Songs for the Struggling Artist

Where In the World?
March 4, 2017, 2:10 am
Filed under: art, feminism, theatre | Tags: , , , ,

For years, I have been dreaming about emigrating to Europe, where so many of my favorite theatre companies are based. I fell in love with Cheek by Jowel when I saw their (all male) As You Like It. I idolized Improbable and their three man Artistic Directorship. I drooled over Complicite – and the one man genius at the center of it. Oh, how I wanted to move to England so I could make work like my heroes!

I heard stories about the extraordinary work coming out of Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. I saw some of it, too. I was wowed by all those men making extraordinary work. I wanted to go there and join them. Perhaps you’ve noticed already what it took me a while to put together. But almost everyone of note in my theatre hero club was a man. I’ve finally put together that nearly all of the places I’ve idolized for their more forward thinking art and/or politics, are actually as sexist as the country I live in. Some a little more. Some a little less. But nobody’s got equity.

My first clues were the stats on my blog about sexism in the theatre. I’ve got views from around the world on that thing. There are international waves of people when someone shares it in their native land. My next clue was my experience of international theatre conferences, where I saw so many all male casts, I just assumed I’d be looking at mostly men whenever I saw a show. When I went to panels of artistic directors from abroad, they were 90% male.

Sexism isn’t just an American problem. It’s a world problem. And in some countries, the sexism is worse in the theatre than it is in the country as a whole. Around the world, as far as I know, there is no theatre community where the odds are not stacked against me, as a woman. So, while I admire the work I’ve seen from Australia tremendously, it would make no sense to move there, as only 30% of produced plays are written or directed by women. Similarly, England. Similarly, Ireland. Where in the world could I go where my gender won’t be a liability in my making work? I really want to know – because I want to at least go visit and see what it would feel like to work in a place that doesn’t dismiss me from the moment I come in. I want to know what it feels like to create without the entire deck stacked against me. Where in the world can a woman go to make theatre with equity?


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Ticking Boxes
April 2, 2014, 11:57 pm
Filed under: art, business, feminism, theatre | Tags: , ,

Over drinks, a presenter was talking about his disappointment over the quality of the work he’d just seen. “It’s a show that ticked all the boxes,” he said, and he proceeded to name all the elements it had going for it (its cultural specificity and diversity were some of those elements.)


I realized then that this is likely how a lot of shows get booked, not for their quality, necessarily but what boxes the shows tick for their presenters. And given that each of those boxes likely represents a funder or access to grants, it is a perfectly sensible way to do things.


I’m glad that these are considerations for people presenting work. It’s important that someone is encouraging work that is culturally relevant, diverse and/or regionally driven. What I’d like to see is the addition of at least one other box to tick, I would like to see everyone add “gender equity” to their box-ticking lists.


At the conference this presenter and I were drinking at, for example, the ratio of men to women on stage was still 2 to 1 and while we saw an all male production, we did not see an all female production. We almost never do. And it seems like only strident feminists like myself ever notice. I know change comes slowly. And ultimately, we want to see the highest quality work, no matter what – but as long as you’re ticking boxes, scoring things a little higher for cultural or racial diversity, for example, why not add the same for shows that balance out the gender inequity?


If funding is driving the box-ticking, i.e., if diversity foundations are helping increase racial diversity onstage, then we need a funder to do the same for women on stage. If I were a foundation, or had the money to start one, I’d set up a fund to reward theatres that presented a substantial amount of women’s work, featuring both women on stage and off. Then the whole chain would sit up and take notice. Add that box, that gender equity box, then find a way to tick it.

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