, directors, chore-
ographers, dancers—have been repeatedly “buried” by the conflict between
ascription and the complexities of collaboration. We might think here of
Susan Glaspell’s influence upon the early writings of Eugene O’Neill at
the Provincetown Players, or Elizabeth Hauptman’s engagement with the
work of Bertolt Brecht. The second chapter in this volume, Jane Baldwin’s
“Raising the Curtain on Suzanne Bing’s Life in the Theatre,” makes the
case that Bing, a woman whose teaching can be considered a crucial start-
ing point in the modern practice of collective creation, has been virtually
forgotten by theatre historians. Likewise, Andrei Malaev-Babel’s Chapter
5, “Alexandra Remizova: An ‘Actors’ Director,’” re-characterizes the career
of a women theatre artist whose central role in shaping the Vakhtangov
Theatre’s famed troupe, between the 1940s and 1980s, has been obfus-
cated by the public prominence of the theatre’s (male) artistic directors.
As Malaev-Babel recounts, Remizova was hardly alone in the type of
influence she exerted “behind the scenes.” Behind the success of some of

the key Soviet companies of the second half of the twentieth century (all
under male artistic leadership) stand several such female director-teachers.
The St Petersburg Bolshoi Drama Theatre (BDT), for instance, under
Georgy Tovstonogov, had acting coach Roza Sirota; Moscow’s Mossovet
Theatre under Yuri Zavadsky relied on director-teacher Irina Anisimova-
Vulf. Greatly respected within their companies, recognized within the
Russian theatre community, these female artists were given short shrift—at
least insofar as their creative influence is concerned—in official histories of
Soviet-era theatre. Malaev-Babel’s chapter is a step toward remedying this

Attribution, Historiography, and Branding

As the cases of Bing and Remizova demonstrate, the suppression of wom-
en’s voices has occurred not only within theatre companies committed to
collaboration but also within the histories of these companies. As our first
two volumes on collective creation argued, throughout theatre history
we find the disappearance of the individual identities of theatre-makers
within company narratives of group and leader. Arguably, this tendency
has been far more pronounced in histories of women in theatre. French
scholar Raphaëlle Doyon has argued that: “[…] In theatre history, unless
women are ‘stars’ they are perceived most usually as an anonymous group.
Men, on the other hand, are a company of individuals whose names are
celebrated and recognised.”24 The collectivism inherent in collaborative
creation and devising practice can resist, but can also exacerbate, these
historiographic habits. Two chapters in this volume, in particular, address
how the problem of historical attribution has played out with regard to
histories of women’s collectives.
Siobhán O’Gorman’s Chapter 8, “‘Hers and His’: Carolyn Swift, Alan
Simpson, and Collective Creation at Dublin’s Pike Theatre,” recovers the
work of Swift, co-founder of the Pike in 1953, and the writer whose col-
laboration on the long-running late-night revues Follies established a brand
and kept the theatre solvent throughout much of the 1950s. Theatre his-
tory has distilled the story of the Pike down to its controversial 1957 pro-
duction of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo, which led to the arrest of
co-founder (and Swift’s husband) Alan Simpson. Swift’s work on Follies,
on the other hand, has been underestimated and misread, largely because
these revues were written by company members in addition to Swift and
put together in ways that blurred discrete roles and responsibilities. As

