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The Theatre And Its Identity Crisis

2733 words - 11 pages

My trust in the definitiveness of reality is swiftly disintegrating beneath me. The deeper I dive into the abyss of theory, the more I realize that nothing I have learned is safe from change; that facts may actually be temporary and that everything is a prisoner of our construction of time. In admitting this, I worry that these hypotheses are the beginning of a tiny delusion that will begin to gradually eat away at the rest of my sanity. That scares me a bit, yes, but even as I sit here writing, I love this newfound instability because it’s ironically made me feel more grounded than I’ve ever felt. Armed with these ideas, I have looked back at the world I’ve grown up with and finally begun to see society’s seams tugged apart, its splintered frame exposed, and the fear and worry of its people uncovered. But I have also exposed, buried deep within its guarded chest, the hope and innovation and change that inspires humanity’s pervasive drive towards progress. It’s within this fragmented existence that I feel that I have a place within this generation’s script. However, it’s now a matter of figuring out which role is mine.
The cynic inside me can’t help but look at the cast list and feel an irrepressible sense of sadness; with such a long list of characters to choose from, why do we prescribe such commonplace roles to ourselves? I believe that it all starts with gender. Judith Butler reasons in her inspirational essay “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” that gender is a performance. She observes that sex (the biological facts defining male and female) is not what actually makes a man and man and a woman a woman, but rather that one’s gender identity is determined through a stylized repetition of acts labeled as a cultural truth. One’s sex is a fact, but one’s gender arises from conforming “to an historical idea of 'woman,' to induce the body to become a cultural sign, to materialize oneself in obedience to an historically delimited possibility” (522) and is regulated and changeable. Butler also notes that if you play this role differently than the accepted one, you will be justly punished. (521, 531) Though this is not entirely true, it’s a fascinating theory that has struck a chord with many. Just look at how people perceive transvestite or transgender males on the streets. As they act in a so-called feminine manner, people retreat from them out of discomfort or fear. Things and theory only matter if they have some basis in truth, after all.
There is a term in psychology that backs up Butler’s theory known concisely as the power of the situation. This self-explanatory concept states that our actions are shaped more by the setting we find ourselves in rather than what we determine our personality to be. (Gleitman 2011) This implies that there are overarching societal expectations that govern our behaviour in every situation we may encounter; every place we go to is assigned a corresponding...

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