women

Lady-festo is coming!

Hey all,

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Do you know what those giant sticky notes are? They are some incredibly awesome and hard work by a whole bunch of awesome ladies these past few days. We’ve made some awesome progress and we’re really close to a full on Lady-festo. And I wanted to share just a little of what we did in these two meetings, for those that weren’t able to join us.

As I prepped for it, I read up on a bunch of other people’s manifestos. And I thought, “What exactly is a manifesto?”

So I found a few definitions from different dictionary sources online:

A public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

A written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer

The word’s root is Latin – manifestare – which means to be clear and conspicuous. To be unambiguously public in these beliefs. It’s the idea that if you share the view of the world you see around you others will also become aware of it. What struck me about this is that it is not a document about wishing or dreaming or becoming. It’s about what you know, deep down in a fundamental way, to be true. Which means the things that we define in our manifesto are not our future, but the things we already know in this moment.

It’s about asserting the things we believe to be true into the world around us: that women are not lesser qualified or weaker, that our work is not niche or in addition to. It’s knowing that there is a space in which those views are supported and those intentions are believed in. It’s a promise that if we are able to articulate it, others will eventually understand the beliefs we know to be true.

So we spent time articulating these ideas as beliefs. We tried to write down all the things that we know about Awesome Ladies, even if we don’t always see that reflected in the world. We tried to articulate those things as positives (“I believe X” rather than “I don’t believe Y”).

Then we shared those first ideas, clarified and honed them. We linked the things that seemed connected and then we worked to figure out how say them in the most simple and essential ways. We put forth great effort to get to the very core of our Squad’s essence.

And soon, I’ll get to share that with all of you.

I’m pretty psyched.

I think it will be awesome.

A huge thanks to everyone who made it out to one of (or both!) our Lady-festo nights:

  • Melissa Amilani
  • Hillary Asare
  • Dawn Falato
  • Arianna Gass
  • Colleen Hughes
  • Emily Johnson
  • Rebecca Joy
  • Gina Leigh
  • Jane Moore
  • Erlina Ortiz
  • Catherine Palfinier
  • Gabby Sanchez
  • Hannah Sandler
  • Meryl Sands
  • Catharine Slusar
  • Isa St. Clair
  • Sarah Schol

– A

Applied Mechanics gets an Awesome Lady Squad Commendation!

Hey friends,

Many, many things a brewin’ here at Swim Pony HQ.

I know I promised you Cross Pollination would unveil here today but this weekend was just too terribly full of fantastic awesomeness and I need just a couple more days. So Wednesday it will be! (This time I promise, for real…)

Awesome Lady Squad is in high-level action mode! We had the first meeting to for the Awesome Lady Lady-festo last night and I am humbled and awed at the fantastic minds of Philadelphia creators. Look for updates on that soon!

Today, however, I thought I’d share something new. While much of our attention in this space has been on shedding light on things I’d like to change, I think it’s also worth pointing out the amazing artists who are already modeling the kind of work that ALREADY gives voice and space to women creators (and gaining a stellar artistic rep at the same time). So every once in a while I’ll be asking some questions of folks doing just that so they can share how they are successfully getting their work into the world in a way that the Awesome Lady Squad commends.

Today, get a bit inside the mind of Applied Mechanics. I chatted a bit with Becky Wright (a good friend) to find out more. But first! A pretty picture of their work to entice you:

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1)   How does gender parity and awareness of women in theater play a role in selecting your material?

We are a very collaborative company, founded by women, with majority female members and an alternative-model labor-sharing administrative structure.  Every piece we’ve ever made has come from an idea or a spark of inspiration from a company member, so in a sense the work is always reflective of the concerns of the group.  I think it’s safe to say that most of us identify as feminists and that our artistic motors have been shaped by our experiences as women in the world, as female artists—and, for our one male company member, his experiences as a gay male artist.  Collaborative art-making involves such intense processes of interrogation, exploration and reflection—so I’d say, overall, gender and female-artist awareness play a major role in everything we do.

