You’re here at the Works by Women San Francisco website/blog. Probably because you’ve noticed that something is missing when you go to the theater – you don’t see or hear women represented onstage in the same numbers that you interact with them in your daily life. Maybe you’ve recently noticed this. Maybe you’ve been aware of it for a while. In either case, it’s probably stirred up a variety of feelings – could be frustration, maybe disbelief, possibly anger, might be hopelessness. And from whatever you’re feeling, you’ve made the leap to action, to ‘I want to do something about it’.
But, maybe you’re overwhelmed with all the things you already do – you don’t have the time to add more. Maybe you’re afraid of rocking the boat – some of the biggest offenders on the gender parity issue also have a lot of resources and prestige – you’re hoping to work there someday. Maybe you feel like you can’t do it alone – you’re reading this somewhere outside of the Bay Area, where there isn’t a Works by Women type group.
You can do something. I believe in you. Why not start with these?
Fill out the survey. You know, that half sheet of paper that falls out of the program. Be counted. Let them know you are a woman and you are at their theater. And, write something in their ‘anything else?’ box – ask for more plays by women, more women on the artistic staff, compliment their all-female design team and let them know you’re recommending the show to your friends.
Promote. Actors – who wrote your monologues? Look for plays by women writers when you’re learning new monologues. Gender parity can happen here too. Directors and Casting Directors – does a man really really have to play that character? Especially when it comes to kid characters – there’s probably a girl or young woman who can play the boy if you put the right clothes on her. Regardless of discipline, use your program bio to give a shout out to the women who share the playbill with you.
Talk to people face to face. In between the blogging, tweeting and status-updating, find the time to meet with others in real time. This issue is huge, and at the same time full of nuance and shading, which aren’t communicated well by blog or tweet or update. So whether it’s a glass of wine with a friend, or brunch with twenty, a post show run to the bar or a 10-minute rehearsal break, talk about it. Ask others what they’re noticing and thinking. Share your own experiences.
Compliment people who are getting it right, and (bonus) do it publically. When a theater company announces their all female writer season, why not tweet your excitement for it? After you see the female majority cast Shakespeare production, why not send an email of thanks to the artistic director of that company (and cc whoever you can off their funders’ list)?
Share. To me, one of the most exciting things about this swirl of energy around gender parity and women’s representation is that it just keeps growing. We’re working together and no one in this upswell is cutting off the people behind them. We’re all throwing out the ladders, inviting others to follow. We’re pooling resources instead of hoarding. You’re amazing, your work is amazing, and the change has already begun. So, what else can we do? What bite-sized actions are you taking on a daily basis? Post below.
Valerie Weak is a San Francisco-based actor and theater educator who blogs at www.sfbayareaactor.blogspot.com
Image courtesy Golden Thread Productions