“Achieving true equality is still a quite a serious work in progress ... Personally, I'm focusing on topics of intersectionality and solidarity in my theatre work”
TESSA HART Co-Executive Director of Bread & Roses Theatre, three-time winners of the gender parity ICWP 50/50 Applause Award
“ … day after day I see women’s timeless role as carers and nurturers resulting in us spending a lot of our time aiding someone else’s vision when it is our vision, insights and practical solutions that could change the world ... In particular Theatre503 strives to find brilliant but as yet unheard voices and to create an environment where they can do their best work”
LISA SPIRLING Artistic Director of Theatre 503
1. We’ve come a long way, but there is further to go. What enables one person might hinder another, what can feel like an opportunity might then become a burden and the myth of ‘having it all’ will always be a myth. However, I feel lucky to live in the times we live in. I love that women are running organisations, challenging the status quo, inspiring others and leading the lives they were born to live. But there is more to be done, we are underrepresented in all areas; historically, culturally, socially, the list goes on. And day after day I see women’s timeless role as carers and nurturers resulting in us spending a lot of our time aiding someone else’s vision when it is our vision, insights and practical solutions that could change the world.
2. Everything! We can do more, and we can do it better. In particular Theatre503 strives to find brilliant but as yet unheard voices and to create an environment where they can do their best work. We’re doing all we can to open up this tough industry to everyone that wants to be a part of it. This is partly achieved through opportunities such as Rapid Write Response, the 503Five, Five-O-Fresh and the 503 International Playwriting award but also through an understanding that the most important moment for writers is to see their work in front of an audience, so in the last year 503 staged the new work of 159 emerging writers. The decisions surrounding who we see on our stages, who creates what we see, how that work is made, how it is funded, how those plays are criticised, celebrated and documented for the makers and audiences of the future are all a vital part in addressing inequality. Organisations such as Act for Change, PIPA and ERA50:50 shine a much-needed spotlight on the missed opportunities and the true potential of this industry when equality is at the heart of everything we do.
1. I thought what was quite important to be aware of about the anniversary of the women's right to vote in the UK was that only some women got the right to vote in the UK 100 years ago. In fact, due to the limitations that still applied only about 2 in every 5 actually did get the right to vote at the time. So, whilst there was a pretence of equal rights to vote, it was far from being the truth. So, looking at how far we've come since, I'd say that's been mirrored in society overall. A lot has been achieved but whilst some claim equality has been achieved, it's another pretence. Achieving true equality is still a quite a serious work in progress.
2. Personally, I'm currently particularly focusing on topics of intersectionality and solidarity in my theatre work. Many people are not just discriminated against for one reason at a time and it's important to acknowledge that and understand that there is a system of discrimination and privilege that works on many different levels. It's so important to look beyond just ourselves and stand in solidarity with others and also understand that on some levels the same person may be discriminated against whilst still having privileges on other levels. That doesn't mean we shouldn't care about the discrimination but just be aware of more than our own experiences in the world, and theatre is a great way to make that happen.
1. Every time you see a story documenting the successes of a woman you can guarantee that there are men commenting underneath telling her to ‘get back in the kitchen’ or that she’s ‘ugly’ or ‘dressed inappropriately’ or whatever other insignificant put-downs they can rustle up in an attempt to undermine her accomplishments. The fact that she is given a platform to attain those successes and celebrate them publicly brings us a far cry from the days when women were fighting for the vote. However, the relentless criticisms on discriminatory grounds (responding to her gender) suggest otherwise. We hope that the men who seek to critique a woman’s every move are far and few in between, but in the age of the internet they are now able spread their vitriol further than ever before. We’ve moved considerably further up the road and continue to go in the right direction but it’s still a bumpy, windy road.
2. One of my top priorities at the Old Red Lion Theatre is to provide a platform for brave and bold female voices. Far too many talented playwrights are not given the exposure they deserve and when you see how few (larger) venues are (in)frequently programming plays by women you can’t help but wonder why there is a deliberate gender bias. Do people in the industry really think a play by a woman won’t sell tickets? As a woman, that thought is utterly absurd to me. This past year alone has seen multiple women-focused movements, including #MeToo and Repeal the 8th, which tells us that the female experience is very much in the zeitgeist – and who better to tell these stories than a female voice? That being said I don’t want emerging writers to think “oh, so the only way my writing can find a production right now is if I write a Me Too-inspired play.” Write whatever inspires you, whether it’s funny or sad, fantastical or verbatim. Ultimately, change must come from those in senior positions, which are still largely dominated by men. However, in the age of social media, audiences have the power to persuade by vocalising their expectations as the ticket purchasers. Running a small, unsubsidised venue you are constantly reminded of your limitations – but each of us can contribute in some way to changing this dialogue – even if it’s just letting female playwrights know that their work is wanted and needed and isn’t considered a ‘risk’.
1. In many ways very far, there are far more women in positions of power now then there ever have been (although the pay gap still exists). However, on a more day to day level sexism somehow feels more ingrained in western society than ever. There are a lot of intangible issues that are harder to grasp and discuss and become even more difficult to navigate if you add class, race, identity and sexuality into the mix. Having brilliantly dealt with the more obvious issues we as a society convince ourselves there is no longer an issue, which means you sometimes feel like you are fighting an invisible cause.
2. I hope to encourage a more positive working life in theatre - through gender parity on stage, working with other brilliant women in the industry, ensuring more interesting roles for women are created and showcased and creating safe spaces for women to feel their most creative. Hopefully by holding confidence in ourselves and trust in each other slowly life will start to imitate art.
" ... we still have a gender inequality in all areas of life, but it does feel like it is being pushed to the foreground now, something is brewing, and I hope it isn't a phase ... Here at the King's Head Theatre we have committed to a 50% non-male creative team on all our shows going forward. ”
LOUISA DAVIS, Senior Producer at King’s Head Theatre, recently curated the King’s Head ‘Who Runs the World’ season of female playwrights
1. Over the last one hundred years, women have become participants in the social, economic and political systems that affect their lives. Unfortunately, I do not think we have questioned these systems radically enough in order to really see the furtherance of women’s rights. As such, I believe there have been lots of examples of individual successes that are used to demonstrate progress, but overall there has not been enough collective reformation.
2. We strive to create a diverse programme that is accessible to both audiences and artists. We wanted to establish a space where artists could feel welcomed to experiment and grow their practice. And we wanted to establish a space where audiences could pitch up any night of the week and know they will definitely enjoy a great night out.
Published June 2018