Thank you, Nicholas Pickard, for your clear sighted questions about the lack of women directing for our main stage companies. Believe me, we women directors exist. It would be an insult to the many capable and experienced directors I know to suggest they are not there or that they don’t have main stage skills. But there are obviously problems with the way the selection of cultural product is managed in Australia’s professional companies. Culture is universal, both high and low in its concerns, free to everyone as an interest, and essential to the health of all. Women make up half of society. Men are born of women and often choose to live with women and create daughters as well as sons. Therefore women are not a sub-group to them, and should no longer be characterised this way. If book stores stocked their shelves the way that many companies choose to stock their culture, they would go broke. Women can see their own lives reflected in the creation and composition of books, movies, music, dance and circus, and the visual arts. Are Australian theatre companies really serving their audiences?
Theatre is for audiences, and women are the majority of single ticket buyers in many countries. Please note that the word ‘audience’ is generic and has no genetic code. So where are the women? Elizabeth Schafer has theorised that women directors have been critically marginalised. Many directors, including myself, don’t want their gender to be the issue. To quote Nancy Meckler of Shared Experience “I just want to be chosen because I am good.” But it is the notion of being chosen that is the problem. It is impossible to have a career path as a successful director in Australia. Like many directors I have followed the good energy of alternative directing opportunities, and currently turned away from the mainstream companies because I can’t get ‘chosen’, despite working for and succeeding at MTC, Playbox, QTC and The State Theatre Company of SA. This is also despite many letters, pitches and visits to such companies in recent times. I have rejection letters ranging from charming to churlish. At this year’s Australian Theatre Forum, it was implied and acknowledged that there may be an issue with the leadership patterns of some of Australia’s companies, and I agree. I have no axe to grind regarding the individual’s right to choose repertoire and select the individuals they prefer to employ. But I believe that publicly funded companies have a duty to get real about succession plans and to consciously reflect Australia’s cultural diversity in leadership models and in artistic planning. Due to the influence of an implied global mono-culture, which is shaped essentially by celebrity marketing, it seems as if the companies believe they now have the freedom and the right to programme largely pre-tested overseas works and share a handful of ‘talented directors’ who bring with them the whiff of America and Europe. I have no patience with this. It looks like the Australian cultural awakening of the late 1950s and early 1960s never happened. The co-pro has killed any notion of cultural complexity. It is time for transparency of theatrical opportunity. The exclusion of women’s input to this degree wouldn’t be tolerated in any other industry.