No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: analysis

The Gender Debate: five.point.one

five.point.one is an independent theatre company working in Adelaide. Established in 2009, the ensemble based company present South Australian premiere texts, with two productions a year since their inception.  In 2009 alongside their two play season, the company also presented an open reading of a new work by Caleb Lewis, and next month they will open their seventh production: Polly Stenham’s That Face.

The company currently has six core members: Matt Crook, Elleni Karaginnidis, Scott Marcus, Corey McMahon, Kate Roxby and Brad Williams.

McMahon has acted as director on all productions for the company to date, with the exception of 2010 Fringe show In Remembrance (of) A Small Death, two short plays by Anna Barnes and directed by Delia Olam, in production which had an entirely female cast and creative team.  Curious about the gender make-up of five.point.one over the past three years, McMahon asked me to take a look.

McMahon has directed six of the seven productions; Cassandra Backler has designed for six of seven; five productions credited a lighting designer, and Ben Flett filled the role on four of these; two productions credit a sound designer or a composer.  Lewis’ Rust and Bone, and Daniel Keene’s The Share had fully male casts; while the Barnes’ double had a fully female cast.  In total, the company has presented eleven female roles and fourteen male roles, to scripts by four male playwrights and three female playwrights.

In total, 32 people have been credited in creative or acting roles over the seven productions in 52 positions.

This can be broken down into fourteen women filling twenty-three positions, and eighteen men filling thirty positions.

With only six percentage points separating the number of individuals, and seven percentage points separating the number of roles each gender fills, women that are employed by the company are employed to an equal extent as the men: the inequality lies before they reach the company stage.

In saying this though, the inequality is very slight.  An imbalance in directors stems from McMahon taking on that role as one of the six enemble members.

It is pleasing to see the company statement says “We believe all good theatre must start with good writing and five.point.one places the playwright at the forefront of the creative process”, and in seven productions, three plays have had a female playwright and four have had a male, as it is in script production our female playwrights can find them selves chronically underrepresented.

Overall, I am very pleased with the current gender balance in five.point.one’s seasons to date.  It is great to see something much closer to equality happening on our young, independent stages.  I’m excited to see how the company continues to develop.

If I Were BossLady: Speak Up, and Listen

On International Women’s Day, I was invited to speak atBossLady: A Conversation About Women’s Arts Leadership. My panel was asked to consider the question What strategies promote a gender-aware, progressive culture in the arts industry? I choose to look primarily at this problem in the MPAG theatre companies.  Thoughts on the day will come later, for now here is what I said.

I think the main strategy is to question.  To question loudly and to question publically.  Question the right people. The artistic directors, the general managers, the board members, can’t ignore us forever and will be forced to listen.  And those who don’t?  They will become redundant.  As an answer?  Nothing speaks louder or more damming than “no comment.”

The problem with any strategy we are going to propose today is this is a global problem.   In the Greater Los Angeles Area, current figures are 20% female playwrights [1]; the US national average is 17% [1], as is the UK [2] average.  12.6% of plays on Broadway in the 2008/2009 season were written by women.  In 1908/1909, 12.8% were [3].

So this makes it easy for people to say, “It’s too hard.” So we should demand things should change.  We need to tell Australian companies that we demand better than what everyone else is doing.   We don’t have a shortage of female artists.  We have a lack of support, and a lack of creativity in curated seasons.

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BossLady

Next Tuesday is the 100th International Women’s Day. I will be spending my day surrounded by wonderful women at Vitalstatistix’s BossLady in the Fringe Club.

I will also be speaking. I’m a tad worried about this. Honoured to be asked, absolutely. But a bit worried I will at some stage want to say “and this is why I am a writer…” But if you like things like women and the arts then you should come and hear some amazing women talk about their experience and opinions and ideas for the future.

Anyway! On to the Press Release!

26 years ago Vitalstatistix was founded by three visionary women, who improved opportunities for women in the arts industry in Adelaide. In 2011, on the one hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD), Vitalstatistix Theatre Company is championing women making art and art made by women by presenting BossLady: a conversation about women’s arts leadership at the Fringe Club (Rymill Park).

