Michelene Wandor Topics List

Michele Wandor topics list taken from her interview with Susan Croft, 18th July 2007,
recorded by Arlan Harris
. Audio and video extracts edited by Jessica Higgs.

Personal background
Tailor father, Polish mother, met in Palestine
Living in Israel, 1949 -53
More on family, move to Chingford
School and university
Acting at Cambridge
Studying English at Newnham
Fellow students who have become luminaries – Eleanor Bron, Ian McKellen, Trevor Nunn, Corin Redgrave, John Shrapnel, Derek Jacobi, Miriam Margolies
Women’s college – influence on her feminism?
Husband-seeking women at Cambridge
Graduated 1962, met her husband

Doing contemporary plays
Marriage and two children
Working publishing
Drama Rep
Career gap / motherhood – feelings about / ambivalence
Freelance work for Methuen, MGM
Pieces for Oz magazine
Writing poetry

Encountering feminism, small groups
c 1969, early consciousness raising groups meetings
The Body Politic, first Women’s Liberation conference in UK at Ruskin College
Encounter with feminism, politicisation, finding out about socialism, writing, abolition of theatre censorship
Working for Time Out (TO) Poetry column
TO, division of labour, strike
Miss World and Women’s Street Theatre movement

Early plays
The Day After Yesterday (play about Miss World contest)
Process of getting plays on, lunchtime theatre, novelty of short drama
Malcolm Griffiths and Portable Theatre, asks her to write 5 short plays – including To Die Among Friends and Whore D’Oeuvres
Ed Berman and Almost Free
Women’s Theatre Season and Mal de Mere
Being paid as a playwright – or not, issue of funding
Arts Council principles – arts for the people

Importance of publication
Plays by Women and Strike While the Iron Is Hot
Journeyman Press
Tales I Tell My Mother (with 4 other women)
Salt Theatre Company, Penthesilea and Cindy Oswin
Writing for companies – on the group process and problems of the role of the writer
Gay Sweatshop – Care and Control, Kate Crutchley

Assumption that MW worked with women’s companies
More on position of writers in the company process
New book, ‘Art of Writing Drama’

Issues around having children
Floorshow – cabaret for Monstrous Regiment

On writing

Continuation of discussion of authority and writer / group relationship
Aurora Leigh, process, adapting it for Mrs Worthington’s Daughters
Done on R4 and Platform at NT
Only one woman playwright allowed to be successful at a time
Inclusion in Plays by Women, discusses: Louise Page, Tissue,
Vinegar Tom (Caryl Churchill), Dusa Fish, Stas and Vi (David Hare)

Kate Crutchley – important, interesting and unusual

New writing by women just starting to happen
Carrying the archive for the movement
When did the documentation crystallise?
The Body Politic – everything we were reading was American
Documentation was vital
Instituting afterwords in publications so voices as women were in there
Freelancing for Methuen
Understudies – how it came about

Feminist Theatre Study Group
*Three feminist theatre dynamics: radical, bourgeois, socialist
Study groups as part of their time, Feminist Marxist, Feminism and
Psychoanalysis, Socialist Feminist conferences after Ruskin conference,
editorial collective of Red Rag, NUJ (National Union of Journalists)
Rutherford and Son abridged for Mrs Worthington’s Daughters
Equity Women’s Committee
*Analysis of three feminist theatre dynamics
Look Back in Gender / Post-War British Drama – analysis of semi-canonical
plays, discusses representation of private / public, family, sexuality versus
dominance of semiological theory

Her current critical writing: Creative Writing Reconceived and The Art of Writing Drama, her teaching work, critique of current approach

Jewish identity and her work
Scissors, Gardens of Eden
Resurgence of interest in Jewish Culture
Gardens of Eden done on radio with Maureen Lipman and Miriam Margolies,
Michael  Nyman music
Institute of Jewish Music, poems set to music with Malcolm Singer, Esther
Involvement in early music – conservatoire 4 year course
Jewishness bound up with that – study of 17C Jewish composer Salamoni Rossi from Mantua
Tensions in this area e.g. revival of Klezmer, Yiddish, involved and on the edge of – arguments with terms such as diaspora and assimilation –
cachet of exile and displacement and presupposes Israel as the centre

Radio drama and women
First play for radio with Maureen Lipman
Editor Sean McLaughlan commissioned a feature about Antonia White, collage/ montage sound piece, Dust in the Sugar-house
First of huge number of commissions
In 80s found great difficulty in getting theatre commissions
Recent dramatisation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover
New theatre commission of Pride and Prejudice, Watford Palace
Dramatisations for radio versus original plays, also short stories
Presenting ‘Spirit of the Age’ on early music, reviewing
Overlap of music theatre and radio – Aurora Leigh; radio becoming more
conservative – new producers less well-trained
TV work, some commissioned not produced
Won international Emmy for adaptation of W Luce Belle of Amherst


Particualr plays esp with Piers Plowright, dramatisations including: Mill on the Floss, Brothers Karamazov, Jane Eyre (pre Shared Experience), less acknowledgement of radio work, second best
Importance of what kind of reader you are – critical reading
Desire to dramatise certain texts
Difficulty of finding commissions for theatre
Difficulty of surviving as theatre writer

Legacy of Women’s Liberation Movement
How it affected theatre or how she sees it now
Labelling and being pigeon-holed – good and bad, marginalisation of
feminism, wrong assumptions made about her work, inaccuracies,
Cambridge 20C dictionary of Women Writers, also Jewishness
General legacy,optimism or pessimism – her own position is much as it was
Documentation may help support a new phase, but globally and internationally picture is pessimistic, no push in terms of women  and theatre – individuals only
Increase of directors from 12% to 19% – will change if one or more have children – little change in women’s career patterns – workplace not set up to
support that
Discussion of women directors who have gone back to work
Lack of crèches
Support/ parity/equity is not a given

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