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.
Founding Artistic Director,
Golden Thread Productions
ACT: Who are you? Can you give me some background on how you came to be an advocate for gender parity in theater?
I started out as an actor. Unhappy with roles for women, I began writing my own material to perform. Eventually, I got into directing, playwriting and producing. Basically, if you want something done, you often have to do it yourself…and create opportunities for others to participate.
ACT: What do you think are the most urgent or significant challenges women theater artists face right now?
The higher paying jobs still go to men. Partly because most people hire/produce what they know and recognize. But also because theater reflects society’s misogynistic attitudes where women have to be super heroes and men simply have to show up. Generally, men have a sense of entitlement that gets them quite far. Women tend to apologize and/or ask for permission.
ACT: What tactics have you used (or seen used) to advocate for gender parity in theater?
Women make up the majority of workers in small theaters. We hire more women than men.
The greatest disparity seems to exist in casting. The issues in casting will not change until regional theaters shift their model of producing the same five plays which tend to be written by men with a majority cast of men. One tactic to circumvent this problem has been ensemble-generated/devised work; another is all-female troupes. I think we could benefit from publicizing plays with great roles for women and advocating for their production.
ACT: What tactics have been most effective or least effective? Why do you think those tactics worked or did not work?
I don’t think we should advocate for hiring women because they are women, rather because they are the best at the particular job. We lack women directors partly because women see themselves in support roles rather than leadership ones. Women need to take charge, take risks, support each other and create more opportunities for each other in everything we do.
ACT: How do you measure the effectiveness of your advocacy actions?
By the number of women we work with, the growth I see in staff/artists over time, the staff/artist’s leadership skills and their willingness/confidence to take risks.
ACT: What is one action someone could take today that would make a difference?
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.