Around Australia, women in theatre have been discussing the barriers to their career advancement, and industry bosses have been dusting off their EO policies. Yes, it’s true – gender and feminism is back on the table. Yet despite this, in 2011, the eight Major Performing Arts Group members are presenting shows primarily created by men. 16% of the works are written by women and 39% are directed by women. In leadership positions (Artistic Director or Associate Director), women are employed in just 17.6% of roles. On the other side of the coin, women, and creative teams led by women, are presenting extraordinary independent work, on the smell of oily rags, around the country.

BossLady will focus on the experiences and voices of independent artists – from their individual career experiences to their ideas around what kind of strategies can promote a more gender-aware and progressive culture in the arts industry.

Hosted by writer, broadcaster, musician and feminist-trouble-maker, Clementine Ford, BossLady will feature three panels of speakers in the course of the day. Artists contributing to the conversation include Daisy Brown (The Misery Children), Gaelle Mellis (Ladykillers), Sarah Dunn (ActNow Theatre), Jane Howard (theatre reviewer & blogger), Brown Council and of course, the Vitals BossLadies, Emma Webb (Creative Producer) and Jennifer Greer Holmes (Managing Producer).

Emma said, “BossLady is a big conversation. It’s more than just career advancement we are talking about – although that is very important. It’s also about the place women artists occupy in our industry’s own culture. This conversation is going to be feisty and affirming for women artists – get along to have a say.”

Jennifer said, “Unfortunately, BossLady is a necessary conversation to have. It’s appalling that in 2011 the issues that need resolving such as flexibility of work hours, caring/ parenting, discrimination and wage parity remain.”

With a TV talk show format, social media commentary on Twitter encouraged (#vitalbosslady is the official hashtag) and entertainment by Brown Council, Jo Zealand and more, BossLady will provoke thought, stimulate conversation and will be honest, loud and, no doubt, vibrant.

WHAT: BossLady, a conversation about women’s arts leadership.

WHEN: Tuesday, 8th March (International Women’s Day) 11am – 5pm (I’ll be on the panel at 3:30pm), followed by performances and drinks until 8pm.

WHERE: Fringe Club Mullawirraburka, Rymill Park, Adelaide

HOW MUCH: FREE (donations gratefully received) RSVP to admin@vitalstatistix.com.au by March 4th.

To celebrate I made some graphs demonstrating the gender break down in the key creative roles of Director and Playwright at the State Theatre Company of South Australia over the twelve years to 2011!  Aren’t you all jealous you don’t have my life?

All information compiled from Annual Reports, most available for download here.  The differences under the artistic directorships of Rosalba Clemente and Adam Cook are striking.  I honestly wasn’t thinking I would get any results like this when I compiled the data; I was expecting the results over the twelve years to more or less conform to the national data I compiled for 2011.  I don’t even know what to say about these results.  Over five years of Clemente’s AD, the numbers for woman playwrights and directors is significantly higher than the 2011 national average, while, at best under Cook, numbers conform to the national average.  Does this mean the whole issue is just a question of leadership in the MPAG?  I think I might be talking about this a bit next Tuesday (mainly because I have no idea what I will be talking about!).

Hope to see you there!

Update: You can read my speech here.

If you’re not Shakespeare, it’s good to be Brecht (or Lally Katz)

An analysis of Australian Theatre in 2011 through the Major Performing Arts Group theatre companies.
Update #1: 14/11/2010, Malthouse Season Two: Three female directors, four male directors; four male writers, one female writer, one male/female pair; five world premieres, one text from 2010; all Australian works.

1. An introduction and a context
2. What ever happened to the female playwright?
3. Directors: The female strikes back!
4. The classic or the new, what wins out?  (And what are the classics, anyway?)
5. The curse of a premiere culture
6. Oh, the places you will go!
7. Where to from here?

 

An introduction and a context

This all started for me when at the Woman and Theatre panel at RightAct I started to look at where the work I was seeing in 2010 was coming from in terms of writers and directors.

I then began to wonder if the bias I was seeing was a true indication of the bias in the industry, or if it was the plays I was selecting.  This lead me to creating two studies of 2011 theatre: the productions of the Major Performing Arts Group (MPAG), and the productions we will be seeing in Adelaide.  This is my write up of the MPAG productions.

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