O’Gorman explains, the nature of collective creation allowed mainstream

journalism, often the first record of a production, to serve as the founda-
tion for a theatre history that repeatedly forgets women’s contributions
and collaborative practices in the theatre.
Practices of modern collective creation, with their roots in the physi-
cal theatre, consistently challenge the primacy of the word and the idea
that a performance “starts” with a script. For women’s theatre collectives
the rejection of text-based theatre can be twofold, as text can be viewed
as representing both a psychological, hierarchical “realist” tradition spe-
cifically, and phallo-logocentrist culture broadly. Michelle MacArthur’s
Chapter 10, “Historiographing a Feminist Utopia: Collective Creation,
History, and Feminist Theatre in Canada,” argues, however, that feminist
collectives’ “wariness of the word”25 has serious repercussions for how
their productions, and the artists who contributed to these productions,
are represented in the historical record. Focusing on the Canadian and
Québecois companies Nightwood Theatre and the Théâtre Expérimental
des Femmes, MacArthur argues that while collaborative practices allowed
women’s voice to be heard in the productions, they also encouraged these
contributions to be ignored in documentation, as mainstream media and
theatre historians simplified the more complex story of performances
resulting from multiple creative sources to a simpler story of theatre as
product of individual genius. Audiences of such theatres are often com-
plicit in this simplification of history, as a collective’s aesthetic “brand”
becomes the easiest way to consume and circulate its work.

It is, in part, the pressure to “brand” a collective’s aesthetic that encour-
ages the attribution of collaborative products to individual “leaders,”
even when these leaders resist hierarchical assumptions made about their
creative processes. As David Calder’s Chapter 6, “Mnouchkine & Co.:
Constructing a Collective,” points out, the misrepresentation of lead-
ers within collectives can be even more extreme when these leaders are
female. When women rise to prominence within a more or less collec-
tive structure, their authority is too often framed in problematic ways by
the critical community: arguably, the authority of Littlewood and Bogart
is regarded differently by the critical community than, say, the authority
of Grotowski or Barba. Looking at the reception and depiction of the
work of the Théâtre du Soleil in the media, Calder argues that a “‘need

for strong leaders’ today” arises from market economics: “Mnouchkine’s

‘authoritarianism’ and celebrity are (at least in part) products of a histori-
cally and culturally situated need to assign individual credit, a need stem-
ming from the monetization of creativity.”26 At the same time, Calder
further argues, Mnouchkine’s gender inspires “the usual tired accusations
of tyranny and dictatorship reserved for strong women in a patriarchal
society,”27 and determines dynamics in the rehearsal room that are then
circulated and modified in public discourse.
While assumptions about gender can encourage skewed depictions of
authority within collectives, they can also lead to the inability of women
theatre artists with a background in collaboration to establish and main-
tain an artistic identity commensurate with the recognition enjoyed by
artist-leaders in more traditional theatre. Karen Morash, in Chapter 13,
“Bryony Lavery: Nerves of Steel and a Forgiving Heart,” argues that
while British playwright Lavery owes much of her career and craft to her
work with such non-hierarchical feminist theatres as Monstrous Regiment
and Women’s Theatre Group, Lavery’s critical reception as an individual
talent has been diminished as a result of this same history with collectives.
Morash’s chapter demonstrates again that, for women theatre artists in
particular, practices of collective creation can lead to the silencing of con-
tributors as often as to giving them voice.

Gender and Relationality
More than any other issue, the writers in this collection took up the topic
of gender and relationality. This is not surprising since one of the cen-
tral questions of this project from the outset has been: If, in the history
of collective creation, women are equally visible as (or even more visible
than) men, why is this so? The argument over whether women are some-
how inherently, even biologically, more collaborative than men is long-
standing, well documented, and much debated. Yet, the idea that men and
women lead groups differently remains a vital—and still contested—one
for historians and practitioners of modern collective creation. Elizabeth
Osborne’s Chapter 4, “A Democratic Legacy: Hallie Flanagan and the
Vassar Experimental Theatre,” examines Flanagan’s pre-Federal Theatre
Project career as the head of the Vassar Experimental Theatre in the late
1920s. Part of Osborne’s argument describes the appeal collective cre-
ation had for young, college-educated women in this historical moment.
If much of what we call collective creation in the twentieth century can be

