Women in Theatre
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Information on women critics, directors, dramatists, producers, theatre companies, etc.
Here is an interesting conversation on “the dearth of female critics” from June 2009 over at Isaac Butler’s Parabasis blog.
See also Marsha Norman’s article on gender inequity in the profession in the Nov. 2009 issue of American Theatre.
Brava. (San Fran) For Women in the Arts.
League of Professional Theatre Women. (NYC) “Promoting Visibility and Increasing Opportunities for Women in the Professional Theatre.” For full membership you must live within a 150 mile radius of New York City; Membership options include Full, Associate, Regional, and International Affiliate.
Women & Theatre. Birmingham UK.
Women in Theatre (WIT). (SoCal) “Empowering Theatre Arts Professional Through Performance, Education, Networking, Service, And Outreach In Southern California”
GAN-e-meed Theatre Project. Boston Area.
GTP aims to “to advance the role of women in theatre in order to reduce unseen and unintentional gender bias in the theatre community and promote genuine career advancement opportunities for deserving artists.”
Tennessee Women’s Theater Project. Nashville, TN.
The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. Blog.
The Venus Theatre. (Laurel, MD)
WAM Theatre. (Boston area)
Woman’s Will. (San Francisco) All-Female Shakespeare Company.
Women Playwrights’ Initiative. (Orlando)
Women’s Project. (NYC)
Women’s Theatre Project. (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Carolyn Clay, Boston Phoenix
Christine Dolen, Miami Herald
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian (UK)
Louise Kennedy, Boston Globe
Elizabeth Maupin, formerly critic for Orlando Sentinel
Judith Newmark, St. Louis Times-Dispatch
Jenna Scherer, Boston Herald
Alexis Soloski, The Guardian (UK)
Kate Taylor, NYT
Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
Linda Winer, Newsday.
Adrienne Dawes. Her blog: Oh the joy
Maria Irene Fornes.
Gina Gionfriddo. Plays by Gina on Doollee.
Julia Jarcho (13P member)
Kristen Kosmas (FL native).
Susan Lori Parks
Sarah Ruhl (13P member)
Anna Deavere Smith
March 1, 2010.
1) When was Gan-e-meed Theare Project founded, and what prompted its formation?
GAN-e-meed was founded in February of 2009, incorporated in April, and gained 501c3 status in November. The project, itself, began as a personal mission to produce a play, Hamlet. I proposed the idea to Christopher James Webb (who’s directing Hamlet and is on our board) over two years ago. As we talked over time, I realized that if I already felt daunted by the self-production process, other women must feel the same way. And, as such, are missing out on playing the roles they should, directing the plays they should, designing what they should, you name it. Because who, in reality, IS creating career-changing opportunities for women? So, basically, I wanted to offer to other women what I am creating for myself. Share the love, you might say. As we began researching this idea, the media picked up on several news stories (including an undergrad who did the first ever blind study on gender and playwrights) about women in theatre. The timing seemed right; the world was telling us what we already knew: the number of women actually employed in theatre is far lower than the number of women who are theatre artists and trained to be such (and I’m not just talking actresses).
2) What inspired the company’s name, and how does it inform the company’s overall ethos and mission?
Ganymede is the name Rosalind takes in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” when she disguises herself as a man to survive. In one brilliant scene, while disguised as a man, she pretends to be a woman to convince her crush to woo her in woman-form. This is what it’s all about: the joining of genders to create something brilliant. The crossing of genders, the balancing of genders, the equality of genders.
3) Last November GTP was granted 501c3 not-for-profit status (and in a relatively short time). What was this process like? And was not-for-profit status a goal of GTP’s from the onset?
Applying for 501c3 was actually far easier than we were told. After speaking with other small Boston-area theatre companies who took a year or longer for their status, we were worried we wouldn’t get it before Hamlet went into rehearsal. We began to look into Fiscal Sponsorships to close the gap. Surprisingly, after only three months, we got our letter of recognition in the mail. Our application was extremely detailed (the board had insisted on a very detailed budget for the season) and full of phrases that I still don’t understand copied almost verbatim from a book designed to help organizations gain non-profit status. It came down to including specific details about who we are, why we’re here, and what we plan to do, mixed in with legal phrases that need to be there to make it official. Look for Nolo. How’s that for free advertising?
We did plan on going nonprofit from the start since we immediately realized that we wanted to include Equity actresses in our season. We held a fund raiser on February 23rd and were granted permission from the Theatre Authority (Equity’s non-profit branch) to include Equity performers in the show. We couldn’t have done that without non-profit status. Our mission is about equality which includes pay. We can’t pay what we wish we could to everyone, but including one Equity Actress right away is a good start.
4) How many plays per season/year does GTP present? What kinds of plays is GTP drawn to? Who determines what will ultimately be produced?
GAN-e-meed will be presenting two full-length productions per season. We have all sorts of smaller projects that will be happening in between them. For example, Ties That Bind is a short evening of one acts which was presented on February 14 at the Factory Theatre as part of Whistler in the Dark’s Second Act Series.
