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She Stoops, She Conquers, She Scores - Women in Theatre

Hello Bazzers!

Early Edwardian Actress Lucy Weston who graced the stage - in fine fashions. 

Early Edwardian Actress Lucy Weston who graced the stage - in fine fashions. 

Oh how we’ve missed you- we’re back and brought some Spring with us! In fields of Daffs, hot cross buns (yes, fields of buns, think about it...it  would be so soft and tasty) and bunny wabbits - we thought we might spring forward like the BST clocks we are and take a wide look about how it’s going with women in theatre as a whole.

As you do.

So get your buns out the oven (steady) and let us review shall we? Current political climate notwithstanding, things are looking a tad brighter than they have been for a while - high profile events such as Tonic Theatre’s Lucy Kerbel bringing out an excellent book, All Change Please using hard fact and testimony to provide all the material you’d ever need to lay a convincing case of ‘be better to us’ to the jury and the arts industry as a whole. Tamsin Greig has won everyone over as Malvolia at the National in Twelth Night and it’s just been announced that Josette Simon will be playing Cleopatra in a hotly anticipated production of Anthony and Cleopatra at the RSC (great article here about the powerful woman/whore dichotomy in the Guardian this week) https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/21/josette-simon-cleopatra-rsc-shakespeare) Also, the ever brilliant Baz patron and our favourite Ceasar ever, Harriet Walter talked about her new book, and taking on the male canon in her inimitable style and to great critic acclaim in Brutus and Other Heroines.

So far so good? Well yes, but something goes up, something else must come down. Emma Rice’s well-documented run as artistic director of the Globe continues to make headlines, and it’s hard not to note that now, with one less female artistic director at the helm, there’s still very few running buildings in the UK. We are all for inclusivity, diversity and women in theatre as a whole, but it seems as if this is only just about stretching to the actors. We need more producers, directors, stage managers, artistic directors and soon. Goodness knows that once indoctrinated with a lack of diversity, opportunity, or even misogyny and racism, it becomes a new norm.

So what can we do about it?

Well. We here at Baz have a gorgeous team of women running the show - our trinity of founders are an impressive array of producers, writers, actors and practitioners - our producers, set designers trainee directors, even our blogger all share an x chromosome and it’s obviously at the top of our list when we look over actors we love for our productions - that, and obviously diversity. It’s been in our manifesto since day one And we are not alone in this - many theatre companies such as Kneehigh, Punchdrunk impress a difference on the theatre landscape in their casting and the landscape shifts a little more in the right direction.

But as ever, not all opportunities, or indeed all doors are open to the just off the University roll call producer/designer/director -but never fear, Baz is here - with a list of things to check out n do:

  • Tonic Theatre events - Go.To.These. It’s a great place where the shiny happy people go and of COURSE where great female-facing projects and books are launched that you already love and want to read cos you wouldn’t be reading this if not. Wink.

  • Women@Rada - A fantastic free initiative at RADA for female playwrights only - lovely nights where the next generation of female playwrights get to show some work - a fantastic platform for writer and performer alike.

  • Directors Programme at Young Vic - A fantastic long running directors training programme at the Young Vic - a programme all of it’s own kind that has brought much talent to the foreground. A wonderful initiative! 
  • Sphinx Theatre Company - Apart from programming some excellent female led theatre, this company regularly runs festivals, opportunities and is generally a great resource of stuff to do with women in theatre. Thumbs up.
  • Bechdel Theatre - So relevant it has it’s own test named after it - another behemoth of theme and concept led theatre, their latest project required recorded conversation between women for their latest piece. Inclusive, strident and outspoken. We dig it.

 

Apart from that - see it all! Go to the first nights, meet the people ,take the opportunity and the lead ...you never know where it will get you. And ahem, one other suggestion, if we may…

  • Baz Productions - C’mooon. We had to. PLUS we are really cool and love theatrical ladies so stick that in your pipe.

In all seriousness though, it is all in our hands - and sure this industry is a tough pill to swallow at times, and a main reason Baz exists is that we felt the situation was so dire we decided to step up and make it ourselves, but triumph comes out of adversity. Be the missing piece that fits into that slot. Nothing is achieved unless you open the door to it. We need to stick with each other and stand on each other’s shoulders. Now more than ever.

We’re rather good at this. Maybe we should sideline in life coaching?

