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.
WENDY C. GOLDBERG
Artistic Director, National Playwrights Conference
Eugene O’Neill Theater Center
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 the first woman to lead my organization in almost 50 years and currently spend a bulk of my season also directing in LORT companies around the country where I am typically the only woman (or one of very few) directors in their season line up–I also am the current chair of the SDC Executive Nominating Committee. Women are under represented on our board– we want to help cultivate more women directors and choreographers who show leadership potential to help speak on our behalf about these issues (and other issues) articulately. Also, I have been a finalist to run other organizations in the past few seasons and was the only woman to be seen for an interview at major companies– all men, and me.
ACT: What do you think are the most urgent or significant challenges women theater artists face right now?
There currently seems to be a real glass ceiling when it comes to LORT leadership positions. Nothing has really changed for a long time and there doesn’t seem to be a real effort to advocate and cultivate new leadership–beyond that, I hold the search firms and the search committees at these companies responsible for not seeing to it that more women are hired for the chief leadership positions. Also, when AD’s plan their season, women are often getting overlooked and there are some very difficult and discriminatory hiring practices in our current climate. The fact that boards are not seeing this and speaking up about it before their seasons are approved feels very wrong to me.
ACT: What tactics have you used (or seen used) to advocate for gender parity in theater?
I advocate for balance and ask that we, at least at my organization, strive for it where we can– to be sure that we’re not overlooking women in our hiring practices and actually creating opportunities whenever possible. Also, I think it’s important that people speak up when they see inequalities anywhere. However, we need to make sure there is some sort of way these complaints are heard and then policed.
ACT: What tactics have been most effective or least effective? Why do you think those tactics worked or did not work?
There needs to be a focus right now on potential leaders who are women who can help change the system — they need to get into some of these leadership positions so they can help shape programming, that tactic would help a great deal. However, in the meantime, we just need to be loud. I have a sense that if we actually gather and are louder, and organize, things will change. Least effective? Making sure that it’s not just complaining, that it’s protesting toward change.
ACT: How do you measure the effectiveness of your advocacy actions?
Wherever I have control, I try to make sure I walk the walk and not overlook women in the equation, ever. I look at my own seasons and make sure there is ample representation of women.
ACT: What is one action someone could take today that would make a difference?
Hire a woman theater artist.
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.
Stay tuned for her roundup of the Howlround Twitter conversation.