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Catherine Macnamara


Catherine McNamara


When a Girl becomes a Man:

Female-to-Male Narratives in Performance








How is theatre used as a medium through which to (re)construct some sense of (trans)gender identity? Those who transition from female to male, occupy particular political positions within the performance space. Their choice to perform their narrative and reveal trajectories from ‘girl' to ‘man', challenge and contest particular notions of gender representation in performance practice.

In this paper, I look at 4 pieces of work written/ devised and performed by people of fe/male gender who each identify themselves as other than ‘woman'. These performers are Jennifer Miller, self-titled ‘Lady with a Beard', Indy Turan, a transman in the early stages of his transition, Joey Hateley, self-identified transgendered female and David Harrison, FTM actor and director.

It has been suggested that the confrontational, sexualised portrayals of gender within 1990s British theatre, specifically in the work of writers such as Ravenhill, Kane and Neilson etc., are over (Gardener 2000, Lichtenfels & Hunter, 2002). Indeed, it has been suggested that theatre in this new century is in crisis:

Identity politics has splintered artists to such a degree that a certain kind of voicelessness has begun to subsume the role an artist can play in society. It is as if the claiming of identity that was so much a part of the 1980s and early 1990s has left artists exhausted of the further possibilities that its claiming can bring (Scvich 2002: 16).

The politicisation of the domestic in feminist theatre of the late 1970s and 1980s and the increasingly provocative but personal style of work in theatres in the late 1990s, look perhaps to be shifting once more. Liminal spaces in terms of gender, representation and identity are voiced and embodied by these four performers and the possibilities their narratives present may contribute debate at the symposium and beyond.





Catherine McNamara is Course Leader for the MA Applied Theatre (Drama in the Community and Drama Education) at the Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London). Prior to joining Central, she worked as Head of Drama within a Performing Arts department of a Further & Higher Education Institution, teaching and course leading Higher National Diploma, National Diploma and A Level Drama and Theatre Studies programmes. Areas of research include gender and performance/ performativity, this involves practical research into the benefits of voice workshops for the transgender community. Early findings of the research were presented at the 6th International Congress of Sex and Gender Diversity in Manchester in September 2004 as a paper titled Reflecting or Constructing the Self: FTM Identities and (Applied) Theatre Practice and more recently at the Researching Drama and Theatre in Education conference at University of Exeter in April 2005.   She recently gave two papers at IDEA 2004 (Ottawa) The Voice of the Trainee Teacher: Mentoring Practice as a Synthesis of Perspectives and Risky Business: Exploring Positive Risk Taking in Drama Education Contexts . The latter is a collaboration with Morag Morrison (University of Cambridge) and Jo Trowsdale (University of Warwick).


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