Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Victorian Women Theatre Directors at the MTC

To direct at the MTC is not every directors dream. It is no the only place to direct theatre in Victoria. However, it is our state's flagship theatre company and one of the few fully professional, tax payer supported entities so I feel the POSSIBILITY of being appointed SHOULD exist for Victorian based women theatre directors. Lasts nights MTC program launch again illustrates that just becasue the opportunity SHOULD exist does not mean it DOES.
In 2006 of 11 MTC productions, 1 was directed by a woman (Kate Cherry). In 2007 of 12 MTC productions, 1 was directed by a woman (Kate Cherry). In 2008 of 12 MTC productions 2 were directed by women- NSW based Gale Edwards and a UK import Marie Aitken. In 2009 of 12 MTC productions 2 were directed by women - both NSW based - Cate Blanchett and Marion Potts. Now in 2010, there is again one female appointment, Kate Cherry. In five years have there really not been Victorian based female directors worthy of a gig?
If there are Victorian women of excellence capable of directing theatre (which I wholeheartedly believe there are)- why are they not getting the work? And conversely, if one wished to argue that there are none capable of directing on the main stage, then that itself begs the question WHY? Where are the opportunities? Where are the professional development pathways? Where is the evidence that Victorian women are not capable? Is the current MTC equal opportunity policy effective? And so it seems that we women who are already time poor running independent theatre companies, raising families, educating ourselves, educating others, developing new works, producing semi-professional and co-op productions and lodging countless time consuming creative development and presentation funding applications must add to our 'to do' list changing an overarching patriachal mentality that is ever present in our industry.
The AWDA will not be the first group of women to attempt to affect change. But wouldn't it be nice if we were the last? I am absolutely appalled that in the 21st century when women in all was of life are managing big budgets and assuming positions of authority, that in theatre we are still in a position where we have to argue/convince/lobby to insist that we are not only capable but entitled to basic equal opportunity rights. An almost equal percentage of tax payers are female, a higher proportion of MTC audience members are female, plays written by women being produced at the MTC is on the rise. The available roles for female performers at the MTC looks pretty good this year (you know if you are not a female of diverse cultural heritage) ... so why is there not a rise in the appointments of women directors? Is it because a director is seen to asume a leadership role and hold a position of creative authority? Is so, shame. Shame on all concerned.

1 comment:

  1. The existence of this alliance is a very encouraging development and goes a long way to help me understand what’s going on in Melbourne as I have a lot of catching up to do. I have been away for quite a few years.
    I'll be fascinated to learn of the results of the "Emerging" Women Directors Scheme offered by the MTC this year- a product of the 2009 Forum perhaps? Or was it just amazing timing?
    I’m really glad it’s been offered and I think its about time, however, I am worried. What does "emerging" mean? To the MTC, it means “under 30, or within their first 5 years of practice”. I question these parameters. This, I feel this is problematic on a number of levels.
    It does not acknowledge the history of why this scheme had to be introduced in the first place. Personally, my feeling has always been that before I could direct, I needed to know my craft, and to learn my craft I trained, I watched theatre from all around the world, and workshopped with a number of international companies, I gained experience as a performer-and perform I still do, I traveled, I gained life experience. I did not want to learn by putting others through hell because I did not know what I was doing-some people are confident enough, or arrogant enough to do that-but not me. Does this mean that my choices and my experiences are null and void because I’m now pushing up some graysies?
    The criteria negates the benefit of persistence through those difficult times. It could suggest that if a female director has been at it for five years and still hasn’t been noticed-and we know it happens, then that is her fault (assumption of mediocrity as opposed to lack of opportunity as Lucy deftly outlines-which brings us back to the whole point of the scheme-development and pathways). And what do those five years mean? When one is working in the fringe, when the shoestring budget only stretches to a production every so often, that if you have to make ends meet doing something else, if you have children (which I haven’t but I admire anyone who has managed to do both), that five years flies by real fast-or is spread over ten.
    Does it mean that if one wants a shot at this, she has had to make sure she stays within an acceptable experience level instead of getting into it and doing what she can as we are continually encouraged to do, she is to sit and wait patiently for an opportunity like this to come along? Has age inequality usurped gender inequality? Just to be clear, I am questioning, not whingeing.
    But I have another problem. In 2000 I went to London and spent 8 years there, studied at RADA, joined the Young Vic Young Directors Scheme, developed an Australian theatre company and directed some fantastic Australian texts there, but not seen here. Now I've returned to emerge again from an emergence elsewhere and now hope my career, or is it mid-career due to my age, is not in a state of emergency! The main focus of the scheme is to get playwrights and directors together for the development of both. Will knowing or experiencing less make me a more valid or deserving contributor? If so, why?
    Could not the criteria for this scheme be “if you are out there but have slipped though the many cracks and for some reason we don’t know you, show us you deserve a break, and a break you shall get!”And I’m really really not youngie-bashing. Newness and freshness and the sparkle of new discovery is a great thing but not at the expense of what I would have thought is the objective of nurturing talented women directors, whatever age they are. This drought of women directors extends further than what has happened in the last few years. Simon Phillips has told us to “Bring on the lioness and cougar ladies, and watch those peacock feathers fly!” Note he says “cougars”, not “kittens”, although this does spring images of pervy predatory Courtney Cox-type ladies reeking havoc on younger male theatre professionals…ew!
    I have applied for the scheme, I have my tail swishing and my whiskers clean and I shall see if equality really means equalithirty.