From the late 1970s into the early 1990s, a generation of female filmmakers took aim at their home countries’ popular myths of the frontier. Deeply influenced by second-wave feminism and supported by hard-won access to governmental and institutional funding and training, their trailblazing films challenged traditionally male genres like the Western. Instead of reinforcing the myths of nationhood often portrayed in such films—invariably featuring a lone white male hero pitted against the “savage” and “uncivilized” native terrain—these filmmakers constructed counternarratives centering on women and marginalized communities. In place of rugged cowboys violently removing indigenous peoples to make the frontier safe for their virtuous wives and daughters, these filmmakers told the stories of colonial and postcolonial societies from a female and/or subaltern point of view.
Herstories on Screen is a transnational study of feature narrative films from Australia, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand/Aotearoa that deconstruct settler-colonial myths. Kathleen Cummins offers in-depth readings of ten works by a diverse range of women filmmakers including Jane Campion, Julie Dash, Merata Mita, Tracey Moffatt, and Anne Wheeler. She reveals how they skillfully deploy genre tropes and popular storytelling conventions in order to critique master narratives of feminine domesticity and purity and depict women and subaltern people performing acts of agency and resistance. Cummins details the ways in which second-wave feminist theory and aesthetics informed these filmmakers’ efforts to debunk idealized Anglo-Saxon femininity and motherhood and lay bare gendered and sexual violence and colonial oppression.
The Witlings was written by comic novelist Frances Burney in 1779, but her male relatives prevented its production; the manuscript was not rediscovered until the 20th century. Patrick Young's Acting Version trims the rough but brilliant 4-hour draft to just over 2½ hours and connects all the loose ends. A young heiress loses her fortune and is attacked or defended by a colourful collection of proto-Dickensian characters. Acclaimed as "witty" and "hilarious", the Canadian Premiere of The Witlings was produced by Theatre Erindale on the campus of the University of Toronto Mississauga in 2014.
The Taming of the Tamer (also known as The Tamer Tamed or The Woman’s Prize) was written by John Fletcher some 20 years after Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. In it, Petruchio's second wife finally succeeds in giving him his comeuppance. Though a hit in its day, surviving versions are rough and even contradictory; Patrick Young’s adaptation for acting makes this hilarious proto-feminist work fully accessible for the first time in almost 400 years. The Canadian Premiere of The Taming of the Tamer was produced by Theatre Erindale on the campus of the University of Toronto Mississauga in 2009.