Feminist Theater News is a news round-up curated by Christine Young (creator of WWSF). If you have news or shows to see that should be included please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Year for Strong Women in Hollywood
2015 has brought a surge of public interest in gender parity in cinema and performing arts, and this has been a particularly fruitful year for strong females roles in cinema. Boston Herald critic Stephan Schaefer offers a valuable list of the many 2015 films that have diverse female leads who demonstrate courage and strength: Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, Carey Mulligan in Suffragette, Meryl Streep in Ricki and The Flash, Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl, Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, Brie Larson in Room, Cate Blanchett in Truth, Maggie Smith in Lady In The Van, Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, Helen Mirren in Woman In Gold, Emily Blunt in Sicario, Patricia Clarkson in Learning To Drive and Charlotte Rampling 45 Years. Time to settle in for a fem-tastic winter film festival!
A Knee That Can Bend
A Knee That Can Bend by Emma Goidel, is a new play about the hidden lives of lesbian women in Senegal, where homosexuality is illegal. Goidel traveled to Dakar as an undergraduate in 2011 as part of a study abroad program, there she discovered a network of lesbians who, for their own safety, prefer to keep their relationships secret. Goidel, who identifies as queer, wrote A Knee That Can Bend as a fictionalized version of her experiences in Senegal’s lesbian underground. The story follows an American student, Kate, doing sociological research on homosexuals in Senegal, but the line between her academic research and her personal relationships gets blurry. A Knee That Can Bend was recently produced in Philadelphia by the Orbiter 3 theater collective.
Theater Now Has Its Own Bechdel Test
In 2014, a research study conducted by Tonic Theatre demonstrated that only women portray only 37% of roles on UK stages. In order to help theater decision-makers correct that imbalance, Sphinx Theatre Company (formerly the Women’s Theatre Group) has developed a tool inspired by the Bechdel Test! The test encourages season programmers to choose plays with better roles for women by asking “how prominently female characters feature in the action, whether they are proactive or reactive, whether the character avoids stereotype and how the character interacts with other women.” The test is being shared with theaters across the UK. Perhaps those of us concerned with gender parity in the US need to take Sphinx’s lead and start sharing the test with our local theaters.
Women Conductors Speak
The Dallas Opera recently held the first-ever Institute for Women Conductors inspired by the fact that women occupy 0% of positions as Music Director or Chief Conductor at the 11 top opera companies. This article includes interviews with the 6 participants (selected from 100 applicants) describing their experience at the institute and reflecting on their perspectives about conducting and the significance of music in people’s lives.
Study Suggests British Theatre’s Gender Gap is Closing
From Broadway World: “Arts consulting firm Purple Seven has released a study suggesting that while female representation in the creative aspects of British theatre is still significantly lower than that of males, it is steadily on the rise. Data was collected from the programs of over 6,000 plays across 159 UK venues between 2012 and 2014 and also by using an Audience Profiler tool for theatres to discover the age, gender, ethnicity and disability status of over a half a million of their audience members.
Key findings reveal that female customers account for 65% of ticket revenue but women make up only 39% of actors hired, 36% of directors and 28% of playwrights produced.
Male playwrights write 37% of parts for women, while female playwrights write for 60% female casts and critics are more likely to award 4 and 5 star ratings to plays with casts of their own gender. While the proportion of female directors has increased by 5% since 2012, male directors still command bigger stages and higher ticket prices.
‘Consciously or otherwise,’ the study says, ‘venues are systematically programming work performed and created by men and selling it to a predominantly female audience.’”
Photos: Jennifer Kidwell (Aicha) and Anna Zaida Szapiro (Kate) rehearse a love scene in A Knee That Can Bend. (Photo: Emma Lee/WHYY); Jennifer Condon, Jessica Gethin, Stephanie Rhodes, Anna Skryleva, Natalie Murray Beale and Lidiya Yankovskaya take a bow after the Dec. 5 concert at Winspear Opera House (Photo: Karen Almond)