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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why I Lose My Mind Every Time We Have the Name Conversation

I am in love with this feminist blogger I just discovered.

Where are all the . . . ?

I write a lot asking where all the women are in directing, in playwriting, as lead roles in children’s movies, and books.  But in the last two weeks I have been thinking a lot about theatre critics.  We had a press night for the show The Great God Pan, which I directed at Epic Theatre Company in Rhode Island.  So far, I have read five reviews of the play from the following:   Motif Magazine, The Providence Phoenix, The Providence Journal, Broadway World, and The Edge, which I believe is a digital magazine.  Guess how many of those critics were women?  None!  Excellent guess.  How did you know?

And as I am a research geek, I went to the American Theatre Critics Association to look at their membership.  Under the membership tab, there is a list of members who maintain blogs.  About half of the blogs are written by women (13/30).  I even Google imaged anyone with a gender neutral name, just to be sure.  Of their entire membership, only 37% are women.  I laughed when I did the math because it seems like women exist in this 30th percentile range in so many places of representation.  Faculty are about 38% female, nationally.  e However, we quickly leave such a high percentile if we look at directors (5%) or politicians (18.5% in Congress).  

So, why do we care?  Well, for one thing, if only men are critiquing what they see and others are reading those critiques and making determinations about whether to see something or not based on that critique, we might be missing half of society’s view.  And if we drill down even more and examine how men review plays written or directed by women, do we come up with a bias?  Maybe. My friend and artistic director at Epic threw that idea out there, and while I haven’t studied this, I certainly am adding it to the list of articles I want to write but never get to.  Maybe I can find some smart graduate student of theatre who will want to study this subject. 

We know that women are barely represented as writers in major print and online news.  The Op-Ed Project, which I was fortunate to attend, maintains an ongoing study of this phenomenon (or should I call it discrimination?). Check out their stats on women writers on their homepage.  You’ll be amazed.  Or pissed. 

What’s a girl to do?  Well, for one, you can write.  And if you can’t get into the “big boys club” to write, you have to do it on your own, like I do.  I did send a message to one of the papers that reviewed us and asked the publisher/editor if he needed any female writers.  His response?  No response.  That was Motif, by the way, in case you are wondering.  You can write an op-ed about the lack of women.  And you can be really choosy about what you read.  Always check who the author is.  It’s not easy in this fast paced world to pause and reflect, but we can’t change anything unless we know how bad the situation is. 




Things You Can Do to Support Women Filmmakers and Women’s Films

I don’t usually cross post other blogs on this blog.  (I like to be original!)  But Melissa Silverstein’s wonderful piece on International Women’s Day is too good not to share.  She runs the blog “Women and Hollywood” on the IndieWire Site.  You should follow it, if you are into movies. 

You can read the full blog here

But here are the juicy takeaways:

1.  Seek out and pay to see films directed by women. This is the most important thing you can do.

2.  Go and see movies about women. We don’t want anyone to be using the word fluke to describe a successful films with female characters (even if they were the number 1 and number 3 films at the box office in 2013.) If you don’t know where those movies are playing sign up for Women and Hollywood’s weekly email which lists films opening and playing around the US.

3. If you live in a country where there is funding for films from taxpayer money ask them to supply the funding statistics for female directed films. If they don’t have those statistics push them to get them and keep pushing in every way possible to get those figures. Once you have the figures push for more funding for women because I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be at 50/50.

Maybe its time to get over the word and push countries to implement a quota system for women directed films.

4.  Find or start a female filmmakers group. Find out what grants or funding are available. Support each other. The more women are successful the more opportunities it opens for other women. Here’s a kick ass one in NYC – Film Fatales.

5.  Seek out and read female critics and writers.  If you town, city, or country doesn’t have a female critic or prominent female writer ASK THEM why not. 

