Being the Change You Want To See
Victoria Sadler’s stark article on the lack of female playwrights makes for troubling reading: http://www.victoriasadler.com/2017-in-review-the-lot-for-female-playwrights-worsens/ .
The bigger theatres aren’t programming female playwrights. Promises are being made and not kept and people want to see more diversity across the board on stage and in the wings of all our theatres.
I’m not allowed into the important rooms where important decisions are made in these venues. Yet. But what I do get to see is female playwrights creating, being pro-active, hustling producers, pedalling their work and writing even if no-one’s going to listen.
I’ve seen an uprising of small theatre companies calling out for female playwrights, female directors, stories from BAME artists, gender-blind and any-ethnicity casting. This online community is coming together, supporting and encouraging one another, sharing, recommending and generally being so positive. It’s a world away from the trolling and bullying reported on every day in the press and the competitiveness that can sometimes consume the most competitive industries.
The arts, and freelancing in general, can be such an isolating experience, especially when work is thin on the ground and everyone else is absolutely definitely doing so much better than you, that an online support network can be such a fabulously important resource.
So much of our lives are now conducted online; for most freelancers it’s an essential way of self-promotion, maintaining working relationships and networking that we can’t do without it. In this anonymous cyber-space environment filled with keyboard warriors and the eternally offended it’s incredibly reassuring to see the support and generosity of a movement of people (yes, men too) working towards a united goal.
And what a ridiculous goal. To have roughly as many female playwrights as male. Roughly as many women on stage as men. Roughly as many BAMER artists both on the creative team and cast.
Many of the big theatres (I’ll leave you to define ‘big’) are pledging to start evening out this balance in 2, 5, 10 years. Why? What’s wrong with now? It seems that the fringe, the small companies, the ones who didn’t get funding, the regional venues, the do-ers, the self-published and self-produced, the crowd-funders, the one (wo)man shows, the risk-takers, the unconventional, the don’t-fit-in-your-boxers, the forgotten and the unheard are boldly leading the way into new territories, producing innovative, exciting art and reaching those who need representation on stage. Those who need a voice. Then hopefully the audiences and the massive, resource heavy, funded theatres will then follow.
But in the meantime go online, look at those doing it for themselves, look at the words of encouragement, the empowerment, the brilliant ideas and collaborations and be encouraged, if not by the theatre, then by the resilience, determination and the spirit of those who are going to make it happen.