A Woman's Place in the Theatre

Used by CC License. Photo by Horia Varlan

Last week saw many posts on the topic of sex and gender, ranging from a lack of female playwrights, to harassment (Mariah MacCarthy’s honest questions about it, and the post that inspired hers, and another that covers both topics) in the workplace. All of these are worth reading. Especially if you are female. And especially if you are a working female. And then last night happened, and Mitt Romney put us in binders….

I'll be honest, this isn't a topic I ever thought much about. When I did, I'd like to think that as artists, we're beyond such disgusting behavior, but apparently, we're not.

Maybe I was lucky. The theater where I worked for 2 years, in PA, had a female Producing Artistic Director. She also directed many of our shows. Definite female power presence. Most of our children's shows were written by her, or our in-house playwright, or our children's programming director, also female. But, as far as main stage programming went, in a season of about 10 shows, 2 were written by women. However, in a new play workshop of 4 plays, 2 were by a female playwright (the in-house, and one of our interns). Certainly better representation. I now work at a theater where ALL of the directors are female. And I mean all. The music directors and choreographers too. If we want a guy, we have to guest him in. Women rule!

Or maybe I was just oblivious. Here's where I can see a subtle bias. Did you pick up on it in paragraph 2? Children. The children's shows were written by women. I now work at a children's theater, with women.

Is this like the Biblical literalists, who believe women shouldn't preach or speak to men, but they can teach the children? (Which never made sense to me- formational learning happens in childhood. You're trusting women with that, but not with men, who should be able to think for themselves? No sense.) Or, in 1950s America that apparently Mitt Romney aspires to, where a woman's place is with the children?

Don't get me wrong. I love my job. I don't want to be doing anything else. Give me teenagers over adults any day. I love that my directing and choreographing include really teaching technique and history. I know that I am shaping the next generation of artists and arts appreciators, and I take that very seriously.

But, I wonder how many theaters have drifted into the contentment of including women through their children's programming?

Are women seen as teachers, rather than directors or producers?

Is this an image we've created for ourselves, or allowed to be created for us, or something that has persisted since our Puritanical founding?

I don't claim to have the answers to these questions. But, I'm now noticing enough to start asking them.