Kitchen Sink Realisms: Domestic Labor, Dining, and Drama in American Theatre by Dorothy Chansky (Review)
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The October 2008 issue of Theatre Journal was bookended by articles from Jill Dolan and Dorothy Chansky that separately reevaluated two stalwarts of the second-wave feminist movement: Wendy Wasserstein (Dolan) and Betty Friedan (Chansky). Together, they marked one unofficial beginning of what has since become a vibrant contemporary movement (including my work with Roberta Barker in Canada, as well as work by Elaine Aston in the United Kingdom, and Varun Begley and Cary Mazer in the United States) to rethink, reframe, and reclaim stage realism in all of its fraught complexity. While it is impossible to recuperate stage realism naively, thanks to the robust critique leveled against it by feminist and critical race scholars over the past four decades, it is—as the above writers contend—nevertheless necessary to parse that critique with care, to distinguish among the multiple practices and strategies (dramaturgical, technical, and performative) that constitute the thing(s) we mean when we talk about “realism,” and to take the measure of the different kinds of cultural work that multiple “realisms” can do—sometimes separately, sometimes in tandem, and sometimes at tantalizing cross-purposes with one another.