Sunday, October 18, 2009

John Bailey explores the macho mainstage

A Dramatic Imbalance

by John Bailey | The Age | 18th October, 2009

The theatre world prides itself on its open-mindedness, but when it comes to the gender divide, it seems Australia's flagship companies are still way behind.

IN TERMS of blokiness, the theatre industry is rarely thought of in the same terms as the rugger-bugger world of sport, the macho model of corporate business or the old-boys' networks of academia. But recent weeks have seen those charges laid against the top figures of our peak performing arts bodies.

Last month, Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre announced its 2010 season. As each production was announced, its creators were invited to take to the stage. But as the numbers mounted something became glaringly obvious - amid the sea of what one Crikey tipster called ''male lookalike writers and directors'', only one woman was featured. On an ironic note, that director was Lee Lewis, who caused a storm several years ago when she called the theatre community to task for systematically ignoring non-white actors.

It wasn't long before the fury spread. The Melbourne Theatre Company's 2010 launch showed a similar skew, with one female director employed for the 12-show season. The Sydney Theatre Company offered another 12 shows: only three female directors... [Read More]


  1. Well good to see we are keeping the issue in the news at least. A pity the journalist was unable to unearth a female director who actually wants to work at the MTC! So far no one has put up her hand. I guess if you did you would risk being shot down and dismissed as" too inexperienced " or " without vision" or "unable to handle the budget".

    The thing that is starting to occur to me as I continue to think about these issues is just how irrelevant the MTC has become to so many working Victorian theatre practitioners. It is as though the MTC no longer plays a role in the complex theatre ecology we have here in Melbourne.

    I begin to wonder whether what is emerging is the fact that a company such as the MTC soaks up many resources yet provides only limited opportunities.

    I begin to wonder why their product needs to cost so much. Perhaps if it is so desirable to the subscribers then the work of the MTC could be made commercially and it's government subsidies -which as MTC tells us are fairly small -could nevertheless go to establishing a genuine state theatre company which would nurture and encourage local artists and take it's role as a leader seriously.
    Hmm. Still thinking about this one but I think what we might need is a general overhaul of the hierarchy.
    What do youse all think?

  2. 'I begin to wonder why their product needs to cost so much.' I've wondered that too. Years ago an actor friend told me that a coat she wore in one scene in a mainstage show cost more than she was being paid for the whole gig.

    I suspect that if you asked those companies they would say that their subscribers and sponsors expect certain productions values. Which of course raises the whole question of subscription seasons and whose interests they serve. But don't get me started on that!

  3. Chris Mead notes that there is a lack of long term investment in developing people's careers and that an equitable balance will not assert itself naturally, and Simon Philips states that in regard to gender imbalance theres something systematic that we (MTC) have to address. It would seem then that the problem is identified and the desire to correct it is acknowledged. So it is unfortunate that that is followed up by conversations about lack of funds. I don't understand how a lack of funds only impacts on one gender. Surely, in a two gendered arts world such lack should impact equally on the development and opportunities for both male and female directors. Perhaps the core issue is the continual reference to the issues faced by women directors as identical to the issues faced by "emerging directors". They are not one and the same. So while I applaud any initiatives that nurture emerging artists, I also strive for specific initiatives that impact directly on addressing the employment opportunities for directors who are not necessarily emerging, but are in fact women. I agree with Melanie BNeddie and with John Bailey who states that these opportunities "need to be there for those who want to pursue them". Conversations about style, genre, process, content and a companies assessment of risk are naturally factors in any potential programming or appointment choice. But as directors en masse are not unified in their level of experience, their approach, vision or ambitions, why is it that when employment is based on merit, the right person for the job is disproportionately male?

  4. catherine fitzgeraldOctober 19, 2009 at 5:43 PM

    I'd happily work there. I wrote to MTC about 18 months ago (sent my rather long CV) asking for work. So far no reply. Tom Wright from STC at least got back to me and we engaged in email dialouge. Adam Cook STCSA gives me one gig a year. Rosalba gave me my first gig there seven years ago. This was after seven years of running Vitalstatistix. I'm not bitter...just bemused.

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