traced back to, specifically, the young, democratically minded and reform-
dedicated women of the Progressive Era—as Scott Proudfit’s Chapter 3
on Neva Boyd’s work at Chicago’s Hull-House also proposes—then per-
haps an explanation (more cultural, political, and economic than essential-
ist) can be offered for why collaborative work was gendered at the time
and why it has continued to be gendered in subsequent generations.
Anne Fletcher’s Chapter 9, “From the Center to the Heartland: The
Collective, Collaborative Conscience of Jo Ann Schmidman, Megan
Terry, Sora Kimberlain, and the Omaha Magic Theatre (1968–1998),”
addresses gender’s relationship to collective creation in a different way.
Profiling the “Mother of Feminist Theatre” Megan Terry and her life
partner Jo Ann Schmidman in their repeated transformation of the Omaha
Magic Theatre, Fletcher acknowledges that gender was the starting point
for Terry as she “sought to secure a voice for the female playwright”28
in a male-dominated system. However, the “collaborative metaphor”29
which defined Terry’s and Schmidman’s work as they broke away from
the New York avant-garde scene propelled these theatre artists, time and
again, to open their processes and products to new ways of seeing: by
adopting multidisciplinary perspectives, committing to multimedia pre-
sentations, and embracing multi-centered actor-training.
Likewise, Sarah Sigal’s Chapter 11, “Monstrous Regiment: The
Gendered Politics of Collaboration, Writing, and Authorship in the UK
from the 1970s Onwards,” contends that the work of this foundational
all-female British theatre company began with a focus on the emergence
of the female voice, an emergence that a mixed or male collective simply
wouldn’t have been committed to in the same way. For Sigal, collective
creation was gendered because it was, of course, primarily women the-
atre artists in the late twentieth century who were searching outside of
traditional theatre-making paradigms that had historically prevented their
stories from being told, and prevented the ways they told these stories
from being practiced. While the move from the non-hierarchical creative
process behind the production of Scum: Death, Destruction, and Dirty
Washing to the playwright-centered process behind Vinegar Tom—by
Caryl Churchill—revealed tensions within Monstrous Regiment, both
production processes, Sigal contends, were committed to freeing the
female voice, whether that voice was individual or collective. Sigal’s chap-
ter offers excellent examples of the different forms collective creation may
take even within the space of a single year at a single theatre company.

Victoria Lewis’s Chapter 19, “Hands like starfish/Feet like moons:

Disabled Women’s Theatre Collectives,” challenges assumptions theatre
historians and critics may have when looking at gender and relationality, by
examining the meaning of “gender” in the wake of the discoveries of the
disability-studies movement. Lewis notes the historic association between
the concept of “disabled” and the concept of “feminine” in modern Western
society. Like other women’s theatre collectives, Other Voices Women’s
Workshop, Wry Crips, and AXIS Dance Theatre embraced a segregated
practice in an era (the late twentieth century) when the struggle for access
and inclusion for people with disabilities was at the forefront of national and
international human rights agendas; these groups contended that embrac-
ing difference, rather than insisting on equality, would best foster creative
processes and products. If there is not an inherent relationship between gen-
der and collaboration, Lewis’s chapter suggests, there is perhaps an inherent
relationship between difference (real or perceived) and collaboration.

Gender and Economics
A pair of chapters in this collection—Alex Mermikides’s and Jackie
Smart’s “Doing What Comes Naturally?: Women and Devising in the UK
Today” (Chapter 16) and Rachel Anderson-Rabern’s “Collective Creation
Downtown 2014: Female Leadership and the Economics of Everyday
Living” (Chapter 17)—turn a materialist lens on women’s labor in the
contemporary sphere of devised theatre in the United Kingdom and the
United States, respectively. With an extensive and detailed survey of women
practitioners, Mermikides and Smart test the extent to which the practice
of collective creation continues to offer opportunities for women’s self-rep-
resentation and authorship. Similarly, Anderson-Rabern’s chapter focuses
on the everyday economics of collectively creating and devising work in
New  York City’s experimental downtown performance community, spe-
cifically for groups led by women. Her chapter offers concrete evidence
that, even as many of these groups enjoy the increased acclaim of successful
residencies, invited lectures and workshops at colleges and universities, and
prestigious awards and honors, financial accomplishments remain modest.

