When we announced the Diversity/Inclusion/Gender Parity conversations that StageSource was going to hold in the fall of 2012, a few people asked me why we included gender parity. Pointing to several prominent women in the Boston/New England theater community as examples, the questions was raised–aren’t we doing well enough? Does gender parity really need a separate conversation?
I would answer that question today the same way I did then. No, we aren’t doing well enough. And yes, it needs its own conversation. Because gender parity is an issue in our society, and in the arts.
If you look at the numbers Pat Gabridge gathered around new work, which included the number of plays written by and/or directed by women, you can see that there is a way to go for parity. And the Boston/New England theater community is not alone in this. A conversation with artistic directors in Washington DC set off a series of national conversations, summarized by Ilana Brownstein here, with other resources included in her excellent blog post.
Counting is always tricky. And counting in the arts is trickier. Because numbers also have stories. What are the budget sizes of the theaters doing the work? Does the fringe community tell a different story than the larger theaters do? When/where/how do we start benchmarking where we are? And how do we measure success?
In the Diversity/Inclusion/Gender Parity Task Force report we released last year, we talked about the need to look at these issues on stage (actors and roles), back stage (designers, stage managers, technicians, directors, playwrights), in the offices (administration, front of house), in the audiences, and in the board rooms (and donor bases). How do we have a conversation about gender parity in all of those worlds? A “lack” of women isn’t an issue, so what is holding us back from parity? Might cracking that give us guidance in the other two areas?
The Defining Gender Parity Town Hall has three parts:
Testimony: We are going to have an opportunity for 15 people to sign up and give 2 minutes of testimony about gender parity in our theater community. Why does it matter? What is at stake? How would you measure success? We will also give people an opportunity to send in their written testimony.
Conversation: Rather than an expert panel, we are going to facilitate a conversation in the room. We are inviting some specific people to participate, and will ask for some reflections on the testimony given. But since we are trying to find solutions, thinking as a group will help us with new ideas.
Action Steps: What next? How are we going to start measuring what we are doing? Who is going to be part of the team that helps do that? Is there a different way of measurement that we should know about? This is a community event, a community issue, and the solutions will come from the community.
Please RSVP on our web page. If you can’t be there in person, watch the streamed conversation on Howlround.com.