|Description||This paper explores how famous female characters express societal views and expectations for actual females and presents ways new works can provide expanded options, liberating performers and audiences from restrictive preconceptions. Evidenced by characters like Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Laura Wingfield from Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, these bonds limit audiences and performers from envisioning more rounded roles for female characters—in art and in life. Like Virginia Woolf who felt she—and her audience—must “kill the ‘Angel in the House’” to find their own voice and strength as artists, professionals, and individuals, I, too, as a burgeoning educator and performer, feel compelled to give students a wider array of choices and perspectives beyond the stock characters and expectations that reinforce skewed visions of females by calling attention to characters who are either oppressed, submissive “Angels” or rebellious femme fatales, obeying or reacting to male definitions and demands, and by then creating space for female characters committed to and successful at pursuing personal goals and freedoms.
This paper examines how playwrights and typical classroom selections too often depict young women trapped in terrible situations and how, despite all their weaknesses, these female characters still hold sway over audiences, influencing male and female students’ perceptions and expectations about gender roles and power, particularly the power inherent or forbidden in a female character’s options. Finally, this paper emphasizes ways traditional and newer works can help enhance performers and audiences’ options, providing more realistic, vibrant, and memorable character role(model)s.||en_US