The Fear of Forgetting Who We Are: Masks, Identity and the New Era in the Plays of Kaite O`Reilly

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Abstract

In her plays O’Reilly is concerned with fundamental manipulations of Personae, in the Greek sense of ‘Masks’, as the site where identity resides in performative terms. In the wider world when we our ‘masks’ slip, for whatever reason, we experience a crisis often manifest in violence or loss. Drawing principally on her plays Henhouse (2005) and a recent adaptation of Aeschylus’ The Persians (2010), this paper proposes a theatre metaphor for the post-1989 era where individual identities and their racial national and tribal co-relates become Masks of History. Whether these ‘Masks’ are ‘worn’ voluntarily or under coercion the transformation is essentially psychophysical. Though ideologically created, these masks can be seen as memes. When expressed through the body they offer the playwright a tool to transcend narrowly individualistic character writing. Thus the stage is populated with dramatis personae which embody our uncertainties in the post-1989 era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-77
JournalSymbolon
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

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