To speak more specifically, we’re currently working on a piece inspired by [Russian feminist art/punk activist group] Pussy Riot.  This idea came from two company members who were following their story particularly closely at the time of their arrest.  We all intuitively leaped on this seed of an idea; as we began research and exploration (the early stages of our development process) we quickly discovered that a big reason why Pussy Riot’s story and the questions it brings up resonated with us so deeply is specifically because they are female artists.  Their story is our story.  And they have done these powerful, dangerous, earth-rocking things with their position as female artists, claiming that position as one of profound subversive power and gigantic imaginative and radical influence.  Our piece has expanded to encompass questions about contemporary feminism, its oppositional relationship to global capitalism, protest art, 21st century resistance, and the socio-historical qualities of a moment when artists’ voices are politically important. These questions are close to our hearts and central to our ongoing artistic project.

One thing that’s been really nice about working on this piece, the first of ours that takes on explicitly political content, is that it’s made us realize that we’ve actually been dealing with these questions all along: all of our past pieces in some way engage questions of power and control, allocation of resources, society’s power to shape identity, and the possibility of communities to affect change.  These questions are central to feminism.

Again, some brief specifics: in our recent piece Vainglorious, a large-scale historical fantasia about Napoleonic Europe, we had a woman playing Napoleon and a man playing Josephine (and lots of other cross-gendered casting, mostly in the form of women playing men, throughout the world of the piece.)  While we made this choice based purely on company members desires and personal qualities, we had to recognize after the fact that the choice “says something” about gender.  Embracing this allowed us a deeper exploration of the power plays and politics of that piece.  We’ve also made pieces with trans characters (Portmanteau), de-gendered characters (Some Other Mettle), and always always make pieces with strong, unusual female characters.  It’s worth mentioning, too, that our performers create the characters they play—so the women of Applied Mechanics, through engaging in our group authorship process, have a huge amount of agency in their theatrical and artistic output.

In all these ways, I’d say gender parity and women in theater are at the heart of our material.

A tiny post-script: I think there was a while in there where some of us in the group would worry about not having “enough male energy” in the company.  And then at a certain point we were like, “why are we worried about this?”  It’s amazing how pervasive the norms of the dominant culture can be.

2)   Does this inform your working and administrative structures in any way?

It does, actually.  We have worked really, really hard to cultivate an egalitarian working model that embraces all participants, distributes company labor, and values communication and consensus over hierarchy.  For me, this is a self-consciously anti-patriarchal model.   It looks at the ways most theaters run, the received narratives created in overwhelmingly large part by straight white men (and thus designed to reward male-socialized habits and aesthetics) and says: we reject that, and reject the goal of gaining access to it, and we claim the space to work in another way.  This is often difficult, and certainly does require a great deal of energy, presence, and mindfulness from all company members, but the result is that we have this thing, this company, that allows us a sense of shared ownership while granting us all agency and a supportive artistic home.

3)   Do you know your statistics (number of actors, directors, designers, etc) in terms of representation? Can you share them?

For several years, the company consisted of five women and two men.  It has now shifted to consist of six women and one man.

Of the 32 “outside” actors we’ve hired in our history, 21 have been women and 11 have been men.

Of the 4 guest designers we’ve hired (to work with company designer Maria Shaplin) three have been women and one has been a man.

Of the 5 stage management/production assistants we’ve hired, four have been women and one has been a man.

There are also an assorted bunch of folks we’ve hired for one-off work/labor calls; this is an estimate, but I think on those we’ve been about half and half women and men.

4)   What would you say to a female artist feeling discouraged about her place in the arts community?

It can take a while to find your people.  Don’t worry: you’ll find them.  All of my collaborators I met through working other gigs, going to see stuff, or coincidences born of just doing my thing.  It makes a huge difference to have people you love to work with.  It makes it easier to feel like, at least in some respects, you have your own place and your own community.

Keep your eyes open for folks you admire and are interested in working with or for.  It’s not that hard to track people down in this town, and it never hurts to ask for a coffee—or an assistantship.

And I know this will sound a bit “follow your bliss,” but—follow your bliss!  Don’t wait for permission to make the art you want to make.  Do what you think is cool.  Claim the space to do it.

Art life is a weird life without a clear path.  There is so much bushwhacking to do, and so much stumbling.   I think men and women tend to be socialized differently, and it can often be harder for women to access the kind of assertiveness and entitlement that’s so useful sometimes in getting gigs and attention and carving out a niche.  But I also absolutely think that self-doubt and failure and periods of frustration are natural parts of the artists’ life.  Finding a way to accept those stages of the cycle without being too self-punishing can make it way easier to fight the necessary battles—whether that’s about accessing particular kinds of assertiveness or asserting other ways of working.

