Welcome to the TACTICS (Theater Artists’ Collected Thoughts Insights Challenges & Strategies for Gender Parity Advocacy) interview series curated by Amy Clare Tasker.
Women are underrepresented on and off stage. The problem is clear. The causes are thorny, complex, and controversial; the solutions equally so. Many women and men have worked toward change for decades, and more are now asking, “What can we do?” The TACTICS interview series investigates what our community is already doing, what we’ve tried, and what we can do next to advocate for equal and better representation of women in theater.
DIVAfest Founder and Board President
ACT: Who are you? Can you give me some background on how you came to be an advocate for gender parity in theater?
I am a female artist who came of age in the 60’s with a generation of women who spoke up and challenged oppression and limitations. We fought battles, won on several levels, became acutely aware of gender prejudice, and chose not to accept it. Standing up and supporting my rights and the rights of other women is second nature.
ACT: What do you think are the most urgent or significant challenges women theater artists are facing right now?
Although women are considered a minority by many funders, I don’t think we are given a high priority when deciding what to support. I also think we need more female producers to take the reins and support women artists.
ACT: What tactics have you used (or seen used) to advocate for gender parity in theater?
In 2002, I founded DIVAfest, an annual festival dedicated to supporting female theater artists, by discovering, commissioning, and producing new work by women writers. Over the past 11 years the festival has grown and changed and is now an independent organization that strives to engage diverse artists and audiences with eclectic programing in theater, dance, burlesque, music, visual art, crafts and symposia inspired by women. DIVAfest works to raise visibility and increase opportunity for women in creative fields. With a producing organization focused on opportunities for women, we increase the amount of work presented. The collaboration of a community of women to make this happen brings the important issues to the table.
ACT: What tactics have been most effective or least effective and why?
I think the most effective thing to date is the community of women who have now come together in support of DIVAfest. It is no longer simply an annual festival but has become a year round movement with commitment, passion and vigor in support of female empowerment through the arts. This collective female power is a force unto itself and the commonality of similar issues strengthens the momentum and vision. Simply broadening our scope and outreach has supported growth and change. I believe this continual growth will lead to a National Women’s Festival and broader collaborations will continue to strengthen
the movement over time.
ACT: How do you measure the effectiveness of your advocacy actions?
By the continual growth of the festival and the broad range of women who want to further its vision and by the actual accomplishments of each artist involved.
ACT: What is one action someone could take today that would make a difference?
Support a female artist with a ticket purchase, praise to friends, or a donation.
Amy Clare Tasker is a San Francisco theater director and a member of “Yeah, I Said Feminist: a theater salon.” She is online at www.amyclaretasker.com and @AmyClareTasker.
Tune into our national Howlround conversation on advocacy best practices, moderated by Marisela Treviño Orta and Amy Clare Tasker. Thursday, May 2 at 11AM PDT/2PM EDT on Twitter at #newplay.