There’s a stat floating around that states ‘Women speak up 75% less when they’re surrounded by men.’

*beats path to Destiny’s Child soundtrack*

We believe in you. Now get out an hustle!

Big Lady Love,

Baz xx

 

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Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Acting On It

Susan Sarandon takes the mic at a protest.

Susan Sarandon takes the mic at a protest.

First post of Baz 2017 (our year) and bang - an exploratory essay! Okay, it’s not three layered chocolate cake, pass the parcel and party favours, but hold hard a moment. Now’s the time. So, a theory for you: art is the natural predator of fascism. Discuss? Okay. When Donald O’Connor sang Make ‘Em Laugh in the seminal Singin’ in the Rain - he kind of had it dead on. Satire, from Punch to the Private Eye, standup from Bill Hicks to Hannibal Buress grabs hateful types by the scruffs of their necks, holds a mirror up to their laughable beliefs  and says, ‘Look: I don’t even need to do my job’ - as we go to the theatre and see The Producers and Springtime For Hitler, as we put in a DVD of Chaplin’s The Dictator, and  as we click on entertainment sites to see clips of Alec Baldwin as Trump on Saturday Night Live, art proves it has teeth, a lipstick smile and diamonds to match.

All art, really is a response to the time it’s written in. Even if it’s written in a future, a past, in science fiction - ours is to imagine, but the best futures, the best stories come from real stories. The best drama is real drama. Brechtian theatre is the best example of currently using current affairs, of literally taking the action dictators made and dramatising it, speaking clearly to audiences and encouraging them to be educated, to act. There’s a great imagination in writing - but sometimes the truth is the most dramatic, most real and most scary. Parables have been the foundations of our society, how we behave - whether it’s holy books, myths, legends - values, ideals, aspirations have been subtly drip fed into our imaginations from a young age. That’s mainly why despots usually don’t have a wide vocabulary. All this could have been avoided if they just paid better attention in class.

Later this month A Very Uncool thing is going to happen in the United States. But we here at Baz take faith - in art, and weirdly, artists. Historically, British theatre talent has been no stranger to picket lines: Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, and more recently, the likes of Michael Sheen and Samuel West have stood in the cold in solidarity using that duality of populism, the fact you recognise them to get you to realise they care about a better deal for you and your family, and a better society for your kids to grow up in. As you do. In the USA, for decades, as acting dynasties came and went, it seemed it was only Jane Fonda stubbornly upholding this value - enter Meryl Streep, stage right at the Golden Globes, 2017. In an age where awards shows are about self-congratulation, under-representation, what dress you are wearing, and infamously, Oscar goody bags containing amongst other things, a Vagina Rejuvinator (really) you get played off right in the middle of thanking your agent. Usually. Instead, Meryl said what we were all thinking in a shocking moment of un-glitzy lucidity. We attach it here for posterity.

Well. That’s kind of the end of the discussion, right? To borrow from her speech, Bravery inspires Bravery. There’s talk of top events producers in the US launching their own Freedom Concert on the day of the Inauguration- live music, comedy from your favourite A-List artists signed up on a ridiculous lineup on a rival channel - and they are encouraging you to watch that live channel all day to make Trump’s inauguration the least-viewed swearing in, ever. This is what we mean by art as a predator to the right wing. Meryl knows as much as the star of your local community theatre starring at your local church hall that art can only come from a place of unity - the crew, your fellow cast, your writer, director - no one role can be carried out alone. In a way, it’s the most Utopian workplace that can be imagined. Meryl knows the importance of an audience, of working together, and encouraging each other. With more artists breaking character and speaking out more than ever, taking roles as characters, and platforms as actors  that directly contradict a terrifying new status quo there may just  be a way out of this. That, for us, is what art is based on - having put on productions, ran workshops in rehearsal rooms, class rooms and meeting rooms, meeting new people for different walks of life, with different views, different stories, learning about  he specific threats to the futures they face, the skills of performance and creating art can’t not help but bring people together, eradicate that fear, and fight back. Our manifesto has always stated that we want to make challenging theatre, and tackle the bad habits we have fallen into. So, our conclusion: we’ve done it before: with satire, humour, performance, music, dance - and we can do it again. That’s a great message to start 2017 on.

 

Roll up your sleeves everyone. We have work to do.

 

 

Love,

 

Baz xx

 

 

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