Date of Award
Thesis - Open Access
MA in Women's History
The narrative within theatre history has been predominantly male, especially regarding those who work in technical production. When historians speak to women’s participation in theatre, the focus is often on performers, directors, and playwrights. Women designers are treated as anomalies, with a paucity of scholarship written about women stagehands. This thesis applies a social perspective to analyzing women’s experiences in theatrical production, attempting to dismantle the gendered hierarchy of theatrical labor. Rather than focusing on individual achievements, I grouped women as cohorts. The first cohort comprises pioneer women designers; I examine how women gained the skills necessary for United Scenic Artists Local 829 membership. The second cohort is made up of women stagehands who joined Locals One and Four of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, after the passage of Title VII. Finally, I investigated the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on women stagehands in Local Four. I pay keen attention to the struggles and hardships women have faced once in theatrical unions and draw on oral testimony collected from members of the second and third cohorts. Through this methodology, my research shows that women created alternative pathways to membership in the aforementioned unions. These alternatives include education and training programs, networks of women workers, and mastery of new technologies. In sum, I establish that women are not only capable designers and stagehands but have also been equal contributors to the rise and success of modern theatre. The goal of this endeavor is to promote the creation of a more equitable workplace for all theatrical workers.
Nidweski, Victoria, "Through the Stage Door, a Spotlight on 'Backstage' Work: Women Designers and Stagehands in Theatrical Production" (2021). Women's History Theses. 57.