Monday, November 23, 2009

Old Fashioned Sexism

3RRR SmartArts, 19/11/09

Presenter: Richard Watts

Interview with Michael Kantor

RW: It’s a strong season, the Season One of 2010, but the glaring absence – is the lack of women directors. There’s been a lot of discussion about this in the Australian theatre sector over the last few months. Not one woman director in this season..

MK: Not in this first season. In the second season – that is actually balanced quite well in fact – quite in the opposite way.

We’re very aware that it is harder for women to make headway inside major companies, and we haven’t been great at it – I’m the first to admit that.

When I came into the position my predecessor had really tried to make significant differences in that respect by having kind of grids and having kind of ‘We’re going to have 50% of female writers and 50% female directors and we’re going to have 50% indigenous and 50%’ and everything was 50%.

But the problem was that it had actually kind of limited the kind of range of work that was taking place. So I chose not to have quotas. And I think that’s right not to have quotas but we have to remain vigilant at all times and sometimes and I think it’s not just us. I think every company has kind of ….allowed a situation to develop - and it’s not a good situation – in which it is harder for women directors. And there’s no reason, there is no inherent reason why a female director can’t direct on a big stage, or that they want to do different kind of work – I just don’t believe in that. I just think it is kind of a little bit of … hard, hard sort of time for us to all.. think hard about how we’re going to make those kind of opportunities in the future. 'Cause I think it’s real, I think the issues are real.

RW: How do you think those opportunities can be created? Mentorship schemes for emerging women directors have been identified as one...

MK: Yeah. absolutely. I think it’s about opportunity. I think about ‘How did I get to direct plays?’ I was just granted fabulous opportunities very early on in my career. That is kind of - that mentoring role. I’m not sure about schemes and scholarships – all great stuff. And bursaries, we do bursaries down at Malthouse and we do try and favour, you know …sections of the industry that are not getting a leg up and so there have been a lot of female bursaries given, but ultimately I think it’s choices made by programming – whether it’s programming by committee or by artistic directors - that make sure the that opportunity is big and large because lots of small opportunities can be good but you’ve really got to be given the leg up for big opportunities, I suppose.

I think that we also - we’ve had just recently Jenny Kemp and um..Rose Myers direct for us…We have had lots of great directors. And right now up in the Tower the piece is actually directed by, principally by Halcyon..that’s sorry I’m referring

RW: Africa

MK: Africa, which is running now. So I don’t feel that bad. I don’t think our record’s disastrous, but it could be better. And I think it could be better from us, from the MTC, from STC, from Belvoir – from all the companies.

RW: It’ll be a situation I’ll be looking with interest in the coming months and years to see – because it will have to be a long term change.

MK: Yeah. I think so.

RW: We hope that it happens.

MK: I think it should happen. I mean, I do wonder whether it’s a bit of old fashioned sexism, really and I might be part of it. But – and it’s really good that it’s come up as an issue. I think it’s fabulous that articles are being written and people are being pushed on it. 'Cause that’s how change happens, really.

RW: Very much so.


  1. I am now really looking forward to seeing which women are to be included in the second season. What good news.

  2. Plain old sexism indeed. Maybe we create a mentor program for Artistic directors to help them emerge from their prejudices and give them the skills to transcend their narrow view of who is capable of what.