6.  Don’t stand for sexist conversations about women and film. It’s not ok to stand by when someone demeans a woman director or if someone makes fun of a film about women JUST BECAUSE IT HAS WOMEN IN IT. 

7. Support a women’s film festival. These are the places where you can consistently see work by and about women and the environment is so supportive for female filmmakers. Here’s a list of them from around the world.

8.  Be a role model for the other women and girls and boys in your life. Remind them that you don’t need to have a beard or wear a baseball hat to be a director. 

9.  If you are organizing a panel at a film festival or event make sure it is not all white men.

10.  If you are putting together a jury at a film festival make sure it is not all white men.

11.  If you are putting together a crew for a film make sure it is not all white men.

12.  If an agency gives you a list of directors for you to consider for your film and there are no women on it — ask them for women’s names.

13.  Know your history – learn about the women directors, producers and writers who came before. Honor them. We are doomed to repeat history if we don’t learn from it.

Number five really resonated with me.  I think all of the theatre critics in our area are men.  It may be time to check into that in more detail. 

Another great way to support women is brought to you by The Representation Project, formerly known as Miss Representation.  They have developed a way to test your movie for positive representation of women, people of color and LGBT people, expanding on the Bechdel test.  Download it, print it, and bring it to every  movie you watch.  Share it with your friends.  Make it a conversation starter. Make it a game changer. 


The Great God Pan

When I first moved to Massachusetts in 1994, I had just completed my Master’s Degree in Alabama and a two play stint at Theatre Tuscaloosa, an amazing community theatre.  There, I had returned to theatre with a vengeance and was embraced by my directors and fellow actors.  There,  I was able to look back at my undergraduate college theatre experience and realize it was embedded in sexism.  Our theatre department, full of women (probably 60%) never took that into account when choosing plays for the season.  One season a male professor actually chose a play to direct about men going to the North Pole with one female part.

So when we decided to settle in Southeastern New England, I set out to find theatre.  With no luck.  I auditioned at Little Theatre in Fall River for a play I had just done in Alabama, ironically, and didn’t get cast.  Neither did my husband.  I know how desperate the theater is for good men, so I was immediately suspicious about this “clicky” organization.  Not until I directed The Vagina Monologues at UMass Dartmouth, six years later, did I start to meet a theatre community that was welcoming.

I have just finished the rehearsal process for the 20th play I have directed.  And it has, quite honestly, been the best directing experience to date.  The last play, outside the university, I directed was fraught with issues:  few people auditioned who fit the part, an unsupportive theatre management, and the artistic director went behind my back and called audience members to find out why they went to the show and whether they liked it or not.

The cast and crew of The Great God Pan by Amy Herzog are exceptional.  It’s like when you teach and have to grade papers.  The easiest papers to grade are those with good solid writing.  The same goes with directing.  When you have strong actors, directing them is easy and fun.

This was a different directing process for me as I was given a cast by the Artistic Director.  He is a friend I trust.  We have acted together and I have been directed by him.  He did a good job.  I think everyone is perfectly cast.  He also gave me an amazing stage manager who is sassy and smart and a worker bee assistant director who will do anything to help the show move forward.

I can’t say enough about my positive experience at Epic Theatre.

We have a lot of theatre in the smallest state in the union.  And in Southeastern Massachusetts there is very little.  Two community theatres dominate Fall River and New Bedford, but they are unfortunately, just that:  community theatre.  They do the same old shows and do not represent the acting talent I have been given during the past month.  I hope someday I will have the time and the motivation to start something in Swansea or Seekonk or even Fall River.  But for now, I am so thankful for my Rhode Island theatre community who has welcomed me, supported me and kept me coming back for more.

I hope my local blog followers will consider attending the show.  It deals with great topics:  relationships, abortion, and child abuse. It’s written by a woman (remember less than 20% of plays produced in the U.S. are written by women).  It’s a show that will leave you thinking long after you’ve left the theatre.  And the acting is great.  Fucking great.


my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.