Theatre is devoted to male narratives, and only a fifth of artistic directors are female. We need to impose a 50/50 gender split.
t’s a century after some British women were allowed to vote, and a statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett is being unveiled in Parliament Square, so why is women’s presence on the English stage still unequal to men’s?
In a recent survey, the Sphinx theatre found that just a fifth of English theatres were led by women, who between them control just 13% of the total Arts Council England (ACE) theatre budget. This week, the feminist campaigning organisation the Fawcett Society called for quotas to get more women into key positions, after its Sex and Power Index revealed startling gender disparities in the public arena. The situation in theatre, where I have worked all my life, is a startling gauge of the marginalisation of women.
The Conference of Women Theatre Directors and Administrators began auditing the number of females on stage in the 1980s. That we are nowhere near equality, almost 40 years later, was only too evident at the Olivier awards this month, when the prizes for best director and best new play went to men. When women do not have equal representation in theatre, it is impossible for them to have an equal chance of winning prizes. The Equal Representation for Actresses campaign group is among those pushing for change, but the male ruling elite refuses to share power.
Postwar British theatre declared itself to be the vanguard of a more equal society. From 1956, a new wave known as the “angry young men” celebrated working-class playwrights, directors and actors. Male rage was hailed as a revitalising force. Women’s rage was not. However, this working-class male movement never gave women equal opportunity. Sixty-two years later, female talent remains un-nurtured.
Even today, female playwrights and directors are atypical. Shakespearian gender-swapping has been mooted as a partial solution. One example is Michelle Fairley playing Cassia at London’s Bridge theatre. However, such theatrical novelty only serves to distract from the main issue – the absence of contemporary dramas reflecting the complexity of women’s lives. Cross-gender casting fails to question the over-representation of dead and living male playwrights. It does not address the fact that half our contemporary creative world is missing.
Why aren’t more women active demonstrators against this injustice? One reason is a justifiable fear of blacklisting. Some of the privileged theatrical knights who have led our flagships, the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, have opposed gender parity. Consequently, women, who must seek male directorial approval to be employed, have dared not speak their name.
There are structural reasons for marginalisation. Drama schools educate female graduates to expect lower employment levels than their male peers. The actors’ union, Equity, the majority of whose members are female, rejects calls for equal representation. Most important of all is the position of ACE. This unelected quango crushes female ambition by boxing women into a category called diversity. This term reduces women – the majority of the population – to a minority. This promulgates the lie that females are diverse and males are mainstream. Orwellian double-talk maintains male dominance.
The exclusion of women from equal employment at all levels flouts both civil and human rights. The theatre is a serious, international political platform. It is a parliament of the arts, a form of soft power and a cultural territory as important as any physical land mass. With this abnegation of female flair, audiences are robbed of the full human story. These audiences are 65% female. There has never been a female artistic director of the National Theatre or Royal Shakespeare Company. Sir Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre for 12 years, until March 2015, never directed a play by a woman during that time. Women may occasionally appear as actors, directors and playwrights, but the English stage is devoted to worshipping male narratives. Where are the histories of our mothers, sisters and grandmothers?
In December 2017, the recently appointed chair of ACE, Sir Nicholas Serota, announced a 50-50 male-female split on its national council. What we need now is 50/50 employment for female actors, directors, playwrights and creative artists.
We may hate the concept of a quota system but decades of disenfranchisement mean that female artists and audiences have been cheated. When women’s human rights are acknowledged on the English stage, and when theatres are equally shared among expert professionals of both genders, only then can we say that our theatre is truly national and democratic.
Via the Guardian
Nominations are coming in for the ICWP 50/50 Applause Awards.
Theatres and theatre fans are nominating theatres around the world that are achieving 50/50 gender equity for female playwrights.
We are encouraging everyone who enjoys live theatre and wants to see that plays by women playwrights are given the same ratio of productions, promotion and reward as plays authored by male playwrights.
