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tessahart-1_orig Women in Theatre Genevieve Taricco Lisa Spirling Women in Theatre Katy Danbury

“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.

velenzia-2018

1.  Wow a big question! I mean it’s still so shocking to hear how things use to be, we are lucky to be in the position we are now and I'm grateful to the people that have come before us to make that a reality. The fight back then was for what we probably consider very basic things that we take for granted now, the right to vote, to have an education, to own your own house, the ability to be seen as an individual. However, you fast forward to today and I would argue we still have a big fight on our hands for things I would still consider as very basic and essential. The majority of people that run our country and make decisions are men, we still have a gender pay gap, there are very few women leading business's, the level of sexual harassment still going on in several industries is appalling. We make up half of the population, it seems completely illogical to me that we still have such a gender inequality in all areas of life, but it does feel like that it is being pushed to the foreground now, something is brewing, and I hope it isn't a phase. We need women (and men!) to keep going so hopefully it's still not like this in another hundred years.

 

2.  Theatre just like many other industries is still very imbalanced. Over half of theatre ticket buyers are women yet the people that make the shows are often men, and that’s across the board. I often get frustrated when watching a lot of work that women are secondary characters or if they are in a leading role is often been written by a man. That's what we hoped to address in our recent season of all female playwrights Who runs the World? Recently, high profile AD's have been quoted as saying 'there aren't enough female playwrights,' or 'they won't do well at box office'. I was incredible proud of all the amazing women that took part in our season and we were inundated with shows that have now been programmed throughout the year, beyond the season. Our next show Sex with Robots, the winner of our Adrian Pagan award is an entirely female collective and I'm so excited that we could work with them on this. The inequalities however go beyond writers. Here at the King's Head Theatre we have committed to a 50% non-male creative team on all our shows going forward. There is no point us looking upwards to the large theatres and asking why they aren't trying to narrow the gap in inequality, all of us need to look around and challenge ourselves to do it at our level too. If we feed the pipeline with amazing females, in all roles, then I hope that not too far in the future our theatre landscape will start to look different and be a more equal representation of our society.

“Every time you see a story documenting the successes of a woman you can guarantee that there are men telling her to ‘get back in the kitchen’... The female experience is very much in the zeitgeist – and who better to tell these stories than a female voice?”

 

Katy Danbury, Artistic Director of Old Red Lion Theatre and producer of The London Horror Festival

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’.

 

" ... on a more day to day level sexism somehow feels more ingrained in western society than ever ... Hopefully by holding confidence in ourselves and trust in each other slowly life will start to imitate art.

 

Velenzia Spearpoint, Artistic Director of Bread & Roses Theatre and all co-founder of all-female theatre company Get Over It Productions.

 

WOMEN IN THEATRE

 

In this centenary year of women getting the vote we ask seven women in theatre to answer two vital questions

1.  How far have women come since they got the vote?

2.  What inequalities are you particularly striving to change through theatre?  

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.

audrey Thayer

"We have only come as far as the most disenfranchised among us, so let’s keep using our voices to lift others up ... I have the responsibility as a gatekeeper to make Drayton Arms as accessible and open to everyone as I can, and to balance the seasons so that at least half the productions are led by female teams. ”

 

AUDREY THAYER, Artistic Director of Drayton Arms Theatre

 

1.  Woman today have benefitted hugely from the groundwork laid by those that came before us. Those women made incredible sacrifices to force change and put their own lives, reputations, jobs, and futures on the line so that those that came after them could have basic human rights – I am deeply appreciative to them. It is, of course, important to note that while it has been 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the UK, this only included white women over 30 years of age. There has been incredible progress, but not nearly enough for women of color, women with disabilities, women who identify on the LGBTQAI+ spectrum (or people who don’t conform to either gender at all), women who are immigrants or reside countries with fewer human rights, and women with families. We have only come as far as the most disenfranchised among us, so let’s keep using our voices to lift others up.  

 

2.  Women in the Western world can theoretically be and achieve anything they would like. On paper, for the most part, we have the same rights as men. However, there are these invisible biases – sexism, racism, classism – things that can’t be changed by simply writing a law down on paper. In my theatre, I try to choose women, companies, and writers that have something to say that will help break down these prejudices. I have the responsibility as a gatekeeper to make my theatre as accessible and open to everyone as I can, and to balance my seasons so that at least half the productions are led by female teams. I still have work to do when it comes to diversity in nationality and class and am always reaching out to creatives in these groups, so that everyone knows that if they need a platform to say something, I will help them.

Louisa Davis, King's Head senior producer

" ... 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I do not think we have questioned these systems radically enough in order to really see the furtherance of women’s rights ...  At Rosemary Branch we strive to create a diverse programme that is accessible to both audiences and artists”

 

GENEVIEVE TARICCO, co-Artistic Director of Unattended Items, resident production company at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

 

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

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