Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Letter to the MTC

Below is a copy of the letter sent from the Australian Women Directors Alliance to the Melbourne Theatre Company on the 7th August, 2009. As it has now been almost two months, and we have received no response or acknowledgment of the letter, we felt posting it here might be of more use. This letter was written by Melanie Beddie, co-convener of the AWDA, prior to the release of MTC's 2010 season. As the 2010 season is as bad, if not worse than previous years, the issues raised in this letter are of even greater concern today than they were in August.

"Dear Mr Young and Members of the MTC Board,


I write on behalf of the Australian Women Directors Alliance. We are a group of theatre practitioners incorporating sixty or more female directors and theatre makers. We range from emerging artists, in their first five years of practice, through to experienced and highly regarded directors who are in their third and fourth decade of practice. The purpose of the Alliance is to offer professional development and networking opportunities for female theatre practitioners and to work in areas of advocacy for our members.

We have a number of concerns about what we believe is an ineffectiveness of the University of Melbourne’s Equal Opportunity Policy as applied by the Melbourne Theatre Company.

You may or may not be aware that there is considerable discontent with what is perceived to be a lack of opportunity for women in key creative roles within the Melbourne Theatre Company. We note that women (and also culturally diverse theatre practitioners) are rarely offered work as directors at the MTC (see attached table). At the 2009 Green Room Association Awards ceremony there was a comment published in the programme about the imbalance of gender equity on the main stages of Melbourne companies and also several less formal comments made from the stage during the evening. None of these public comments reflected well upon the MTC .

For your information we attach a table giving a breakdown of the employment of female theatre directors on the MTC main stage over the last few years. The statistical data indicates that there has been an overwhelming downturn in opportunities for Victorian women theatre directors in recent years.

While we are encouraged by many of the principles articulated in the Melbourne University EO Policy such as a commitment to providing “programs in education and employment which redress, where appropriate, the effects of past discriminatory practices within the community” we also note that the University states it “has a responsibility to take positive steps to overcome inequality of opportunity”. We applaud the Policy, but, in relation to the Melbourne Theatre Company, we wish to question both its past effectiveness and current application. We are aware that our concerns have been taken up with the Board on at least two other occasions. In 1993 a letter was sent to you by the Australian Women Directors Association calling for more support for female directors and then in 2003 a letter was sent from MEAA requesting some open discussion about this issue. We feel that it is now more than timely to revisit the questions raised by our colleagues.

In particular we see few pathways for the many practising Victorian female directors to work at the MTC. Of the two women listed as directors in the 2009 MTC program, one is Cate Blanchett, Artistic Director of Sydney Theatre Company directing a co-production by her own company. The other is Marion Potts, also a Sydney-based artist. This means that of the twelve opportunities for directors at the MTC in 2009 only two are women and both are from interstate. Both these directors have received considerable and progressive professional development through their own state theatre companies (and other funded companies) over a period of many years. We would like to see similar opportunities available to women working in Melbourne and would be happy to discuss ways in which such professional development might occur. There do appear to be opportunities for female directors to work in your Education Department but as these women seldom go on to work on the main stages of MTC it is difficult to view these education positions as a part of a continuous pathway into the company.

We feel that the statistics we have provided you with are far from encouraging and that in order for your EO Policy to be judged effective there would need to be a discernible and positive change in the statistics from year to year. There would also need to be a series of programs and opportunities in place within the Melbourne Theatre Company to offer “positive steps” for both entry level and more senior women. We acknowledge that Anne Browning will be directing a show in the Lawler Studio later in the year which we see as an important but small step towards redressing the balance.

In relation to these questions of employment and opportunity we are particularly interested in understanding how key creative positions (permanent and contract) are allocated in the company. For instance whether it is policy that these jobs are advertised and suitable applicants interviewed. The recruitment and selection processes within a company are usually seen as key indicators of how well Equal Opportunity is working within a company and we would be keen to increase our understanding of the procedures in place.

Our research into equal opportunity issues both here and overseas shows that effective equal opportunity occurs in organizations when two things happen. Firstly, the drive for change towards a more equitable workplace needs to come from the top, hence this letter to you. Secondly, the organisation benefits from undertaking extensive consultation with all stakeholders (be they current or potential employees) in order to develop a strategic plan which outlines goals, timelines and key performance indicators for increasing the representation of women and culturally diverse practitioners in creative positions within the company.

The intention of this letter is to create a genuine and open dialogue with the Board and the Company about the issues which arise from the statistics we have put before you. Our hope is that a meeting can be arranged between your representative and representatives from our association to further address the matters raised in this letter."

The letter also included the following statistics:

MTC 2005, Shows 15
Male Playwrights 11, Female Playwrights 4
Male Directors 11, Female Directors 4

MTC 2006, Shows 11
Male Playwrights 7, Female Playwrights 4
Male Directors 10, Female Directors 1

MTC 2007, Shows 12
Male Playwrights 10, Female Playwrights 2
Male Directors 11, Female Directors 1

MTC 2008, Shows 12
Male Playwrights 10, Female Playwrights 2
Male Directors 10, Female Directors 2*

MTC 2009, Shows 12
Male Playwrights 7, Female Playwrights 5
Male Directors 10, Female Directors 2*

*All four from interstate/ o'seas

(Stats from Lucy Freeman @ La Trobe)

No comments:

Post a Comment