Kathleen Weiss emphasizes closing the gender gap in ‘Welcome to the Season’ address
Over the weekend, you may have noticed theatre organizations and artists across Canada changing their social media profile photos to a maroon square. Once I saw Theatre Alberta follow suit on Friday, September 19, I clicked through to find out more about it on the Theatre Alberta blog. The Playwrights Guild of Canada, in partnership with many vital Canadian arts organizations, has launched Equity in Theatre (EIT), a campaign to help redress gender inequities in the theatre sector. Read the full post
“Although women form the vast majority of theatre school graduates, support workers, and audience members, when it comes to key creative roles in the sector, their numbers diminish substantially, dropping below 35 per cent. For example, women form 50 per cent of Playwrights Guild of Canada’s membership, but they do not account for even one quarter of the nation’s produced playwrights (the numbers for women of colour are lower yet), and rates of representation are regressing rather than improving over time.”
EIT involves different components: a preparatory research study, a symposium held in Toronto in April 2015, a website dedicated to Canadian women in theatre, live curated performance events, including play readings, and more.
Gender inequality in the theatre industry was top of mind for U of A Studio Theatre artistic director Kathleen Weiss when she sat down to write her ‘Welcome to the Season’ message for The Violet Hour printed playbill. It seems more than fitting this week to re-publish Kate’s address on the Curious Arts blog.
Welcome to Drama’s 2014/2015 season
The Timms Centre is Drama’s laboratory. It is a focus for faculty research, an important teaching tool, and an avenue of connection to the university and the city. The Studio Theatre season fulfills many needs. We strive to create a program that will entertain, educate, engage and explore the very nature of theatre as an art form. The 2014/2015 season brings together an ensemble of talented artists interacting to create six unique live theatre experiences.
This season celebrates in particular the work of women playwrights, directors and designers. I often recall an article Not There Yet: What will it take to achieve equality for women in the theatre, written by Marsha Norman, published in American Theatre in November 2009, when she reported 83% of plays produced professionally in the United States and Canada are written by men. Today in 2014, working towards achieving equality for women in theatre remains at the forefront for me as U of A Studio Theatre’s artistic director and this aim underlines our choice to program four of the seasons’ six plays with work by female playwrights.
Two plays programmed for this season are works by Moira Buffini, a contemporary UK writer who specializes in big, imaginative, metaphysical pieces. A Dream Play is of course by August Strindberg, but director David Kennedy has chosen to work with an adaptation by Caryl Churchill. The final play of the season, Tribes, is the work of Nina Raine, a ground breaking English director and playwright.
Women directors and designers also face concomitant inequality in the theatre. According to Norman’s 2009 article, less than 25% of directing and designer positions are filled by women, classifying playwriting, directing, set design, lighting design and sound design as “untraditional occupations for women.”
At the University of Alberta, we are doing our best to counter this reality featuring four gifted female directors; MFA students Lucy Collingwood and Amanda Bergen bookending the season with The Violet Hour and Tribes and faculty members Jan Selman and Sandra Nicholls handling the spirited Buffini plays. Three talented MFA designers, Zsofia Opra-Szabo, Hannah Matiachuk and Robyn Ayles will contribute varied designs throughout the season with each taking on all three elements for one of the winter shows. It seems appropriate to celebrate all of these talented women as well as our stage management teams, all women, and the five fine female actors in the BFA class of 2015.
In addition to the artists above, we welcome back the effervescent Brian Deedrick to animate The Threepenny Opera and introduce a talented new faculty member, David Kennedy, to the community with A Dream Play. Faculty members Robert Shannon and Guido Tondino are also involved in many of the season’s designs. The season also features the work of five gifted male actors from the BFA program.
This unique mix of professionals, faculty, and students are part of what makes any season at Studio Theatre special. This year, we have six beguiling plays in the hands of a myriad of accomplished women and men creating the delightful mystery of live theatre.
Artistic Director, U of A Studio Theatre