Wednesday, September 10, 2008

business as usual - male-dominated theatre

The intrepid actor/playwright/composer/etc./etc. Nat Cassidy just sent me a link to Melissa Silverstein's response in the Huffington Post to Charles Isherwood's Sunday NYTimes article On Tap: A Male, Male, Male World. Said Nat: "Thought you'd appreciate this" - and oh yes he is correct. Thanks Nat.

I emailed Isherwood on Sunday scoffing at the idea that a male-dominated New York stage was something remarkable. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it was basically what Silverstein says in the HuffPo:
The NY Times reported this past Sunday that the new upcoming Broadway season is a Male, Male, Male World: Like I'm shocked.

A handful of productions, probably converging by coincidence, will provide a season-long seminar on the subject of the male animal under pressure.

The Times continues and posits that maybe this is a reaction to last season's plethora of domineering women.

Is it a reaction against last season, when the New York stage seemed to be overtaken by domineering women?...Whatever the reason, wives and mothers are taking a definite back seat to their husbands, fathers and sons this fall on Broadway stages.

Playwright Theresa Rebeck takes on this bullshit in a great piece in The Guardian, Broadway's Glass Ceiling and makes it very clear that every season, no matter if there are a few good female roles, is a man's world because so few female playwrights are let into the club.

As probably the most-produced female playwright around these days, Rebeck deserves credit for taking a stand - she has the most to lose by calling out the theatre powers-that-be.

Rebeck, in the Guardian:
There's some feeling in rehearsal halls and writers' retreats and drunken dinner parties, that maybe the American theatre participates rather too enthusiastically in the supposed gender bias that the American media tosses about willy-nilly while discussing candidates for higher office. Mostly it is women playwrights who feel that way; male playwrights think the system is really, really fair and that women playwrights who raise these questions are whiners or dirty feminists. After all, everyone is discriminated against! It's show business! Nobody's happy! We're all narcissistic egomaniacs, you can't expect it to make sense! This is about the work. Which means, apparently, that any woman who cares enough to raise her voice about the fact that women's stories are not reaching the stages for which they are intended is a whiner, a dirty feminist and a lousy artist too - because a true artist wouldn't care.

Honestly I am not making one word of this up.

And coincidentally, published in this week's New Yorker (another incredibly male-dominated "liberal" institution) is James Surowiecki's article about anti-female workplace discrimination "Equal before Mammon" which mentions the blind auditions phenomenon which I've blogged about here before. As Surowiecki notes:
It’s true that active discrimination is rarer these days than it once was. But, contrary to what much economic work would predict, racial and sex discrimination is still a powerful force in the job market. Decades ago, the economist Gary Becker showed that “taste-based” discrimination (pure prejudice) could not survive in a truly competitive talent market, because unprejudiced companies would outperform prejudiced ones by hiring smart women and minorities. Yet the introduction of blind auditions at major symphony orchestras, starting in the seventies, has increased by fifty per cent the likelihood of female performers’ advancing—a clear sign that, for decades, orchestras had made bad talent decisions because of their prejudice without being punished.

What we need is a theatre equivalent of blind orchestra auditions.

And go see Nat Cassidy in The Underpants - although since he is playing the role of, in his own words, "a professional sexyman" maybe out of the underpants. tee hee.