Caryl Churchill Caryl Churchill is one of England’s most premier females, modern playwrights. She has strived throughout her career as theatrical personality to make the world question roles, stereotypes and issues that are dealt with everyday, such as violence and political and sexual oppression. Not only has she been a strong force on the stage, but has also had strong influences with radio and television. Overall, this woman can simply be summarized to be a fascinating personality. Especially in a time where women did not have the same rights as women nowadays, we can safely infer that her feats represent her determination as a playwright as well as an actor. Churchill was born in London on September 3, 1938.
She lived in England until the age of ten when her family moved to Canada. There she attended Trafalgar School in Montreal until 1955. At this time she moved back to England to attend Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. This is the key place where her career began. While studying English at Oxford she took an interest in theater.
Actually, she wrote her first three plays while at the university. When her career in theater and performance started at Oxford she had begun the first phase in her career. She was very focused on sounds and voice. In fact, her first three plays, Downstairs (1958), You’ve No Need to be Frightened (1959), and Having a Wonderful Time (1959) were all extremely focused on sound. This fact might have been propelled by her career as a radio playwright.
For the next ten years she concentrated her energy mainly on radio plays, starting off with The Ants, which she herself, thought of it as a TV play, but my agent Margaret Ramsey sensibly sent it to radio. During the time of her writing for theater and her sounds phase, she was looking outward, investigating new places for her to take her art. She wrote a few stage plays during her radio phase, but none were produced. She re-wrote some of her radio plays and, this time, eight of them were produced between the years of 1962 and 1973. She then slowly made here transition from her radio career into acting and writing television plays.
She became very unsatisfied with it very quickly, commenting that Televisionattracts me very much lessIt has the attraction of large audiences and being the ordinary peoples’ medium and not being the sort of effete cultural thing that no one ever pays any attention to anyway. But as an actual medium, as a physical thing that happens, I don’t find it anything as exciting as acting on a stage. Gradually, Churchill’s reputation would become comparable to that of the Royal Court, a rather well-known producing company. She became the first female resident dramatist, and later helped with the Young Writer’s Group program. During her time at the Royal Court she wrote many plays, still focusing a great deal on sound and voice. At the same time that she held her position of resident dramatist for the Royal Court, she also worked at other theatres and with other groups.
She founded the Theatre Writers Group, now known as the Theatre Writers Union, and had works produced by Joint Stock Theatre Group and Monstrous Regiment. From then on in her career, Caryl Churchill would both write as well as act in many plays challenging society in many different ways such as racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, and more. These plays challenge not only the thoughts and practices of the past and of her present, but also that the reputations of history be regarded as sealed records not amenable to change in the present. In other words, she was trying to say that anything done in the past cannot be changed in any way, because the damage has already been done. The next move that Churchill made in her career was to attack the ideas of gender in her society. In her plays, Churchill somehow manages to cross-gender the characters of the play, creating humorous scenes.
One critic exclaimed, By mismatching the performers with their stage roles, Churchill underscores the artificiality and conventionality of the characters’ sex roles. A clever theatrical idea thus serves a dramatic purpose, and the sexual shenanigans that result give rise to more than just the predictable cheap laughs. This comment was printed in a column on plays in an important newspaper in Toronto. Churchill later turned back to her older style of theatrical producing, dealing with criticizing the social structure of the world instead of only arguing about the equality of women to men. These plays tend to have a lesser approach of optimism than those previous in her career, but as was usual with her, she continues to question the set up of society. Caryl Churchill continues to write plays until this very day.
Now, since her last known movement, Churchill is still writing plays and continuously changing her style. She has written musicals and many plays with strange plots, such as two unrelated acts that somehow are intertwined. A writer, actress, as well as a stage director, Caryl Churchill continues to question society with such works as Blue Heart, Hotel, and Hot Fudge. Such a personality is a great inspiration to potential actors and actresses especially women because she had overcome social difficulties and has established herself as a prominent figure that will live on for a long time to come. A Biography of Caryl Churchill By Shadi Iskandar Theater II Bibliography : Asahina, Robert.
The Hudson Review, XXXIV 1981. Amelia Howe. The Plays of Caryl Churchill. St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1991.
Wandor, Michelene. Free Collective Bargaining, Time Out, 30. March-4 April 1979.