Wednesday, November 25, 2009

MTC no "Boys' Club" according to Ann Tonks

The Age, Letters, 21/11/09

Melbourne Theatre Company is not a “boys’ club”. And I should know. I’ve been the general manager of the company for the past 15 years and proudly call myself a feminist.

This is a company that has produced 50 per cent of the female artistic directors appointed to run state theatre companies for the past 10 years; where the artistic and general management of the company is 64 per cent female; where half the permanent staff are women; where female board membership is four times higher than the Australian ASX 200 average.

There had been an attempt to paint the role of women managers in the performing arts as passive supporters of male artists at the expense of other women. I’ve spent my working life exploring and creating opportunities for women including initiating an all-women radio program (still running 25-years later) and training women in leadership in the Asia-Pacific region and in Australia. If Melbourne Theatre Company was a “boys’ club” I wouldn’t be working there. 

Ann Tonks, Pascoe Vale South

The Age, Letters, 25/11/09

In response to Anne Tonks (Letters, 21/11), the claim that the Melbourne Theatre Company has nurtured the careers of 50 per cent of female artistic directors of state theatre companies in Australia in the past 10 years amounts to the support of a pitiful total of two or three women.  This seems a cynical use of statistics to support an untenable argument. Therefore, I accept her resignation from the MTC on the grounds that it is a “boys’ club”.

Patricia Cornelius, Melbourne Workers Theatre, North Melbourne


  1. Tonks claims that she has "...spent (her) working life exploring and creating opportunities for women..." However, neither of the examples she cites were carried out in her capacity as general manager at MTC. Perhaps as MTC's Equal Opportunity Officer we'll see evidence of her commitment to the feminist project.

  2. I have been watching this issue pretty closely over past months and can find no examples of anyone in the press or in blogs attempting to 'paint the role of women managers in the performing arts as passive supporters of male artists'. All I can find, over and over and over again is people saying that women directors are not being appointed to mainstage productions. The stats at the MTC are among the worst in the country. Of 58 productions programmed btw 2006-2010, there have only been 7 female director appointments (and none of them Victorian).

    Women directors risk damaging their careers and reputations by speaking out on this issue ... but we are doing it anyway. We do so in hope for change. But change is far swifter and more effective if it comes from within.

    This issue has has legal, ethical, moral and artistic implications... it is complex. Solutions will be complex. But what we don't need at the outset is denial that a problem exists.