Songs for the Struggling Artist

My Harrasment-versary Part 2: Progress Report of Women in American Theatre
October 19, 2013, 12:49 pm
Filed under: art, feminism, theatre | Tags: , , ,

The thousands of views of my blog gave me a great deal of hope for the theatre and women’s place in it. I felt like there was a surge forward, that progress was being made. In many corners, I saw growth and renewed commitment to equality. Resources like 50/50 in 2020, Guerrilla Girls, How Sexist is this Show?, League of Professional Theatre Women and Works by Women (in both NY and San Francisco) came to my attention. People around the country are fighting the good fight.

Two women won Tony awards for directing, which was entirely unprecedented. An all female Julius Caesar is at St. Ann’s Warehouse and many theatres did notable work toward producing work by women. It’s possible that gender equality is on people’s minds more than ever before.

There are bummers in the news too. Lots of theatres totally tanked their gender statistics in terms of writers and directors. (And I don’t even want to think about the gender ratios on stage.)

But that’s the slog, I guess. We just keep at it until the good outweighs the bad. Whether or not there’s been a systemic change, the one thing that is palpable and measurable on a personal level is that I am back out and proud to be a strident feminist! And I find I am more often in company in that position than I used to be. The people around me (men as well as women) are much more vocal and willing to talk about gender discrimination. That’s the sort of circle that expands, I have to hope.

After so many people expressed interest in my writings on sexism in the theatre, I discovered how much I enjoyed talking about it. I wrote and wrote about it. Then, inspired by Caitlin Moran and all the journalism about women in the UK, I thought I should write a theatre column for a feminist magazine or something. I wrote to them all but what I realized as I did is that I didn’t have to make a case for being a feminist; I had to make a case for theatre. Not one of the feminist pop culture outlets has a theatre column. I began to realize that no one, besides those of who work here, really gives a shit about whatever sexist or racist or ageist or able-ist or whatever-ist shenanigans are going on in American Theatre, because no one outside of the theatre really gives much of a shit about theatre. Which may explain how so many outdated structures can continue to thrive in our field. I feel like I had things backward, that I’m in the minority because I’m a theatre artist not because I’m a feminist.

And I’m not sure what to do about it. But I wonder if we’re in an All Boats Rise situation. That is, we’re ALL on the periphery of American Culture. Maybe to clear up some of our equality issues we need to get a bigger lens on what we’re doing on stages across the country. Operating in the shadows, theatres get away with all kinds of nonsense every day. If more people were watching us, maybe we’d all behave a lot better?

I don’t know. I give a shit about theatre. I want it to be better. In many ways. Mostly I just want to work in it without QUITE so many odds stacked against me. Probably that’s what we all want fundamentally and working in a field that is so liminal to the culture makes EVERYONE who works in it feel like the odds are against them.That makes it hard to be generous with each other or be generous with opportunities or to expand our contacts beyond the immediate circles we operate in. It is difficult. But it is something to aspire to. A rising tide lifts all boats.



Postscript 1: If you’re inspired to support some theatre made by women, I’m going to shamelessly plug my own feminist show here on my blog. Director, creators, performers, designers and stage management are all women and we’d love to get a crowd in to see it. We run through the 27th of October.  Link here for Messenger Theatre Company’s As We Like It 

Postscript 2: I asked my feminist theatre group for good news or bad news of the last year and this is what they posted. You get to determine which news is which! And please add your own in the comments!–londons-most-influential-people-2013-imagineers-theatre-8824912.html

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