Mentorship, Transmission, and Diaspora

One of the central goals of this project was to trace undiscovered genealo-
gies of mentorship between women theatre artists working collaboratively.
It would seem that women-to-women transmission of authority would

be a relatively new phenomenon. After all, imagining collective creation

as a resistant tradition that countered, but also sprang from, the modern
commercial theatre suggests that a lag time ought to have occurred within
first-wave collaborative theatre as males (traditionally in visible positions
of power within theatre-making processes) passed on their authority to
females for the first time before those females could establish their own
lines of transmission. In addition, the precedent set by earlier generations
of women in theatre, whose labor (unless they were star performers) was
primarily behind the scenes or unacknowledged, may have led women in
subsequent generations to seek out organizational structures which have
permitted them to contribute without becoming the visible and central
authority within a group of creators—obscuring or stunting these lines of
influence. Yet despite these obstacles, first-wave collective creation offers
some significant examples of women-to-women transmission of authority
over the generations, as Scott Proudfit’s Chapter 3 reveals: “From Neva
Boyd to Viola Spolin: How Social Group Work in 1920s’ Settlement
Houses Defined Collective Creation in 1960s’ Theatres.” This chapter
traces the influence of Neva Boyd (developer of Play Theory and Game
Theory in group social work) on Boyd’s student at Chicago’s Hull-House
in the 1920s, Viola Spolin (the force behind the popularization of impro-
visation in US theatre). It further considers how Spolin’s reworking of
Boyd’s ideas shaped the practices of 1960s’ companies, such as the Open
Theater and the Living Theatre, which used improvisation as their primary
means of collective creation. Focusing on Spolin’s translation of Boyd’s
concepts of “play” and “games” reveals that the roots of much contempo-
rary devised theatre can be found in Boyd’s group social work with immi-
grant communities. This lineage further challenges the tendency among
theatre historians to equate collective creation with “leaderlessness,”
revealing models of accommodated leadership emerging from within first-
wave practices, and continuing to exert an influence on collectively creat-
ing groups of the 1960s and 1970s.
Shifting the focus to contemporary work, two chapters in this collection
suggest that we are witnessing a substantive change in the area of mentor-
ship of women theatre artists by women theatre artists in collaborative
praxis, through the emergence of international networks. Virginie Magnat’s
Chapter 14, “Women, Transmission, and Creative Agency in the Grotowski
Diaspora,” looks at the issue of “legacy” within the Jerzy Grotowski dias-
pora in light of Grotowski’s choice to entrust the official transmission
of his work to male heirs, despite critical contributions by laboratory

