Friday, October 2, 2009

Houston we have a problem...

I think we ought to be very careful about making statements about gender discrimination as a broad-based issue. My work history, plus participation on Green Room panels tells me that women are very well represented in education/fringe/small theatre sector. The big FAT glaring GAP is at the top - AD's & directors of significant/flagship companies. Funding bodies have to some extent been complicit in this too.

Whilst I've been on the GRA panels precious few women have directed company shows, let alone been nominated for their work. Marion Potts and Gayle Edwards come to mind most recently. Red Stitch doesn't employ a lot of women directors either - yet on average still more than MTC & Malthouse. But Belvoir, Malthouse, STC, etc all have pretty similar & dismal track records when it comes to women directors.

Neil Armfield's & MTC's recent responses to media questions/enquiries lack integrity, maturity and logic. It wouldn't take much to pick apart these absurd, evasive and patronising responses line by line. Maybe we should actually do that? I think it's best to focus on the Top of the Pyramid (up near the glass ceiling) because that's also where many (not all) women want to work but just cannot get an opportunity/chance. It's also where the companies expose themselves in idiotic ways; akas 'well...ummm... when you direct a mainstage show let us know and we'll come & see it & if we think it's good enough we may offer you a mainstage show'. I think that's a Monty Pythonesque absurdity and we ought to point that out very loudly. The MTC's education-line also holds no water; many extraordinary women artists have worked in this area for years with no breakthroughs (or only minor ones) to the main stage level. These spurious 'look over there' distraction tactics should be met by us for the nonsense they are.

The salient point here is that there is no career path/trajectory for women (emerging or otherwise). What is also evident is that young and precocious male directors often make the huge leap from 'wunderkind' of the moment, to director, to AD fairly easily, with work experience laid on by male and female mentors alike. Show me a woman or two (apart from Kate Cherry) who has been given that opportunity and who is still working and/or in a position of artistic leadership. Most women who do well in theatre mainly do so as administrators, teachers or bureaucrats. To my knowledge Robyn Nevin did not mentor a single woman director and Cate Blanchett shows no signs of doing so either. Arts conversations in relation to gender equality and racial diversity are regularly silenced by the spectre of 'excellence' as if excellence and the former were somehow mutually exclusive. I think it would be useful to put forward a model, such as Melanie's and to request a response from MTC, STC, Malthouse, etc. Melanie's notion of a career ladder where a woman director is taken on board as an assistant director in year one, directs a show in a smaller main stage venue in year two and is finally given the chance to direct a large work in year three - makes sense, as well as suggesting responsible planning and excellent mentorship practice.


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