Overview: Women Playwrights Roundtable

Posted by Morgan Leek, August 22nd, 2011

The Gender Agenda – Women in the Theatre – let’s get Rid of the Equality Myth
Words: Sally Richardson, Independent Director

“There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few years about an endemic imbalance between opportunities for male and female playwrights in mainstage Australian theatre. It’s a debate that’s not likely to dissipate anytime soon but constructive solutions are being investigated across the sector.”

And a round-table it was last Friday 12 August at the Sydney Theatre Company. Representatives from leading Australian Theatre Companies, funding agencies, script development organisations, academics, and most importantly many of Australia’s leading women playwrights. A joy to be in the room with the likes of Hannie Rayson, Katherine Thomson, Catherine Zimdahl, Rosalba Clemente, Verity Laughton, Melissa Reeve, Kit Lazaroo, Alana Valentine, and others.

Directors, literary managers and writers discussed, mildly tussled and found moments of common understanding as they negotiated the hot potato that is the inequity of representation of works by Australian women playwrights in the programs of our major companies.

The statistics speak for themselves (see below) – so why is it that women’s work equally developed, workshopped and commissioned somehow drops off the radar in the sweat fest that is Annual subscription programming of most major companies?

A matter of artistic taste? subject matter (too female)?, lack of cut throat approach in the pitching ‘couch’ phase?, Or lack of interest in a climate that favours wunderkind young male directors (apparently) with a fixation of re-working their unique vision into and onto a classic text ie: their just not interested ladies!. Are women not team players, part of the ‘in’ crowd? or is their work just not cutting it?

A gentle reminder that works that might be seen as not driven by the written text (ie a playwright) are now part of mainstage theatrical seasons – Force Majure, Lucy Guerin, to name a few. The climate is changing to be sure…and yet? The words did not however fall upon deaf ears, and as in the uproar of 12 months or so ago in terms of the representation of works directed by women, we shall see more ‘mindifulness’ and apparent subtle shifts and changes, if not the defined quotas that some were seeking.

And so, I found myself looking around, and admiring…these womens courage, tenaciousness, intelligence, wit, creativity, and always the passion to see their work reach their audience (in the face of many obstacles, (not least a new generation artistic director)…there was years worth of new work just waiting in this room alone…

2010 and 2011 Seasons in Australia
What follows is an edited version of documentation collected by AWOL group of Australian women playwrights.

[easychart type=”horizbar” height=”200″ title=”Female vs Male Playwrights in Australian Theatre” groupnames=”Productions, Female, Male” groupcolors=”005599,229944, 7000CC” valuenames=”Sydney Theatre (2011),Sydney Theatre (2010), Malthouse (2011), Malthouse (2010), Belvoir (2011), Belvoir (2010), Belvoir Downstairs (2010), Griffin Theatre (2011), Griffin Independent (2011), Griffin Theatre (2010), Queensland Theatre (2011), Queensland Theatre (2011), Black Swan Theatre (2011), State Theatre SA (2011), State Theatre SA (2010), Riverside Theatre Parramatta (2011), Australian National Play Festival (2010), National Script Workshop (2010)” group1values=”12,12,16,12,13,7,4,4,4,4,12,9,7,7,8,11,7,6″ group2values=”1,1,4,3,3,2,1,1,1,0,0,2,1,0,1,5,4,4″ group3values=”11,11,12,9,10,5,3,3,3,4,12,7,6,7,7,6,3,2″ ]

Filed under Sally Richardson