5)   Anything else you’d like to add?

When Maria Shaplin and I started this company, it was because there was art that we wanted to exist that didn’t exist yet.  We realized we could make it exist by making it ourselves, and we realized no one was going to give us permission to do it.  So we had to just do it.  So we did it.  And we were incredibly fortunate (still are) to have access to a community of brilliant collaborative artists who were down to do it with us.  The company, which grew out of that initial project, consists of the people who stuck around and were excited about working on the artistic and organizational experiments that Applied Mechanics has come to pursue.  I don’t think that the experience of wanting to make art and having to give ourselves permission to do it happened because we’re women (it happened because we’re artists) but I think the lesson of claiming space and asserting new working models is vital to the feminist project.  I’m not saying it isn’t a worthy battle to fight for access to existing systems, but I also say it is a necessary battle to fight for new systems.  For me, this goes for both artistic concerns (structural, as well as aesthetic) and organizational models.

Thanks Becky!

You can check out Applied Mechanics bio below or their website for more info: http://www.appliedmechanics.us/

Applied Mechanics is director Rebecca Wright, designer Maria Shaplin, and performers Jessica Hurley, Thomas Choinacky, Kristen Bailey, and Mary Tuomanen, and stage manager Bayla Rubin.  This ensemble of artists collaborates to make work that challenges conventional ideas of theatrical space, narrative, and performer-audience relationship: they create visual landscapes for the audience to wander through, and multiple intersecting storylines for them to choose how to watch.  Their plays are immersive, multi-sensory, and choose-your-own adventure.  Their process is collaborative, democratic, and based on a commitment to organizational and artistic innovation.

Applied Mechanics’ pieces include the apartment plays Selkie and Ses Voyages Sauvages; It’s Hard Times at the Camera Blanca (Fringe 2009) which took over a Fishtown Bar; the invasion play Portmanteau (Fringe 2010) which, following its Philadelphia premiere, toured from Texas to Louisville to Maine; the dystopic environmental piece Overseers (Fringe 2011); and the large scale historical fantasia Vainglorious: Epic Feats of Notable Persons in Europe After the Revolution, which involved a cast of 26 Philadelphia actors and which  remounted to great critical acclaim in the Philadelphia International Festival of Art (PIFA) in April 2013.

Awesome Ladies meet tonight and tomorrow!

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Reminder! Reminder!  The Awesome Lady Squad is meeting March 23rd (tonight) and 24th!

That’s right Awesome Ladies! We’ll be meeting from 7 – 9:30 at Headlong Studios (formerly the Parlor) at 1170 S Broad on both the 23rd and 24th to come up with the AWESOME LADY MANIFESTO – our code of ethics for how the Squad will work.

  • If you’ve already let us know you’ll be there: GREAT! We can’t wait to see you!
  • If you know you’re coming and feel like dropping us a line: FAB! Email swimponypa@gmail.com to help us get a sense of the group size!
  • If you want to just drop in and bring a friend: DO IT! You can totally still come if you realize last minute that our meeting is exactly where you need to be.

Attend one or both. Our aim is to have a version of the manifesto to share with the world by the end of Monday night.

Hope to see you soon! (And as always, thanks for being awesome…)
Adrienne

Reframing

Sometimes when I spend a long time talking about myself as occupying a disadvantaged position it makes me a little depressed.

In writing about women in the arts I’ve found myself sometimes feeling frustrated this past month. And I think it’s because when you define yourself in this way – as a person who is being to subjected and trying to navigate a system that is not always set up to your advantage – you can start to see the problem in everything.

In the general sense, I do think women get less of a fair shake. On average, I believe it is true that we’re under-represented in almost all aspects of the field.

But I think we can probably all agree that thinking that way is no way to live. It’s just too tough constantly imagining oneself as a victim of an intractable problem. It feels too large, it feels to impossible, it seems pointless to even try, if you spend too much time in that mindset.

At least it does for me.

This, I think, is why some pretend it’s not a problem. They have to shut out any disadvantage and just keep plugging away as if things were totally equal because it would just be too depressing otherwise. I’m not chiding these folks too much, because I understand the impulse. No one wants to feel powerless. But I also don’t think that I can join them, because at a certain point I think most female artists just see too clearly the power difference.