It is not only important for the female playwrights themselves that their work is shown on main stages of theatres around the globe, but it is also important for society that the stories, points of view and aspirations find a place in the cultural landscape of every nation.
Lauren Gunderson introduced the 2018 Awards with this encouraging video.
The Deadline for Nominations for the 50/50 Applause Awards is March 15. Guidelines and nomination form can be found here
From Jeff Spevak's article in the Democrat & Chronicle (D&C), Blackfriar's artistic and managing director Danny Hoskins said that the line-up of productions "paid attention to the social and political climate we live in." He wanted to give voice and empower the women in the community.
From Susan Trien's article in D&C, she quoted "Twelfth Night" director Alexa Scott-Flaherty explaining her idea, "In Shakespeare’s time, men played all of the female roles, like Cleopatra and Juliet, and (audiences) accepted it." She wanted to make the story more accessible to their patrons with a fun atmosphere and Shakespeare's role reversals with women running the show.
The Kilroys (a volunteer organization) and International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) have one common goal: the focus on and empowering of women playwrights. If ICWP has The 50/50 Awards, The Kilroys has The List. This 2017's The List recommends 37 diverse plays written by women of color and transgender men and women in the United States; these new plays are either un- or under-produced (once or twice).
According to founder Ms. Annah Feinberg in answer to my email, "... we hope that The List is a tool that they (the playwrights) can use while advocating for themselves, and that their supporters can use while advocating for them. It's a stamp of approval that, at least anecdotally, has helped writers move forward in their careers." It can indeed be a source of pride for the chosen playwrights because the ones who nominated them for The List are artistic directors, literary managers, and other theater professionals. "We try to garner as much attention possible for The List itself, which helps bring attention to the writers on it," wrote Ms. Feinberg.
In the American Theatre article, The Kilroys Are Here With More Plays by Women, The List functions as a resource for directors and producers looking for good writers. The Kilroys also encouraged women and transgender playwrights to list their plays in the New Play Exchange so that their works can be known to theatre professionals and their subscribers. The List began in answer to the impression and remarks of theatre and artistic directors that there were few women playwrights and a dearth of new works.
Upon reading the summary of the 37 endorsed plays, it is striking how interesting and relevant they all are. There are issues set in different countries but their themes are universal; there are re-telling of Greek myths; there are political and social issues, some are based on actual events; and there are diverse family dramas. The effort to come up with a list for women's works is laudable, but it is regrettable that everyone has to wait for theatre companies and/or producers to bring these beautiful works onstage. The Kilroys, composed of 13 very accomplished women, has looked where no one normally looked: into the periphery of women/trans playwrights of color in the US. If only there could be more networking, resources and organizations with sustained plans to publish and produce new works by women/trans playwrights then women's works can gain momentum year after year. -dalt
The Kilroy's. (2017). The List. Retrieved July 18, 2017 from http://www.thekilroys.org /list-2017/
Tran, D. (June 23, 2017). The Kilroys Are Here With More Plays by Women. Retrieved July 18, 2017 from http://www.americantheatre.org/2017/06/23/the-kilroys-are-here-with-more-plays-by-women/
DTC ( Darlinghurst Theatre Company) of Sydney Australia, has taken steps to ensure that its 2017 Season showcases the works of female playwrights and theatre artists in equal measure with male playwrights. They have also funded a festival of works by female playwrights as a development opportunity.
The findings are reported by Women in Theatre and Screen (WITS) an organisation set up a year ago to monitor the employment of female writers and directors by Sydney Theatres
WITS co-founder Maryann Wright said, " Not only has DTC's changed attitude manifested in their 2017 programming, but DTC also offered invaluable in-kind support to give a platform to Sydney's best Independent female theatre-makers by housing WITS' inaugural women's theatre festival, Festival Fatale, in October this year. DTC has set an impressive example for the rest of the industry, and showed that with initiative, parity can happen almost instantly."
Read the full article here
Celebrating gender parity on five continents for our 5th anniversary!
