Program Note for Top Girls
Kelli Shermeyer's program note for Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, directed by Betsy Rudelich Tucker at Live Arts Theater.
A secretary making £9,000 pounds a year is earning a salary worth about £30,000 today, or $42,500. A successful traveling salesperson making £15,000 is earning the equivalent of $71,000 today.
The video game Pitfall! is released on the Atari 2600. The computer becomes Time Magazine’s first non-human “Man of the Year.” 15-year old Rich Skrenta writes the Elk Cloner, one of the first computer viruses developed outside of laboratory settings.
Prince William is born on June 21 at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. John Paul II is the first reigning pope to make a formal visit to the United Kingdom. Ronald Reagan is the first American chief executive to address a joint session of the British Parliament.
Unemployment in the UK increases by 129,918 to 3,070,621 meaning that approximately one in eight people are out of work. The London-based Laker Airways collapses, leaving 6,000 stranded passengers and millions of dollars in debt. Britain’s train drivers’ union, ASLEF, strikes over flexible rostering, shutting down much of the country’s transportation network.
The Provisional IRA bombs Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, killing 8 people (and 7 horses) and wounding 47. The Falklands War – a conflict between Argentina and the UK over two south Atlantic territories – begins and ends. Mexico triggers a debt crisis in Latin America by announcing it would be unable to pay its large foreign debt. Syrian president Hafez al-Assad orders the military to purge the city Harran of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the United States, an attempt to pass an Equal Rights Amendment fails.
Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls premieres at the Royal Court Theatre in London.
What does it take to be successful in a world that values individualism over collective gain? What must we sacrifice if we are to make it to the top of our fields? Like many of the plays in Churchill’s oeuvre, Top Girls presents us with a network of women who must navigate their identities and desires through the mutually-reinforcing structures of misogyny and capitalism. Through her distinctive blend of theatrical styles and overlapping dialogue, Churchill carves out space for women’s voices. Top Girls allows these voices – and the stories they tell – to come in and out of tune with one another and echo across time and space, complicating rather than flattening our narratives of women’s experience. Her characters declaim their truths, facing no censure and receiving no condolences.
At its heart, this play asks us simply to listen to women.
In gratitude and solidarity,
P.S. Let the record also reflect that Betsy and Kelli believe the third act of Top Girls is the among the finest scenes in contemporary drama.