A few years ago I listened to an interview with the famed brain scientist Oliver Sacks. I was surprised as he spoke to learn that he in fact suffers from a variety of neurological issues himself. I was even more interested in a statement he made that was something along the lines of this: I don’t know that I’d have been able to discover all the amazing things I had if I hadn’t had an abnormal brain myself. That interview made me think back to reading Jill Bolte Taylor’s book about how a stroke’s paralysis of certain kinds of “left-brain” style thinking gave her an appreciation for “right-brain” thought processes and a new outlook on life.  It made remember a friend of mine from college who was in a serious car accident and who said that she could feel the palpable difference between the kind of person who was “normal” and the way that her mind was now different, how she’d developed a sense of both the neurologically-dominant perspective and her new one as a recovering patient.

That interview planted a seed in me that’s grown into a guiding principle: I just have to believe that all the things that I believe are my weaknesses – my introversion, my status as a female artist, my lack of trust fund, my sometimes weird aesthetic impulses, my thorough dis-interest in classical works of the theatrical canon – all these things that sometimes make me feel like an outsider, are actually my secret superpower. These things that separate me from the dominant viewpoint are the things I can uniquely wield as weapons that those supposedly more in power can never hope to employ. These are the ways that I will be able to innovate. These are the things that will make my art works full of a fuller perspective. They are the things that will give me an angle in that others just can’t see.

This is nothing new, this idea. Lots of people know this. But it’s the thing that really helps on the days when the problems feel so big. When all I can see is how much harder the obvious road will be for me than for some dude with the same skill set.

Those are the times when I say to myself, “You just have to believe that in the long run this makes you stronger. You just have to believe in the long run you will be better for seeing differently.”

It’s the moments when I look at the obvious path and realize if I just cut through the bushes I might get to the top in a totally new way. It’s the moment I realize I have a machete in my hand and can start hacking at something new.

It is a problem in one lens, and I can jump into that perspective when needed to make progress on an issue I see.  But it’s something I can also reframe in my own mind to give me a sense of strength and destiny.  And while it might seem as if all this is a bunch of self-delusion, it’s those moments where I’ve really embraced the outsider in me, rather than just feeling frustration with it, that wonderful things emerge.

Things like a squad of awesome ladies, many of whom I’ve never met who suddenly are some of my most ardent supporters.

Things like creators in different cities who I am suddenly planning to meet because of our shared interest.

Things like an interview for a national theater organization because of my vocal views on an “outsider” subject.

Things like a renewed vigor for a writing forum that I’d let slide more than I wish in the past few months.

This onslaught of new and positive activity all came from just deciding to sit down and reframe an issue as one I can use as a leverage point rather than just being something that pisses me off. It’s become a power I can wield. And I like that.

Yes, it’s still a problem. Yes it’s one I’m solving all the time, and mostly likely will be the rest of my life. But it is also in my capacity to use it to my advantage.

Even on the days it doesn’t feel that way.

Especially on the days it doesn’t feel that way.

I see this as my chance to have choice.

– A

Crowd source the grant of the future!

Hey friends!

First! I wanted to tell you that there’s big news coming your way from Swim Pony. This coming Monday we’ll be unveiling our next project: Cross Pollination. Cross Poll will be an awesome exploration of artistic mash ups. If you’ve ever wanted to see what happens when comic artist meets a dance company, this project will be right up your alley. So stay tuned for the info on all the details and the artist application to get involved.

And a huge thank you to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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for supporting the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia. Trust me, you’ll be thanking them to when you see what we’re rolling out on Monday….

Second! I wanted to follow up and say that one of the most popular posts this month on the blog – the one in which I laid out a proposal for a results-oriented grant for gender parity – is gathering some steam. This is a project I am really hoping to make happen for realz in the relatively near future.

Most grants when being developed go through an extensive panel process. They have a lot of people reading and writing and then re-reading and re-writing the application guidelines. They examine the goals and expected outcomes. They look at the metrics that will be used to assess the project. And they think about who will enact these suggestions.