As the Artistic Director, I’m drawn to plays with literary value. As in, you don’t have to read all the stage directions to understand what needs to be told in the story. It comes from the dialogue. This season, I particularly sought out plays that explore gender in leadership. Ties That Bind was three short plays, all about women and their families: where she fits in, who’s the matriarch? who gets to be in control? Hamlet and our second full-length production, whose title I can’t share since we’re waiting for the rights, continues this exploration.
In the future (and in this first season as well) all full-length productions are proposed by female artists: playwright, director, actress, designer, or stage manager. Given that our mission stemmed from the desire to give women the ability to produce a dream project, we thought that having myself pick every show seemed antithesis to this goal. But, if we ask women out there to come to us and tell us why we should produce their project, then we’ve got a woman who wants to make it happen, she just doesn’t know how, and we can step in and create it with (and for) her. We haven’t determined the application process, but it’s bound to be rigorous and lengthy to ensure we make the best possible choice, and get applications from the widest range of women we can.
5) Does GTP have a home base or perform out of other venues?
We perform out of other venues. Our current goal is to perform full-length ventures in at least two locations to ensure maximum exposure for the artists and outreach to new audience members.
6) Sometimes the good intentions of ‘minority’ companies (those centrally concerned with race, ethnicity, gender, and/or sexuality) are construed as exclusionary. How does GTP handle this (potential) issue?
GAN-e-meed Theatre Project is not exclusionary. We exist to create gender equality. At the moment, that means bringing opportunities to women who are employed only 20% of the time versus men who have 80% of the jobs in theatre. Our board is currently a small five (we are actively looking for more members, by the way); two are men and three are women.
When I first pulled all five of us together, I had many conversations with each of them, colleagues, friends, and family about our model. It’s a new model, and it confuses people. Because how can you be a theatre company for women and yet employ men? How can you have an all-female cast of Hamlet and then place a man in the director’s role and still call yourself a cause for women? What it boils down to is this: theatre that is all women all the time is needed. It’s a safe space for women to grow and thrive in. It offers opportunities that might not otherwise exist. But it’s also not reality; we don’t live and work without men. They are integral to our lives, just as we are integral to theirs. And, frankly, it’s not women that are causing this inequity, it’s men. Go into a conference that is holding a session about women’s rights and the room is full of women, but men need to be given awareness just as much as women. If we kick them out of the space, there is no way we can help them learn that this inequity exists. But, invite them in and treat them as the equals they are, and then we can teach each other how to co-exist.
Is this an issue? Absolutely. Women, in particular, are more hesitant about accepting this as a worthwhile model. But we believe that by working with both men and women (and transgendered individuals, I should add) we can create a new model of employment.
7) Who is GTP’s audience base? Is there gender equity in attendance?
I don’t know. Our first performance on February 14 had both men and women in the audience with neither appearing to overshadow the other. At our Happy Hours, we generally have one man for every ten women in attendance.
8) Part of GTPs mission is to educate girls. How is this being fulfilled?
Every season, we will be casting at least one female youth in a significant role. This season, we have an 18 year old high school senior playing Guildenstern in Hamlet. If I have my druthers, there will be another one in the fall show. We also encourage and welcome young folks to join us as interns and helpers, and then tailor their experience so that she will learn what she is hoping to (it’s not just filing and photocopying!). As a board, we are all dedicated to the apprenticeship process. It is a required step to raising the next generation of theatre artists and leaders.
We hope to also offer summer programs, although that’s still in the works.
9) What type of relationship does GTP have with other companies in the Boston area? In other words, has the theatre community been receptive and supportive of GTP?
We have actively sought out relationships with the rest of the community by offering our Monthly Happy Hour. We can’t create gender equity on our own; the entire community needs to back us. Over time, we hope to meet with each company individually to introduce our model to them, get their reaction, and begin a relationship towards partnership. My personal dream is to be able to place women who have worked with us in mentorships with the leaders of the theatre community. This is likely years away from fruition, but we cannot create leaders with bringing the leaders in on it.
As for reception…yes, we have received positive reactions from the theatre community, albeit some skeptisicm as well, which is to be expected.
10) In a complete inversion of Renaissance casting practices, this May GTP is presenting Hamlet with an all female cast. How did GTP arrive at this artistic decision?
Given the nature of the dialect, Shakespeare is particularly amenable to cross-gender casting. Directors cast women in smaller male roles all the time. And most young female actresses love getting to play a “pants” role like Viola or Rosalind; they are often the meatiest roles for young women. But, why should women be relegated to playing the smaller roles and typical heroines, why not the big ones too? I, myself, am particularly excited to see women playing Claudius and Polonius. It will add an entirely unknown dimension to the story-telling process.
We have been asked several times why we didn’t switch genders: as in, have men play the female roles. This, too, would be a really interesting exploration of culture and story-telling, but it’s for another season and, I think, a play that uses gender devices more obviously to truly take advantage of the set-up. The Taming of the Shrew, for example, would be absolutely stupendous with men playing women and vice versa.
11) What advice does GTP have for other women out there who are considering starting their own theatre company?
Don’t be afraid to ask. People want to see you succeed. Talk to other companies, ask what they do and how they do it. Ask what their budget is, ask to see their spreadsheets. Ask. Ask Ask. And then do. Just get out there and do it.