TACTICS: Interview with Monica Byrne

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.

Monica Byrne

Assistant Artistic Director and Resident Playwright
Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, Durham, NC

Monica Byrne’s response to last week’s Howlround/Theatre Bay Area coverage of gender parity issues in her blog post “How Systems Change” calls for a reject-the-premise approach to conversations that seek to help balance the numbers but inadvertently “reinforce separatism.” Her play What Every Girl Should Know will open at Berkeley’s Impact Theatre in September 2013.

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 human. I’d like all humans to be recognized as human. I guess I could be classified as an advocate for gender parity because I don’t know how else to be.

ACT: What do you think are the most urgent or significant challenges women theater artists face right now?

Not internalizing the constant rejection.

ACT: What tactics have you used (or seen used) to advocate for gender parity in theater?

When Little Green Pig was putting together its 2013-14 season, the Artistic Director realized, “Huh. Not enough women. How can we fix this?” And so he, I and the Managing Director brainstormed and came up with solutions. Now, one of our casts (for The Man Who Was Thursday) will be all-female instead of all-male, and we’ll be holding a fundraiser in October that features short pieces written and directed by women (as well as men).

In other words, we created new opportunities. Achieving gender parity is simply a matter of will on behalf of those who have the power to enact it.

ACT: What tactics have been most effective or least effective? Why do you think those tactics worked or did not work?

Setting aside a week, a season, a reading series, or anything that specifically “celebrates women’s work” is not helpful in the long run. It reinforces the notion that women are a separate subspecies of human, not just normal humans. Because when the week’s over, everyone feels like they’ve done their part, and revert to the status quo.

As for best practices…I don’t know. Those with executive power must realize that they’re part of the problem, but either they don’t care or they remain in denial about it. I don’t have a lot of patience for that. So if crap like all-male seasons keep happening, the only tactic I can think of is a boycott.

ACT: How do you measure the effectiveness of your advocacy actions?

I don’t, really. But if it spreads on social media, it’s safe(r) to say it hit a nerve.

ACT: What is one action someone could take today that would make a difference?

Boycott a theater that doesn’t demonstrate gender parity, and write them an email saying why.

Amy Clare Tasker author icon

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.

2 responses to “TACTICS: Interview with Monica Byrne

  1. Pingback: TACTICS: recap and relaunch | Works by Women San Francisco·

  2. Pingback: What Every Girl Should Know: Meetup | Works by Women San Francisco·

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