I want to create a grant that has just as much of a review process. And yet, I am just one human with my singular human brain. But what started happening informally after I posted about this the first time was that people started emailing me their suggestions. They asked questions about how things might work. They proposed ideas to make it stronger. And while I know that I wouldn’t implement all aspects of every suggestion, I also know that each one gave me a new perspective on how to think about shaping the thing. They were all super helpful in getting me to think like someone on a review panel.

It makes me wonder if this might be something worth asking for more of.

So here goes. I’ve re-listed the original guidelines proposed below and if you have thoughts about them, let me know!

What are the questions you’d have if you were to apply? Tell me the things that might seem difficult to interpret. Give me suggestions for things to expand that you’d want to know more about. Think about your work and how it might be assessed for this thing and let me know if you see a potential change to make it clearer or easier to take part in.

Think of this as your chance to crowd source the creation of a grant for the artistic world we want to see.

AWESOME LADIES GETTIN’ WHAT’S DUE (ALGWD for short)

Proposed guidelines:

1)   The ALGWD team announces to the Philadelphia-area theater community that starting next season any company, of any size, with access to their own non-profit status or a fiscal sponsor is eligible for an award at the end of a three year period.

2)   The funding awards will be made in two categories:

  • $25,000 will be awarded to 5 companies with the highest percentage of women artists represented across three artistic categories (see below).
  • Any company that achieves 45% female representation across all three categories is eligible to receive $10,000.
  • PS – You have to hit the minimum in all three. No exceptions.

3)   Female artists represented will be calculated based on a statistics over three categories:

  • Number of women playwrights
  • Number of women directors
  • Number of women actors

4)   Other rules and guidelines:

  • Companies will submit their statistics and then have them validated by the grant committee in order to be eligible.
  • The statistics must include all artistic output by a company.
  • Artistic outputs included must be open to the public.
  • A company must meet a minimum of three public works to be eligible for consideration.
  • Funds are string-free. You can use them for whatever you want.

5)   And maybe we could also add this as a bonus:

  • A $1,000 in additional funds are available for any company that can also show an equal parity across all categories of theatrical design regardless of whether they reach the above minimums.

Throw your comments in below. Or send them to swimponypa@gmail.com

You might just get what you asked for…

– A

PS – A big thanks to all those already super engaged in responses to the original post. I’ve definitely been keeping them in the mix!

Jealousy

Hey folks,

Since there are so many newbies to the Swim Pony blog joining us for our month of lady artist awesomeness, I figured I’d re-share a post from last year that garnered a lot of attention.

It’s not specifically related to being a female artists, but I’m sharing it because I think it’s going to be one of the major principles laid out in the Awesome Lady Squad’s manifesto (coming this weekend!). One of the ways I think we all get cheated out of the arts community we really want is by being sold on the idea that there isn’t enough to go around. And if there isn’t enough for all of us, we end up feeling like we have to fight each other to get any.

Let’s decide this isn’t the case.

Let’s assume there’s enough Awesome for everyone at the table.

Hope to see you next Sunday and Monday.

– A

mon Some people have all the luck

I will admit it. It’s really hard sometimes to be happy for your artistic peers. There are times when someone you know well gets a job, or some big funding, a fellowship and you just think to yourself, “Damnit. I am just as good as them. This is not fucking fair.”

There are times when I hear about people’s successes and my first instinct is to figure out how I could get a hold of the same opportunity. There are also times I despair at the seeming lack of luck, a random set of factors that make their stuff trendy and my stuff totally prohibited from some desirable professional stepping stone:  I don’t do straight plays, I don’t have an MFA, I’m not great with Shakespeare, I don’t act, I’m not part of an ensemble, whatever. It’s harder, not easier, the closer the people…

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Rounding Up #TheSummit

Hey all,

At about the halfway point in the month and looking back at what I’ve been writing so far, I thought it might also be interesting to share Ilana Brownstein’s round up of all the reactions to #thesummit so far.

