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WIT Australia has been doing a little bit of research and have compiled an interesting list of YouTube videos relevant to women in the theatre industry. They aren’t all Australian, but they’re all interesting.
If you want to have a further look online, all you need to do is go to YouTube and type in ‘Women in Theatre’ and this fantastic series springs up. It’s worth a look. But if you’re feeling lazy or don’t want to go trouping around the internet, below you’ll find some of the videos. So have a bit of a browse, and enjoy listening to these incredible, successful creatives.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbdtvYMXsaI – this video is of Anne Bogart, a sensational American director
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqO9O6mErdQ – this video is of Cynthia Nixon, best known for her role as Miranda on Sex and the City
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP26URw3Pp8 – this video is of Julie Taymor, a highly successful Broadway director
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGyxPfyVQrI – this video is of Suzan-Lori Parks, a Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEqjr2Y74MM – this video is of Zoe Caldwell, an Australian-born Tony award-winning actress
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wgvs7Q1zvPw – this video is of Angela Lansbury, well-known Broadway, theatre and television actress and Tony award-winner
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Isn’t Youtube great?! In order to look at the future, we need to be aware of our past. And WIT has found a fascinating (and somewhat dated, let’s be honest) video about the history of Australian theatre.
Did you know that the first Australian-born actor was female? Well, you do now.
There’s plenty of other interesting stuff, and it’s a great way of examining where we’ve come from, and where we can go from here.
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Shifting the focus to Melbourne’s 2014 season now, the Malthouse Theatre seems to have a fascinating and equal split between male and female playwrights and directors. We have decided to have a closer look at two theatre creators featured in the Malthouse’s 2014 season.
The first is The Rabble. They have been on the block for a few years now, led by their artistic directors Kate Davis and Emma Valente. They get a special mention here because they are a very successful, influential independent theatre company that also happens to be run by women. We say, “hell yeah!”
Their Malthouse production is Frankenstein. According to the Malthouse, this production is grounded in a matriarchal world that worships female fertility. Sounds like a pretty exciting new take on the famous story, and we love bringing attention to such exciting theatre-makers.
(As a quick side note, you can also see another production by The Rabble in Sydney at Belvoir St Theatre in their production of Cain and Abel.)
Our next special mention goes to another fantastic female theatre-maker: Roslyn Oades. Oades is the Malthouse’s 2013 Female Director in Residence, and she researches and creates verbatim theatre texts. Her productions often examine small milestones in life, things that might go unnoticed or seem relatively common. Her production for the Malthouse Theatre is Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday, and it looks like another fascinating verbatim theatre performance.
So those are our two special mentions to kick off the week. What productions are you looking forward to? Are there any female creatives you are dying to follow?
WIT was at the opening night of Hamlet yesterday at Belvoir St Theatre, and it has sparked an interesting question at WIT about women’s roles in theatre. We are a little embarrassed to admit, but… we’re a little tired of Ophelia.
Don’t get us wrong – we love Hamlet. And we love Ophelia’s speeches. But we are yet to see an interpretation of Ophelia as much more than a two-dimensional representation of an obedient, sexually impotent daughter.
So without getting into a review of the show, WIT would like to bring up the topic of female characters in Australian productions. Why does Ophelia have to be perfectly obedient? Why is she always portrayed as submissive? The same description could also be applied to Gertrude! The only women in the play, and it applies to both!
I know, I know… It was written in the 1600s, Ophelia was written as a ‘good woman.’ In Shakespearean style, good women were obedient and chaste (and either won the affection of their chosen suitor or died tragically), and bad women died (Lady Macbeth, we’re looking at you…)
But we are no longer in the 1600s. So why haven’t the average interpretations of female characters evolved? Do audiences still want to see those polar female characters? Can we still only accept the Madonna or the whore? Perhaps it is not so much a question of wanting to see females this way but rather expecting to see them this way.
So who’s duty is it to evolve our female characters beyond their two-dimensional caricatures? Is it the job of the writer? The actor? The director? Even the audience? WIT believes that it is everyone’s responsibility. It is up to the writers to delve as deeply into their female characters’ psyches as they do their male characters’. It is the responsibility of the actor to ensure that they work to bring living, breathing, three-dimensional characters to life. It is the responsibility of the director to support and guide the actors, and interpret the script, to avoid superficial characters. And it is the responsibility of the audience to demand authentic and three-dimensional characters from the artists, and to denounce two-dimensional female characters when the male characters around them are more developed.
Thoughts, questions or disagreements? We would love to hear from you.
I found out about something very exciting a few weeks ago, and it seems I may be a little behind the trend. V-Day. Heard of it? If not, let me explain quickly. On the 14th of February, a worldwide annual event called V-Day is held to cease violence against women and girls. A fantastic cause, and it’s exciting to see that it’s growing each year.
The reason WIT is posting about this is because many V-Day events are actually theatre performances! Of course The Vagina Monologues is a popular piece of theatre for the campaign, but there are other productions that are regularly performed, such as A Rant and A Prayer and Any One Of Us: Words From Prison.
There are many other things that are run on V-Day, such as films and lectures, but here at WIT we are focussing on the theatre. In this context, theatre is being used to shine a light on some serious social issues. So can theatre spark social change?
It can try. Local Sydney company Version 1.0 uses verbatim theatre to address social issues, and they are a very successful, very effective theatre company. Their productions often start a conversation for those affected by the topic. So it stands to reason that V-Day theatre performances should be not only successful but socially relevant.
Although V-Day is months away, applications to get involved are now out. Have a look, and see if you can participate. What a fantastic cause, and an engaging way to face a difficult topic and promote women’s rights.
All proceeds from V-Day performances go towards a nominated women’s charity. In Sydney, it will be the NSW Women’s Refuge and Resource Centre. Do you plan to get involved?
Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) is the latest Australian company to launch their 2014 season, and we are pleased to announce some amazing female artists have been featured. One that stands out, both for timeliness and for representing female artists, is Gloria. Gloria is a new play commissioned by QTC, written by local playwright Elaine Acworth. The story is about an aging woman’s determination to meet the child she was forced to give away as a single mother in 1970s Australia. Both relevant and moving. What’s even more exciting is that the lead character, Gloria, is referred to by QTC’s season book as being ‘a strong-willed, independent woman.’ WIT is celebrating!
Gloria is not, of course, the only production with female creatives in QTC’s 2014 season – there are plenty more – but it stood out to WIT for all the right reasons. It also prompted a question: are Australian theatre makers and theatre attendees finally starting to be interested in women’s stories? Will the history of women’s struggles start to make an appearance alongside the countless stories of men?
The critically acclaimed production of Songs For Nobodies, written by Joanna Murray-Smith and starring the extremely talented Bernadette Robinson in a one-woman show, was one such exploration into the lives of women. Some were famous. Some were ‘nobodies.’ One of the many wonderful things about the production was that it delved into 10 female characters’ psyches. Five of them were famous, but the fame was used only as a catalyst to explore other characters’ situations. It wasn’t a celebration of celebrity culture. It was a celebration of humanity.
Joanna Murray-Smith has made a sterling career in creating exceptional, three-dimensional female characters. Every one of her plays celebrates female characters who are not always likeable, not always forgivable, but always fascinating, and always worthy of stage time.
And so tonight we celebrate the Australia’s female playwrights. There are plenty of them – far too many to mention in a single blog post. And that is a wonderful thing.