Difficult Women

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Difficult Women is a literary-folk music cabaret created in 1992, in Melbourne, by Lin Van Hek and Joe Dolce and has been performing internationally for 15 years.


Difficult Women was established as a literary-folk music project by Lin Van Hek and her domestic partner, Joe Dolce, in early 1992.[1][2] Hek performed the roles to Dolce's compositions.[1] Nicole Leedham of The Canberra Times observed, "to some they are difficult women, to others they were courageous... Hek is bringing these women alive with her theatrical collaboration with musician [Dolce]."[1]

During the witch-hunts in Salem, Massachusetts, the term "difficult women" was applied to women targeted to be burned at the stake and for confiscation of their property by the church. Van Hek and Dolce's group has reclaimed this term and through a combination of theatrical vignettes, original music, songs, harmony singing and oration, brings to life women who were labelled difficult for their willingness to defy what was expected of women in their time.

The Guardian's David Fickling noticed that Dolce, "has a particular interest in those who are misunderstood by their contemporaries... [the show is] about pioneering feminists who were thought in their time to be 'difficult', rather than visionary."[2] AllMusic's writer felt, "[he was] turning his back on the comic elements of his work and staging ambitious adaptations of the writings of Sappho, Albert Schweitzer, and Sylvia Plath. Much of his work has been performed with [Hek] as part of the literary-music group."[3]

The show contains over four hours of material on visionary women: Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Frida Kahlo, Memphis Minnie, Sonya Tolstoi, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Camille Claudel, Katherine Mansfield and Louisa Lawson. Its first run was in mid-June 1992 at La Mama Theatre, Carlton.[4][5]

A Canberra performance in March 1994 was attended by The Canberra Times' Alanna MacLean who opined, "[Tek's] portraits were gentle but clear, clever and minor costume changes marking the differences. Strange Australian aunts and the work of Dale Spender on the links between gender and language mingled with Madam Tolstoy, who wrote out War and Peace 53 times by hand for her husband."[6] The run at the Carclew Ballroom, North Adelaide, was over four days in mid-July of that year.[7][8]

In February 1995 it was performed at Budinski's Theatre of Exile, Carlton.[9][10] In 2007 a performance was in the Victoria rural city of Castlemaine, at the Acquador Room, in April.[11][12]


  • Van Hek, Linn; Dolce, Joe (1998), Difficult Women, L. Van Hek & J. Dolce


  1. ^ a b c Leedham, Nicole (10 March 1994). "Characters More Different than Difficult". The Canberra Times: Good Times. 68 (21, 512). p. 3. Retrieved 17 February 2018 – via National Library of Australia. Note: Hek's first name is shown as "Linn".
  2. ^ a b Fickling, David (29 November 2002). "Is there life after 'Shaddap You Face'?". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Joe Dolce Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  4. ^ Difficult Women (17 June 1992 – 21 June 1992) [Event Description], 1992, retrieved 17 February 2018
  5. ^ "Event: Difficult Woman". AusStage. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Deserved a Full Tilleys". The Canberra Times. 67 (21, 520). 18 March 1994. p. 14. Retrieved 17 February 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ Difficult Women (14 July 1994 – 17 July 1994) [Event Description], 1994, retrieved 17 February 2018
  8. ^ >"Event: Difficult Women". AusStage. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  9. ^ Difficult Women (8 February 1995 – 25 February 1995) [Event Description], 1995, retrieved 17 February 2018
  10. ^ "Event: Difficult Women". AusStage. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  11. ^ Difficult Women (4 April 2007 – 4 April 2007) [Event Description], 2007, retrieved 17 February 2018
  12. ^ "Event: Difficult Women". AusStage. Retrieved 17 February 2018.

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