“Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again!”

In 1981, in Australia, there was a three day conference for Women in the arts to discuss issues facing women in the creative arts. Nearly 30 years later, there was a day dedicated to the issues raised last year “Where are the Women?” for a variety of practitioners (directors primarilly) and those working in the Major Performing Arts Organisations to talk about strategies to enable a better representation of female practitioners in key creative roles in mainstage productions. Representation came from far and wide- and like that of the Philip Parson’s lecture/panel discussion last year, featured some of Australia’s most formidable female talent.

Context is everything- especially in debate- and luckilly Gil Appleton was available to provide some for us who may not be aware of our own legacy. This is not a new issue… but as you can’t put your foot in the same river twice… the issues have evolved with the circumstances. We now live in a different age of engagement/identification with feminism- where the term “post-feminist” has been adopted by many – where it may be assumed, at least superficially that women have achieved equality through the efforts of the first wave (legal issues eg. the right to vote) and the second wave (social issues eg. the right to reproductive control). I find myself amid the third wave of feminism- the “feminism is defined by the individual” belief having been brought up by a feminist mother and father, confronting the battles that those who have gone before me have also fought.

Why is it that women are overlooked in positions of Creative control? Is it a numbers game- is it because there are a small number of mainstage Artistic Director positions in Australia and the female male ratio reflects that? Is it because women are perceived as “not mainstage ready?”Is it because women are not “mainstage ready?” Is it because women lack confidence in pitching? Is is because of the style or shows? Is it because there is an intrinsic female aesthetic tht is uncommercial or deemed only suitable for independent productions? Is the lack of women in positions of creative control in theatre because at some stage, women have babies and have to choose between a life in the theatre and a family life? Is it because the gestation period for a woman’s creative process is incompatible with the structure of the patriarchal/European theatre-making model? Is it because women just aren’t as good?

Perhaps all of these are true or partly true (you can see my slippery perspective as a post-modern third wave feminist come into play, can’t you?)… I can see that for some women there is a time when having a baby is more important than directing a whizz-bang production of say, “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”… I can also understand that some female artists may not have the confidence to promote themselves , or indeed they just simply may not be interested in promoting themselves in order to be considered for a mainstage gig- preferring as some may be to “work invisibly” in the theatre or even “under their own terms, in their own time frame.”

For me, it will remain as true time and time again- whomever is programming, programmes to their taste and their sensibility. It is also important to support the theatre that you believe in. If you want there to be more female directors supported in the theatre- go and see plays directed and written by women. And I will end with this- bums are very powerful things- besides being the larges muscle in our body- in theatre terms they say alot. Fact: the majority of theatre goers are women- why aren’t we voting with our bums (so to speak)? I know to vote with mine- I suggest you vote with yours.