Using Theatre to Advance Feminism – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Using Theatre to Advance Feminism

May Summer Farnsworth, associate professor and chair of Spanish and Hispanic Studies, will address how early feminist dramatists in Argentina began a tradition of using theatre to promote women’s rights, and the ways this paralleled social activism that would be used by later generations of feminist theatre practitioners during the next event in the Sentiments & Declarations lecture series.

Titled “Feminism and Theatre in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1910-1920),” the discussion will add to the series’ conversation on issues of gender inequality and feminismon Thursday, March 26 at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

“Reading these early feminist plays allows us to recognize the ways in which feminist theatre has historically been shaped by the very culture it is trying to transform,” Farnsworth says. “This presentation will discuss how multiple stagings of woman’s citizenship rights rehearsed future social change and politicized the female spectators’ collective presence in the 1910s and 1920s.”

The talk will focus on two playwrights, Lola Pita Martìnez and Carolina Alió, who both used melodrama to create expressive feminist appeals for Civil-Code reform in 1920s Argentina. For Martínez and Alió, emotional excess became a subversive strategy to work within a “sentimental” framework while transmitting a radical message.

Farnsworth’s lecture stems from her recently published pieces of scholarship on women in Latin American theatre history. Farnsworth recently co-edited “Escrito por mujeres II,” a collection of works by female playwrights in Latin America from 1910 to 2010. She also co-authored a chapter in “International Women Stage Directors” on women directors in Argentina.

Farnsworth joined the HWS faculty in 2007. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Spanish American Literature from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her B.A. from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

“Feminism and Theatre” is the third lecture to be offered in the spring series. Assistant Professor of Economics Elizabeth Ramey gave a lecture earlier in the semester titled, “Down on the Family Farm: Gender Inequality in an Iconic American Institution,” and Mosaic NY also gave a performance.

On Thursday, April 23, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Alla Ivanchakova, will give the last lecture of the series titled, “Machinic Intimacies and Mechanical Brides: Love in the Era of New Media.”

All of the events are held from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Guntzel Theater at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y. A van for attendees is scheduled to depart from Medbery Parking Lot at 4:30 p.m for Farnsworth’s lecture.

The series is co-sponsored by the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the offices of the President, Provost and Dean of Faculty, and Vice President of Student Affairs at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The lecture series was established last year by Professor of Women’s Studies Betty Bayer, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Jessica Hayes-Conroy, and Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Michelle Martin-Baron.

The series follows in the tradition of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s landmark treatise on Women’s civil liberties, “The Declaration of Sentiments.” Martin-Baron says last year’s event provided a “platform for engaging scholarship beyond the classroom and opened up exciting debates.”

“We’re building on the legacy of feminist debate and discussion that shifted national conversations about gender and equity back in 1848, which is both an honor and a privilege,” says Martin-Baron.

The events are free and open to the public. Students, faculty and staff in need of transportation to the events should contact Tina Smaldone before 2 p.m. on the day of the lecture.

The images above feature May Summer Farnsworth, associate professor and chair of Spanish and Hispanic Studies, teaching at Hobart and William Smith, and Angelina Pagano, the star of Lola Pita Martínez’s play, “Marcela” (1919).