The International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) is thrilled to report that a record-breaking number of recipients will receive the 2016 50/50 Applause Awards, which recognizes theatres that produced 50% or more women playwrights in their 2015/16 season of shows. ICWP defines 50/50 by the number of qualifying performances in a theatre’s season. This allows a concrete measurement of the resources being devoted to women playwrights.
For the awards’ 5th anniversary, ICWP recognized 107 recipients in ten countries on five continents. The list includes theatres in Australia, Canada, England, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, Scotland, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States. Approximately 32% of the theatres are repeat recipients, demonstrating gender parity in two or more seasons. Recipients range from community and college theatres to internationally renowned theatres. Meet some of the theatres in the ICWP celebration video. http://www.womenplaywrights.org/50-50-awards-video-2016
For several years, the international performing arts industry has been scrutinized for its underrepresentation of women playwrights as well as women in leadership positions in theatre. According to the League of Professional Theatre Women’s (LPTW) 2015 study “Women Count: Women Hired Off-Broadway 2010-2015”, women playwrights were produced 28%-36% of the time. Among ten Australian theatres, 39% of original and adapted works were by women (The National Voice 2106, Australian Writers Guild). The UK’s Purple Seven study “Gender in Theatre” of 2012-2015 seasons reported 28% of playwrights were female.
Though these numbers are higher than they have been in the past, women playwrights are still not receiving their due, and there are many potential reasons. The LPTW study points out that new works by women are more likely to be produced today than those by women in the past, although there are many classic women playwrights. The AWG cites that commissioned adaptations are where women are making the least amount of headway.
Red the full Kilroy's List here:
Karen Jeynes from South Africa, President of the International Centre for Women Playwrights, is in New York to attend the 2015 International Emmy Awards. Karen is the lead writer for the company `Puppet Nation ZA ' which is a topical satirical programme.
ZANEWS (now also known as Puppet Nation ZA) is a South African satirical puppet show first produced in 2008 by Both Worlds, a Cape Town based production company. The show is a daily and weekly satirical news programme in the form of a mock puppet television newscast and features on both the web and TV. ZANEWS features key local and international political figures and celebrities. For eight seasons, ZANEWS has been using its puppet cast as mouthpieces for satirical commentary on South Africa’s public space.
Inspired by the cult British television series Spitting Image along with the French equivalent, Les Guignols, ZANEWS has been aired on the web and TV since 2009 on a range of media platforms, the most prolific of these being the show’s online presence. The show’s motto of 'Make Laugh. Not War’ has perpetuated the show’s portrayal of South African and international politicians and celebrities in its news format. The show is the only South African satirical puppet show, but is somewhat similar to the Kenyan produced The XYZ Show.
In October 2015 it was announced that Puppet Nation ZA is a nominee for Best TV Comedy in the 43rd International Emmy Awards
Read more on Wikipedia
You can watch 61 brilliantly funny episodes of this comedy show on the Daily Motion website.
1 out of the 10 plays programmed in the 2016 programme are written by a woman – 3 out of 10 are directed by women. #WakingtheFeminists is a campaign by Irish artists to demand change of the systems that allow for such chronic under-representation of the work of women artists at the Abbey, and by extension in the Irish arts industry. There is consensus that the problem is bigger than any one organization or individual, and so rigorous discussion and action is needed to realize a new artistic landscape that reflects Irish society, and represents ‘all the children of the nation equally’.
THE NEXT PUBLIC MEETING for #WakingTheFeminists will take place on Thursday, November 12th at 1 pm at a Dublin city centre venue to be confirmed.
Portland, OR: ARTemis, a national organization empowering women’s voices and roles in the arts, has presented its first-ever award to Portland playwright Kathleen Tomko. After a year of development, fundraising and planning, ARTemis is now able to provide direct financial support to female artists. Their premiere award enables Ms. Tomko to participate in a new play workshop with Bump in the Road Theatre in Portland, Oregon.
“This was a chance for Kathleen to get feedback on her writing that she’s not received at this point in her career,” says ARTemis co-founder Sam Hull. Read More
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