The opening act lasts around 40 minutes in performance, and is possibly the most difficult to understand. The working woman of the present is represented by Marlene, and references to the roles and rights of women across the world and throughout time are shown through female historical figures from different periods and places. They come together over dinner in a restaurant, where Marlene hosts the meal to celebrate her promotion to Managing Director of the Top Girls employment agency. (A suspension of disbelief is needed by the audience to take in the collision between different worlds in this scene; after all, drama does not necessarily have to be naturalistic and true or accurate to life).
As the guests continue to arrive, the conversation starts the way it carries on. The women talk over each other and do not appear to be listening to each ...view middle of the document...
At the end of Act 1, Joan recites a long passage in Latin from Lucretius’s poem, De Rerum Natura. The passage describes the pleasures of living in an ivory tower, built upon the knowledge of wise men, and observing the folly of the world. At the conclusion of her recitation, Joan gets up and begins vomiting in the corner.
These women are bound together by their struggles against patriarchy and oppression.
An English woman who lived from 1831-1904. She was an avid explorer and travelled all around the world between the ages of 40 and 70. She wrote extensively about her experiences abroad. Bird married late in life because of her professional aspirations, but her husband died short of their 5-year anniversary. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
A concubine to the Emperor of Japan in the 13th Century, and later, a Buddhist nun. She had 4 children, all of whom were taken away from her. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
The subject of Brueghel's famous painting called Dulle Griet, which depicts a woman in an apron and armor leading an army of women in battle against a horde of demons in Hell. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
A legendary Englishwoman believed to have disguised herself as a man and served as the Pope from 854-856. Joan is brilliant and well-versed in philosophy, theology, metaphysics, and poetry. Her reign as Pope ended tragically - she revealed her gender when she gave birth during a public procession and was subsequently stoned to death. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.
She is based on the character of the obedient wife in the “Clerk’s Tale” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In Chaucer’s story, Griselda marries a Marquis who tests her fidelity by taking her children from her. She remains obedient, and the Marquis eventually rewards her by reuniting her with her children. She is one of Marlene's dinner guests in Act I.