Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gender and Theater

Last night I attended an informal forum on how gender affects theatre careers, sponsored by Woman's Will. When I walked in, I wasn't surprised to find that all the other attendees were women. But I was surprised that, except for one, they were, like me, in their 20s.

Of all the insightful comments from the evening, this one has stuck with me most: In terms of building a career, one participant said, "a greater obstacle than being a woman is being young."

There are obvious reasons why she - and the rest of us there - feel that way: Even if you have formidable experience, youth belies it. And for women, gender only exacerbates the problem, making you seem less worldly and experienced than your male counterparts of the same age.

But in the age of the interminable internship, what is it that helps some aspiring young artists establish themselves while others give up and leave the field? What can a young, female professional do to gain experience to get the job she wants--when she needs that job to get experience?

Part of the answer lies in what Kate Jopson of Woman's Will is doing: creating a forum in which our segment of the theater community can convene without, for once, other people telling us what to do. I'm hopeful that more will come from the group, but I also wonder how much how much it can achieve when everything, including the interests of all-too-recently established artists, conspires against it.

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