PS – Mine’s in there too…

Drama Lit Blog 2.0: BU School of Theatre

On Feb 17, 2014, Peter Marks of The Washington Post hosted an event called The Summit — it was a public conversation with several of D.C.’s leading artistic directors. As Peter noted in an article for The Washington Post, “Several months ago, Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage, approached me with an intriguing offer: organizing and moderating a series of discussions, with theater people and topics of my choosing, onstage before an audience at her theater.” It was the first of three planned public fora — the others are scheduled for March 24 (focusing on actors), and April 28 (playwrights and directors). The event with Artistic Directors was not livestreamed, but it was live-tweeted by several attendees, chief among them Elissa Goetschiusartistic director of Baltimore’s Strand Theater. It’s probably fair to say that no one involved expected the event to blow up twitter as it…

View original post 463 more words

Choice

So I’ve been reading the many articles that have been appearing on HowlRound recently about women directors

First this one

Then this one

And finally this one

All of these to some degree are about the language we use as female directors in our rehearsal rooms.  I’ve been thinking, brewing, about this for a few days now. Thinking about my own rehearsals as a female director. Of my responses to the article and responses to the responses, and then if humanly possible my response to the response’s response.  I’ve been formulating my own opinions about how I feel in response to these articles. And it occurs to me this afternoon that to explain my feelings about how to talk about language, I need to first talk not about words but about voice.

This semester I have a student named Maranda who has the most amazing voice.

Her sound is generally placed pretty low in her chest. It’s not raspy or throaty but it’s lower and further back than the typical standard of placement for most American speakers. I should probably mention she is Jamaican and sports a relatively thick Patois accent, too.

She is usually one of the first to arrive so on the days I teach at her school, I watch students walk into the black box for voice class and greet her sitting in the second row of the seating area.

“Hello, Ma-RAAAN-dah,” most of them say.

“Hello,” she says back and smiles. 

So far this semester I’ve led Maranda and her classmates in exercises on playing resonance in different parts of the body, in articulation exercises, and projection. I’ve tried to give them skills to open up access to all the sounds their voices are capable of.

One of the first realizations to come in my class is there is no such thing as a person’s “voice” in the singular sense. Around week 3 my students always begin to write about their voices in plural. They talk about how their sounds change over a range of different contexts and in relation to different people. The voice they use for a boss or teacher is quite different than the one they might employ for their friends, entirely different from the one they use with their parents, and different still than one for performance. These voices, they are begin to realize, are not the same. Consciously or not they are employing different sounds to try and achieve a different relationship with the listener.

And it is around this time that they read an article about vocal habits and explain what the author Patsy Rodenberg means when she says that habits are only a problem when they are no longer a choice. It is also around this time that I begin to hammer home a point that I will make through the rest of the course, a moral that underpins everything about the way I approach voice work: there is no such thing as a voice that is “better” than another voice. Ethically, morally, aesthetically, there are no “bad” voices.

There are simply voices that are useful in communicating and achieving what you want, and voices that aren’t.

Which means a high-pitched tiny “girly” voice can be fantastically useful in some contexts just as much as a low basso commanding one. A quiet sound just as powerful as a loud one depending on what you’re using it to do. It just depends on what you’re after.

Most of the students, to some degree, read the article and understand that the point I’m after is that your voice, your tendencies, your style is just as “good,” as long as it’s serving you to get what you want and as long as it is your choice. So when they start making sounds that at first feel funny in their bodies and mouths I say that I don’t care if they talk that way, but I do care that they have the option. When I make them stand in front of each other and speak I ask them constantly what they are trying to make the audience think and feel. The class and I collectively listen to each person and think and talk about ways we can use the voice to get us to the goal the speaker is aiming for.

Each vocal quality is a different choice that will provoke a different effect. That effect is their choice to make. I’m simply trying to give them tools to have as many ways to do that as possible.

This is what I think about when I think about the conversation regarding language and female directors. Each kind of language is a choice. Each one will elicit a different response. Each one is useful in some ways and not in others. It just depends on the tactic the particular directing is using to get to the end goal.

Can assertive language be effective? Sometimes. It can also be aggressive and off-putting.

Can accommodating language be perceived as weak? Sometimes. It can also be welcoming of a variety of perspectives and lead to an open and collaborative environment.

There are processes where I mostly ask questions. There are others where I mostly tell everyone what to do. And I don’t think the answer is picking an answer as to which is “right.” Because inevitably that “right” won’t be right for some people and some works of art. What troubles me in the task of trying to define the best type of female directing language is that it actually removes the choices that we so desperately seek to empower these female artists with. Better, I’d say, to ask whether the kind of language you use is getting you what you want. Better, perhaps, to ask if the language you use is one that you feel you own and have agency over. Better, I’d propose, to ask if your language is a habit over which you have choice.

