For as long as I can remember, theatre had always been a big part of my life. From my first role as the Big Bad Wolf in kindergarten, to countless productions on campus. I’ve worked backstage, on stage, off stage, spectated, directed, written, produced, breathed, cried, and studied theatre. It will forever be a part of me and my life.
Much like anything else, it is not easy. People look at theatre makers as “starving artists” who will be working as waiters for the rest of their lives. If there’s anything I’ve learned at college, it’s that no matter what field you’re in, it’s up to you to make it happen. Whatever “it” is. If you spend too much time dreaming instead of doing, then you will be stuck in one place for the rest of your life.
On top of being in theatre, I’ve also encountered problems with being a woman in theatre. They expect us to be actresses, not builders or directors. They expect us to want the spotlight, not program it. The truth is, I have met more female directors and builders at Purchase than anywhere. It’s expected that men will do the heavy lifting when it comes to sets and other equipment. Women in theatre are not worried about breaking their nails. We are not afraid to get sweaty. We are producers, technical directors, set designers, stage managers, run crew...we are behind the scenes and in the scenes. We are everywhere.
I’ve witnessed sexism in the theatre community this past semester. I was involved in a production that was part of the spring theatre festival, with a producer who talked down to anyone who was female/female identifying. He outwardly gave a pair of actors notes in front of their director, who was a woman, and when she told him that she was going to give them the same notes, he wouldn’t listen and continued to talk over her. He repeatedly disrespected our production stage manager, the stage manager for my show, and me and my cast. He claimed our actors didn’t know what they were doing, our show was too long (even though we had previously mentioned it went over), did not pay attention during our tech day to give us any notes, and took credit for the festival at the end of the run.
A good majority of people involved on the festival were women. We were the ones keeping it afloat at the end of the day. I took pride in the work we did, because at the end of the day we pulled off one hell of a festival. This only made my love for theatre stronger.
Being a playwright made me aware of how women are portrayed in the media. I wanted nothing but to change the way they were represented, and we have to start somewhere. Most attempts to write strong female leads often ended up slipping into stereotypes that have been dominating the industry for years. Women would do outlandish things because they were rejected by a man, and letting their emotions get the best of them. Of course, because women are only angry when they get their hearts broken, which in turn influences every decision made thereafter. Women are portrayed as these beautiful objects and artifacts that men keep behind a glass case. People look at them and admire their beauty, not their wisdom or their strength.
This is why I write. I want to read a story about women who are funny and rational, and don’t have to end up with a man to feel validated. For sure, there are shows and movies out there. But the truth is, film, television, and even theatre, is a male-dominated industry. The only way to change this is if we encourage women to be designers, directors, writers, and operators. We should encourage men even, that women do have a place backstage and in the writer’s room. They should start listening to the ideas of people who are not male/male identifying, because there is more than one perspective in the world.
My life is dedicated to making the world of theatre a better place for women. I think the world itself needs to be a better place for women, but we gotta start somewhere, right?