Women’s Comedic Art as Social Revolution

Five Performers and the Lessons of Their Subversive Humor

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About the Book

Though comic women have existed since the days of Baubo, the mythic figure of sexual humor, they have been neglected by scholars and critics. This pioneering volume tells the stories of five women who have created revolutionary forms of comic performance and discourse that defy prejudice. The artists include 16th-century performer Isabella Andreini, 17th-century improviser Caterina Biancolelli, 20th-century Italian playwright Franca Rame, and contemporary performance artists Deb Margolin and Kimberly Dark. All create humor that subverts patriarchal attitudes, conventional gender roles, and stereotypical images. The book ends with a practical guide for performers and teachers of theater.

About the Author(s)

Domnica Radulescu is a distinguished professor of Romance languages at Washington and Lee University. She has authored, edited, or coedited nine scholarly books and collections of essays. Two of her plays have received recognition from the Jane Chambers Playwriting award and she is the author of two best-selling novels, with a third novel soon to be released. She is the founding director of the National Symposium of Theater in Academe.

Bibliographic Details

Domnica Radulescu
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 267
Bibliographic Info: 10 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6072-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8858-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Preface      1

Introduction      5

1. Isabella’s “Tricks”: Carnival and Mimicry in Sixteenth Century Italy      27

2. Caterina Biancolelli: Seventeenth Century Trickster and Parisian Coquette      69

3. Franca Rame: Militant Isabella, Feminist Colombina in Twentieth Century Italy      119

4. Contemporary American Colombinas: The Personal, the Public, the Political, the Intimate, and the Comical      167

5. The Heritage of the Commedia dell’Arte for Today’s Feminist Theaters, Comedy and Activism, and Radical Acts by Women Artists      187

Chapter Notes      233

Bibliography      245

Index      251

Book Reviews & Awards

“detailed study of the historical and practical ways in which women’s humor serves as social commentary. Recommended”—Choice; “Never before has the history of Western women in comedy been written with such historical scope or comparative detail. Radulescu brings the astute eye of the theatre historian to a socially committed feminist inquiry into women’s humor, creating a study useful for scholars and practitioners, teachers and students.”—Jill Dolan, Princeton University.