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.
Playwright and Artistic Director of Jump! Theatre
ACT: Who are you? Can you give me some background on how you came to be an advocate for gender parity in theater?
I’m an emerging playwright of a certain age, and a passionate artistic director of a theater company that tells authentic stories of mental illness. I grew up as a feminist starting in high school, with the realization that those of us committed to revolution were still subservient to the men who were running both mainstream and alternative cultures.
That said, my most emotionally compelling experience has been watching women of my generation, many of whom were not committed to the historically feminist ideal of gender parity – hell, who thought we WERE at gender parity – be discriminated against when their marriages ended. Women who for years were encouraged not to work, who took on the role of raising children and being homemakers, and who then lost everything in a divorce. So I came to believe that the only way for women to be truly equal is for there to be gender parity in jobs and life options.
ACT: What do you think are the most urgent or significant challenges women theater artists are facing right now?
The absolute dismissal of women’s alternative voices in art, theater and music although music has some differences). Works of theater written by women are produced less often and given second productions much less often, and alternative models of plays are often dismissed as the equivalent of “chick flicks” (i.e. plays with internal vs. external struggles; no clear protagonist but a group of equally main characters, etc.)
The other challenge is the lack of living-wage paid opportunities for women in all the arts.
ACT: What tactics have you used (or seen used) to advocate for gender parity in theater?
I have seen shaming of companies that do not support gender parity, which I think has limited value. I much more support offering positive incentives to theater companies and arts organizations that do support gender parity.
ACT: What tactics have been most effective or least effective and why?
I think the idea of awards for theater companies that support gender parity is an excellent idea. Shaming companies has limited value but not for the reasons you might think. As many theater artists are “comped” tickets to productions, embarrassing theater companies who KNOW that we usually don’t buy tickets anyway has a very limited impact. Plus everyone likes prizes more than shaming.
ACT: How do you measure the effectiveness of your advocacy actions?
That’s a tough one. Actual differences, such as Shotgun Players announcing an all women season for 2015 is huge. That kind of commitment even on a more limited basis would be a good measure of our effectiveness. So would more women being interviewed and hired for AD positions.
ACT: What is one action someone could take today that would make a difference?
Tweet, email or otherwise contact your favorite theater company and let them know you will go out of your way to purchase tickets to a production directed by, written by and especially managed/designed by women.
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.