I met Devra Thomas, props designer and emerging arts leader, while directing a 10-minute play for an arts festival. Devra is a woman who walks the walk. Through the "getting to know you" process that happens during a rehearsal, we both learned we had a deep passion for creating quality opportunities for women in theatre. We shared our stories and visions with each other.
A mutual actor friend held a girls’ night with other women from our theatre community. There was alcohol. There was storytelling. Others shared their agitation with our industry and I felt incredibly frustrated about all of it and motivated to do something.
I went home and started a Facebook group: Ladies of Triangle Theatre (LoTT). One hundred women from our community joined in five minutes—it was like a firecracker exploding. We affectionately called it LoTT because there were a whole LoTT of us who wanted things to change. LoTT served as a resource for sharing upcoming productions, resource information and articles. The group represented a place where we felt safe having deep conversations about what was going on in our theatre world and what we could do to change it.
Through our conversations, we realized that our community of theatre women – practitioners backstage, onstage, and at the helm -– were vastly underrepresented in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. Only a small percentage of plays by women were actually being produced. Only a handful of female directors were being asked to direct. We had an amazingly large group of women who were outstanding actors, yet they had no lead roles to embrace because they were all written for men.
This is pretty much industry standard. Of the top ten plays produced in the country for 2012-13 season*, only two were written by women. Coming in at number five on the list is "The Mountaintop" by Katori Hall, which will be produced 12 times this season and number nine is "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry, which will be produced eight times.
I'm no mathematician, but I don't think that is very equitable.
I'm tired of being overlooked because of my gender and not because of my skills. If I'm a bad director, so be it and that's your opinion. If I'm a bad director because I'm a woman, I'm going to punch you in the face.
I have since moved to DC because my husband started graduate school, and I have accepted a position at at a theatre in the role of Digital Media Coordinator. Devra continues to cultivate the LoTT online and in person. She has big plans for LoTT, and I can't wait to see where she takes it.
I now have the confidence to go for what I want professionally. I believe women can create a theatre company that is extraordinary and moving to both sexes. I know this theatre will produce work by women and hire women in male-dominated roles; producers, directors, technicians and designers can and will have an audience. I know this theatre can be financially solvent, and pay its artists and staff the wages they deserve. I know we will hold ourselves accountable for not only the quality of work, but use hard data to honor our mission, vision and core values. I am meant to lead this group of women; I know it in my bones. I just need an investor and a team to lean in and see this vision through with me. I've even got the theatre company's name picked out!
*Statistic courtesy of the Theater Communications Group