During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the theater developed from an art form whose primary goal was to entertain and move the audience, to a forum with educational, philosophical, social, and political objectives. All factions of socialists and feminists believed in the power of the theater to influence the audience. As feminist Harlor wrote in 1901,“[Le théâtre] est, en quelque sorte, la suprême tribune de propagande, celle d’où s’oriente définitivement l’opinion vers de nouvelles conceptions sociales ou morales” (682).1 Indeed, for all the authors discussed in this study, theater was a form of educational or political activism. Louise Michel’s plays Nadine (1882), Le Coq rouge (1883), and La Grève (1890) were performed as part of anarchist political and artistic events with the goal of instilling in the audience the spirit of revolt. Nelly Roussel wrote short plays to be performed for the workers in the Université Populaire and at a variety of political meetings. In Par la Révolte (1903), she incited the women in her audience to demand reproductive freedom. In Pourquoi elles vont à l’église (1910), she presented a critique of the hypocrisy of the freethinkers movement that claimed to promote equal access to truth, knowledge, and freedom, while excluding women from their meetings and discussions. She blamed the religious affiliation of women on the men who prevented them from participating in more intellectually rewarding activities. Her short allegorical scene La Faute d’Ève (1913) staged a rewriting of the story of Genesis in which Eve consciously rebels against the safe, monotonous haven of the Garden of Eden, embracing instead a more exciting and fulfilling life. Through her drama, Roussel thus encouraged women to seek freedom, justice, and knowledge.
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- 4.Clive Barker, “Alternative Theatre/Political Theatre,” The Politics of Theatre and Drama, Graham Holderness, ed. ( New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992 ), 18–43.Google Scholar
- See also McCreery and Stourac, Theatre as a Weapon (London: RKP,1986).Google Scholar
- 16.See Joseph Chiari, The Contemporary French Theatre: The Flight from Naturalism (London: Rockliff [ca. 1958]).Google Scholar