D+D Women in Theatre – Do we want a bigger slice of the pie?

Last Thursday I came into London to the BAC to for the D+D open space on Women in theatre. It was a drizzly Thursday evening and I was wondering whether it was a bit too late at night to have many good thoughts. Given the short timescale, there wasn’t the opportunity to take part in many of the discussions so it was a question of really focussing in on which ones directly appealed (although of course, you can flit from discussion to discussion if you want).

I went to a really interesting discussion on whether women playwrights should feel obliged to write roles for women, hosted by playwright Moira Buffoni. She said she aims to write 50% of her characters as female – where possible – the topic may not suit it – but that seems a positive step we could ALL (male and female writers) take forward from now on.

She also said that she’d heard anecdotally that men make it in all artforms ten years quicker than women do, and was shocked to find that as a contemporary of Jez Butterworth and Patrick Marber (who started having their big hits in the ‘90s) that it was the case for her writing. It got me thinking as I’ve read that before someone becomes really outstanding at their artform they need a magic number of hours (10,000, or about ten years). ‘True originality takes time – at least ten years…’ (Andrew Robinson – Sudden Genius?)

This seems to support the fact that whilst women are taking time out to have (and look after) their family, men are getting in those extremely important practice hours which give them the edge in terms of experience. Practice does indeed make perfect. How can women catch up?

We want a bigger slice of the pie yes, we also want to be able to have some veg alongside it and also some dessert. I think we have to find alternative ways of working that will allow us to do that – so that we can do our 10,000 hours whilst still being able to have a family if we want to. Maybe more mentoring schemes and more collaborations; perhaps where we share the pie? Maybe embed creative writing into courses at school and university that will allow all on them to start honing their writing skills earlier. Plus, there is the truism that ‘Practice makes perfect’; we need to find more ways to practice. If that means putting on our work in a developmental lab way, and working on it till it gets better, then that’s what we ought to do.

‘There are no shortcuts to becoming a genius. The breakthroughs achieved by geniuses did not involve magic or miracles, They were the mark of human grit, not the product of superhuman grace.’ Andrew Robinson.

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About 17Percent

A campaign to get more plays by women playwrights onto UK stages.
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