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(Di)Visible layers: Bodies, genders and costumes in the works of Suzan-Lori Parks

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This article examines the destabilizing efficacy of costuming in contemporary theatre in relation to naturalized genders. It focuses on selected portions of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Venus, In the Blood and Topdog/Underdog that are noteworthy within the context of costuming, illuminated by Judith Butler’s theories on gender performativity. The article places at the centre of its investigation subversive images that Parks’ dramaturgy promotes for the stage, and argues for the important role that directors and designers play in executing the dramatist’s interrogation of abiding genders. I argue that, in the work of this playwright, intersecting gendered, racial and social categorizations can all be shown to encompass layers of cultural meaning that fossilize over time to give the appearance of fixity. Parks’ plays have the potential, through costuming opportunities, to make these layers visible, revealing their cultural and historical materialization and showing that they are, in fact, divisible.
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Keywords: Judith Butler; Suzan-Lori Parks; body; costume; gender; performativity; race

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Trinity College Dublin

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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  • Scene is dedicated to a critical examination of space and scenic production. The journal provides an opportunity for dynamic debate, reflection and criticism. With a strong interdisciplinary focus, we welcome articles, interviews, visual essays, reports from conferences and festivals. We want to explore new critical frameworks for the scholarship of creating a scene.
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