TACTICS: Interview with Gwen Kingston

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.

Gwen Kingston

Co-Artistic Director, FaultLine Theater Inc.

ACT: Who are you? Can you give me some background on how you came to be an advocate for gender parity in theater?

As a recent graduate of the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and a Bay Area artist, I am part of a large circle of female theater-makers who are dealing with the gender inequities of the Bay Area theater world. As female actors, there always seem to be fewer parts available to us in a given season that to our male counterparts. As a playwright and director I am continually astonished at how few women are being given the opportunity to showcase their work at major theater companies.

I became an advocate for gender parity when I started paying attention.

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

The most significant challenge women artists face is lack of opportunity: not enough fully developed female roles that do not require nudity; not enough faith that plays written by women about women will have broad appeal; not enough trust that a women can successfully direct a play about men.

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

Labeling things. Just putting (M) or (F) next to the title and author of a play can make a big difference when you are picking plays for a season. Listing how many male and female parts a play has is a great reminder .

The most important thing is to stop thinking of plays as neutral. Each play either does or doesn’t provide opportunities for female artists. If it does not, not necessarily a deal breaker, but if none of the plays in a season do, there’s a problem.

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

The best tactics are proactive. They encourage the consideration of gender equity during the season selection process, they do not simply punish once the process is complete.

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

How often I hear male Artistic Directors wonder if there are enough women in his theater’s season.

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

Write an email to a theater to which you subscribe or which you frequently attend. Tell them you would like to see more female playwrights included in their season. Tell them you want to see plays with more women in them. You are the customer, demand a more equitable product.

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.

Stay tuned for her roundup of the Howlround Twitter conversation.

One response to “TACTICS: Interview with Gwen Kingston

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

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