Most recently, my voice class has been focused on an assignment where students bring in pieces of text that they have to present in front of each other. The text cannot be their own writing and this means that each of them must think about how to shift their voices to best communicate the language they have chosen to share with their audience. Last week, when Maranda went up she looked just a tiny bit nervous.

“Can I ask something first?”

“Sure.”

“The character in my book… Do you care if I talk like a white girl?”

Everyone giggles for a second.

“You can present the text however you want to.”

And Maranda’s voice, with its resonant and lilting Jamaican accent that has charmed the class for weeks, transforms into a nasal flat Midwesterner. Close your eyes and you literally wouldn’t believe it was the same person.

Our mouths collectively hit the floor.

The next class I watch again as the students enter.

“Hello, Ma-RAAAN-dah,” they say as always. And she laughs as I tell her it’s obvious they are jealous of her sound.

And she smiles because she I can see she knows it is true. And I’d guess it’s not only because of the beautiful voice that comes naturally but also because she has the power to shape the way they hear her. She could sound a different way if she wanted to. She can be those other kinds of voices when she chooses. She can go to all the places my exercises ask her to. But when she finishes, she doesn’t stay in those other sounds.

She goes back to the accent.

Because she has the choice.

– A

One more small thing you can do RIGHT NOW

How often does an Artistic Director get a heartfelt email, call or letter about their company?

Probably not as often as you think.

It seems like a lot to take the time out of a busy schedule and send a missive. Despite the ubiquity of communication in our technological world, if I don’t actively seek their opinions out, it’s pretty rare that I get to hear directly from folks who aren’t my friends and colleauges about my work.

Which is why if one person writes a really impassioned thoughtful email I really pay attention.

Yesterday I gave you a tiny task: email the heads of theater companies you care about and let them know you’re watching their season selections for gender parity.

Today you can take that a step further.

Every one of you has people in your life that go see theater. Chances are at least a few of them are also non-arts professionals. And chances are also that many of them probably also care about seeing equal representation of women in the arts. 

Today, I want you to reach out to one or two of them and ask them to speak up for the role of women in the arts as well. Ask them to write to an AD or a board member or a Managing Director (or all three). Send them the letter I gave you yesterday to make it easier for them to do so.  Maybe look up the email addresses of the people they’d send that letter to so it’s even easier.

And then sit back and bask in the knowledge that you’ve just made a huge difference. Because I promise, such a letter will definitely mean a lot to those folks who receive them.

– A

One small thing (that’s also huge) that you can literally do RIGHT now

I’ve spent a lot of time the past couple weeks writing about my feelings. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the things that I’m trying to do to make Philadelphia a more equal place for artists who are women.

Today, instead, I’m asking you to do something.

Take a look at the websites of your favorite performance companies. See what seasons they have lined up. Or see if they haven’t announced them yet.

And for ones that are still undecided, and ESPECIALLY for ones that have announced seasons with imbalance toward men, send a quick email to the Artistic Director, Managing Director, and head of their board.

Tell them you are their audience base.

Tell them you want to see women employed by their company.

Tell them it matters to you that this happens.

You can do this today. It might take you 15 minutes It could change an entire year of programming.  That’s how powerful your voice could be.

And if you aren’t feeling creative, I’ll even give something badass and awesome to cut and paste into an email:

“Dear _______ Theater Co/Ensemble/Theatre/Whatever,

I love your work.

I also love female art makers.

And I’d really love to love both of those things at the same time.

I want you to know, because of how much I care about your company, that I’m concerned about the inequity of representation for women artists in next year’s theater season. As a member of your audience base, I’m letting you know that one of the ways I will make choices about what I will or won’t see will be based on whether I see women getting the space on stages they deserve.

I care about seeing female characters. I care about hearing female voices. I want to see women in directing and design positions.  And because I want to believe you want this to, I’m reaching out.

I’m asking you, as an audience member, as a fan, and as part of the community your mission seeks to serve, to please look long and hard about the work you’re bringing me next year and make sure that gender parity – for playwrights, for designers, for directors and actors – is a priority in the work you present.

Because I know it is for me.

And I hope you make me proud.”

Steal, change it, do whatever you want, just DO it. Right now, this very moment, you could make a difference.

– A