co-founders such as Rena Mirecka. Magnat’s chapter continues her project

of bringing to light a vital process of transmission by and between women
that has been obfuscated by Grotowski’s decision. Magnat further con-
tends that the training transmitted by women in the Grotowski diaspora
serves a particular function of calling into question gendered conceptions
of creative agency. Moreover, she specifically traces the confidence these
women demonstrate in their abilities back to the trust they have devel-
oped in their bodies’ capacities—highlighting their ability to transmit that
confidence to successive generations of women theatre artists. Adam
Ledger’s Chapter 15, “The Women of Odin Teatret: Creativity, Challenge,
Legacy,” similarly highlights “legacy” through his descriptions of how
the women of Odin Teatret—Iben Nagel Rasmussen, Roberta Carreri,
Julia Varley—have not only forged and insisted upon their own creative
space, but also have been instrumental in creating lasting and significant
change within this shifting and evolving group.
A History of Collective Creation began the task of tracing genealo-
gies of collective creation practice, looking at transmission of ideals and
practices—aesthetic, political, and institutional—across space and time.
As Magnat’s and Ledger’s chapters demonstrate, diaspora plays a central
role in those transmissions. Within the framework of a focus on women,
these chapters broaden this preliminary treatment of diaspora and expand
our understanding of the multiple, often mutually informing, cultural
forces which feed into contemporary collective creation practice. This is
the topic taken up by Nia O. Witherspoon’s Chapter 18, “(The Waters)
Between Africa and America: Revelations in Process, Theatrical-Jazz,
and Sharon Bridgforth’s River See.” Witherspoon asserts that “the rep-
ertoires of embodied knowledge which traverse what [critic] Paul Gilroy
has famously called the ‘Black Atlantic’ are traceable, related, and mutu-
ally constituted.”30 Her chapter derives from Witherspoon’s own work in
Sharon Bridgforth’s River See, a performance that provides a productive
lens through which to view women’s collective creation in the African
Diaspora. River See is firmly situated in the Theatrical-Jazz aesthetic
whose pioneers are primarily African American women. As this chapter
argues, Bridgforth’s work, in dialogue with the ancestral forms she ush-
ers into her contemporary performance (Yoruba ritual, Ring Shout, etc.),
challenges the normative tale of collective creation as erupting exclusively,
or even primarily, in Euro-American contexts. Like Lewis’s Chapter 19,
Witherspoon’s chapter challenges the framework of this volume while fur-
thering its exploration. As Witherspoon explains:

These deeply rooted, yet under-documented, Africanist genealogies, make

it problematic for me to employ the term “collective creation” (despite its
productive use in this collection), with its implicit Western bias about cre-
ation as singular. For black subjects in diaspora, creation is always already
collective, and creation is always already culturally rooted.31

Gender and Labor
The gendering of different types of labor in modern Western culture has,
of course, carried over from home and office to rehearsal room. Looking
especially at “women’s work” in collectives from 1900 through the 1960s,
it is clear that women’s presumed domestic skills shaped the nature of their
contribution, their status, and the time and freedom they were allowed to
devote to their individual artistic growth.
Jessica Silsby Brater’s Chapter 7, “Ruth Maleczech, JoAnne Akalaitis,
and the Mabou Mines Family Aesthetic,” considers the efforts of two
of Mabou Mines’ founding co-artistic directors to address directly the
demands and assumptions about gendered labor and to insist that their
collective adapt to the needs of their women leaders. As Brater discusses,
among other strategies, Akalaitis and Maleczech insisted that production
budgets at Mabou Mines include compensation for childcare; later, they
championed support for a child or partner to accompany touring artists.
As their power in the company increased so did their influence over com-
pany policies that supported personal development for men and women

Women and Protest
In third-wave collective creation, from Pussy Riot (Russia) and FEMEN
(which emerged in Ukraine, and spread throughout Europe and the
Middle East) to the Magdalena Project, there appears to be a surge of
women’s theatres of protest, refusal, and repair. Equally remarkable is
the impact and visibility of some of this protest, particularly in Eastern
Europe, where radical feminist protester/street performers have been
making world headlines—and serving prison sentences. In examining
contemporary women’s political theatre collectives and networks, this
volume closes with a consideration of the emergence of a new wave of
feminist radicalism within the context of historical prototypes of contem-

porary feminist theatrical protest. Julia Listengarten’s Chapter 20, “Pussy

Riot and Performance as Social Practice: Collectivity, Collaboration, and
Communal Bond,” examines the avant-garde principles of Pussy Riot’s
aesthetic, the group’s call-and-response methodology, and its political
disruptions of “both physical and ideological spaces.”32 Through Pussy
Riot’s politically driven punk performances, social and aesthetic bina-
ries are blurred; symbolically freighted locations such as Red Square and
Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior are transformed into performa-
tive sites that not only retain memories of their past and their iconic stat-
ure, but also suggest critiques of contemporary identity, cultural values,
and personal associations. The Pussy Riot performers continue the legacy
of artists such as Karen Finley whose “art of offending” disrupts “stage
conventions of female body presentation.”33 Emphasizing their feminist
roots, “Pussies” similarly disrupt gender expectations “by celebrating the
aesthetic of indecency, anarchy, ugliness, and assault.”34 In so doing, this
brave masked collective has achieved a remarkable degree of global vis-
ibility, drawing attention not merely to Pussy Riot’s particular political
agenda, but to principles of women’s collective practice, and its legacies in
the contemporary world.

1. Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva, “Introduction: Toward a New History of
Collective Creation,” in A History of Collective Creation, ed. Kathryn
Mederos Syssoyeva and Scott Proudfit (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
2013), 5.
2. For a discussion of proto-fascist manifestations of collective creation, see
Jane Baldwin, “The Accidental Rebirth of Collective Creation: Jacques
Copeau, Michel Saint-Denis, Léon Chancerel, and Improvised Theatre,” in
A History of Collective Creation, 71–96.
3. Syssoyeva, “Toward a New History of Collective Creation,” 6.
4. Richard Schechner, “Introduction,” in Victor Turner, The Anthropology of
Performance (New York: PAJ Publications, 1987), 8.
5. Syssoyeva, “Introduction: Toward a New History of Collective Creation,” 6.
6. Syssoyeva, “Revolution in the Theatre I: Meyerhold, Stanislavsky and
Collective Creation, Russia, 1905,” in A History of Collective Creation,
7. See, for instance, Mermikides’s discussion of “core and pool” company
structure in contemporary devising: “Collective Creation and the ‘Creative
Industries’: The British Context,” in Collective Creation in Contemporary

Performance, ed. Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva and Scott Proudfit (New

York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 51–70.
8. Attilio Favorini, “Collective Creation in Documentary Theatre,” in A
History of Collective Creation, 97–114; and Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva,
“From Monastic Cell to Communist Cell—Groups, Communes, and
Collectives, 1900–1945,” in A History of Collective Creation, 13–36.
9. Leonid Volkov, in Andrei Malaev-Babel, Yevgeny Vakhtangov: A Critical
Portrait (New York: Routledge, 2012), 232.
10. See generally, Malaev-Babel, Yevgeny Vakhtangov: A Critical Portrait. For a
discussion of Vakhtangov’s culminating experiment in collective creation,
see Chapter 24: “Princess Turandot: The Threshold of Creativity or the
Making of a New Man,” 209–230; see also Syssoyeva, “From Monastic Cell
to Communist Cell—Groups, Communes, and Collectives, 1900–1945,” in
A History of Collective Creation, 13–36.
11. Syssoyeva, “Toward a New History of Collective Creation,” 7.
12. Syssoyeva, “From Monastic Cell to Communist Cell,” 21.
13. Ibid., 20.
14. Chapter 2, 35.
15. Baldwin, “The Accidental Rebirth of Collective Creation,” 71–96.
16. Jane Baldwin, Michel Saint-Denis and the Shaping of the Modern Actor
(Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003).
17. Syssoyeva, “From Monastic Cell to Communist Cell,” 21.
18. Ibid.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid., 29.
21. Ibid., 21.
22. Syssoyeva, “Introduction: Toward a New History of Collective Creation,” 7.
23. Ibid., 8.
24. “Theatre Women Practice,” Raphaëlle Doyon & Claire Heggen, 1. http://
Heggen.pdf. Accessed 3/19/13.
25. Chapter 10, 162.
26. Chapter 6, 102.
27. David Calder, from an unpublished, earlier draft of Chapter 6 of this volume.
28. Anne Flectcher, from an unpublished, earlier draft of Chapter 9 of this volume.
29. Ibid.
30. Chapter 18, 283.
31. Ibid., 288–9.
32. Chapter 20, 319.
33. Ibid., 320.
34. Ibid., 321.