#thesummit

Look.

I am bad at twitter. I don’t tweet much or well. Call me twit-illiterate. It’s also been a heinously busy couple of weeks. Which is why it’s taken me a bit of time to catch up on #thesummit.

More than a few people have passed along thoughts about this. More than a few have asked my opinion. But I wanted to wait until I felt like I’d really read enough about it to have an informed opinion before responding. If you haven’t caught up check out this for an overview. And this for the much commented on tweets in-situ. And here’s the quote from Ryan Rilette quoted from the DC Theatre Scene article:

“It’s really hard, and here’s why it’s hard.  I think it’s hard because there’s not enough in the pipeline right now.  …There are a lot of new plays that are getting produced by small theatres that are by women.” 

He went on to discuss how there are not enough plays by women produced in New York City and not enough in London (although he credited London with doing a great job), and said that a theatre needs something that’s going to help sell any play they put on.  He said one can’t choose a total unknown, and that to find three plays a season by female playwrights would require them to have name recognition or something else to draw audiences, if one is not going to go the route of using star actors. 

He said there are “not enough yet in the pipeline” and that “it’s gonna take a couple of years… a decade… before it’s going to shift, but it’s going to shift.”

A decade. Wow. I’ll be in my 40’s then.

That would be awfully… depressing to have to wait that long for more opportunities to arise. Probably depressing enough to just stop entirely. Something I see an awful lot of my female counterparts begin to contemplate around this age. It would be something I’d contemplate if I actually believed it would take that long. If I really thought my female peers had to wait around for these folks to use that whole decade’s worth of time to see some progress.

But I don’t buy this. And I also don’t feel like waiting.

Which is why what’s far more interesting to me, and what seems to have shifted this forum out of the standard and unremarkable bias women artists see and deal with all the time, is the final provocation of the night from Elissa Goetschius from Strand Theater that included a series of statistics:

  • At Signature, since the 2005 season, only 10 of 90 credited writers have been women, with women directing 2 of 54 productions.
  • Since Ford’s reopened after renovations, 2 out of 29 productions have been directed by women – the same woman.
  • At the Shakespeare Theatre, since opening the Harman in 2007, they have produced 51 shows – none of which have been written by a woman. 3 were adapted by women, and 9 were directed by women.
  • At Arena, since the 1998 season, 44% of productions have been directed by women. However, three women account for over half of those woman-directed productions, while 49 different men have directed here. The plays and lyrics that have appeared on Arena’s stages reflect the work of 110 men, but only 35 women.

When I read that and I thought, “Sounds familiar.”

I’m guessing, like myself, she’s been having this conversation for a long time. And as I went digging into her online presence I found this from March 2013.

I went back and checked my own blog for my statistics project on representation of women in Philly theaters. The dates of these posts? January 8th, 2013 AND February 7th, 2013 AND Febraury 8th, 2013.

Just about a year… Just about a year those facts have been out there. Hard numbers that do not lie about the state of the art we are in. Mine in Philly and Ms. Goetschius’ in DC.  As a former student of chemistry, I really thought when I threw my info out there it would set something off in other people. But it’s been a year now and not enough is different. I still think numbers and data are useful; they are a tool to wield. But they are not, as it turns out, enough on their own.  I admire Elissa Goetschius for going to #thesummit with numbers but I believe it is her fortitude to require their presence in the conversation that really started the firestorm.

Is it odd, do you find it strange, that within weeks of my post about gender parity in Philly theaters last year that another female director in another large America city was taking up another numerical compilation project in much the same way?

I do not think this is incidental. This means that it is clearly time to be having this conversation. I think it’s a sign we are gearing up for the real deal fight. I think it means the troops are gathering the tools we need to start taking this on. The numbers are a beginning. And now it’s time for all of us to make the response to them a necessity.

Elissa, if you happen to be reading this, I want you to know we are having this conversation in Philly too.

Like you, I am not waiting 10 years. I’ve already waited one, and not enough has changed.

So, like you, I’ve decided we’re having it now.

Which is why in honor of last March’s statistics project, I’m devoting this entire March’s blog to this issue. Every day a new article.

Every. Day. A few hours of time devoted to thoughts or actions to tackle this shit.

Cause it is shit.

Which why it stinks so badly.

You can expect more updates from The Awesome Lady Squad soon.

You can expect more thoughts about how we can critique and work with critics to change the way we frame women in theater to our audiences.

You can expect more observations about the myriad of ways we undercut women in subtle and unintentional ways.

You can expect more on what we can start doing NOW to make next year look different.

And hopefully by the end of March, by the time my 3/30 birthday rolls around, I’ll get a big fat present in the form of some actual movement and change.

I’m not giving it a year to start moving.

I’m giving it a month.

Are you ready?

I am.

– A

PS – Also worth reading is the fateful final question-er Elissa Goetschius’ thoughtful response and Brett Steven Abelman‘s as well.

8 comments

  1. Yes. Every single theatre–every. single. one–can do something today to start making change happen.
    ADs: if you are picking a season right now: Are your playwrights representative of the world in which you live, or are you too heavy on the Same Old Voices of the Theater Boys Club? Change it. Now. Here’s more than 600 playwrights to choose from: http://aszym.blogspot.com/

    If you have already chosen your season and insist you can’t change it now? You best hire some directors who can bring better perspective to those plays you chose. Here’s a list of lady directors who you should be hiring: https://twitter.com/egoetschius/lists/directors-who-are-ladies

    If you’re a director and you’re in the habit of assuming any character whose race or gender is not specified is a white male: challenge your assumptions. Cast against them. You may be surprised in how a simple change in your casting assumptions will open up your storytelling, and you’ll be helping to fight the social conditioning that the “default” mode of being is White Dude.

    If you’re brave enough to take on a play by a writer of color or a female writer whose work your audience is not yet familiar with: BE BOLD in how you market. Trust your audience, and speak to them like they are smart. Show them why they need to hear this story. Any story, if it’s a good one, can be marketable. Don’t be lazy.

    No excuses. Do something TODAY.

    Thank you for this call to action; it’s a great post.
    -Tamara Winters, Director

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