Prominent women in British theater have expressed concern that cash-strapped theaters may prioritize staging ‘safe’ work by men and face a labor exodus. female talents if urgent action is not taken to support women after the pandemic.
As a survey finds more than 60% of women in all roles in UK theater plan to leave the industry, with 85% fearing that gender inequalities will worsen after Covid, key figures have called for the Arts Council England (ACE) and the government to introduce support funds and quotas.
The research, conducted by playwright Jennifer Tuckett, in partnership with organizations such as the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Equity, Stage Directors UK and the December Group, found that over 98% of the 387 women surveyed had struggled over the past 19 years. months, including a decrease in self-employment (74%) and an increase in household chores (38%), childcare (27%) and unemployment (32%).
One of the concerns was the risk of theaters equating “the need to entice audiences again with the staging of a well-known and safe work, which often means written by men,” according to Tuckett, director. of research and literature at the Sphinx Theater, the UK’s oldest. women’s theater company.
Other concerns included discrimination against women over 40 and women in more emerging and middle-level jobs, which were more dispensable.
Responding to the findings, Stella Kanu, executive director of the London International Theater Festival, said that “the picture drawn by this study is layered, without urgent intervention, the result is simple – a talent drain of enormous proportions which has unfortunately already taken place. begin. All the women and non-binary people I speak to take a serious look at the environment of the theater industry and its impact on their workload, income, personal responsibilities and potential future.
Director and producer Jude Kelly, founder of the Wow Foundation and former artistic director of the Southbank Center, said Covid had exposed the ‘fragility of progress’ of women in theater.
“In the UK there seems to be an illusion that women have won the argument for validity in the arts,” said Kelly, who has directed more than 100 productions, including for the English National Opera and the West End of London. “But our society, and therefore our industry, is still stuck with the assumption that women should be the primary unpaid caregivers of all family members, the solution to all community needs and the ready ones. to hijack or abandon our careers and dreams in order to maintain someone else’s.
The Women in Theater survey calls for the introduction of a childcare and family responsibilities support fund by ACE, which “would allow people with family responsibilities to apply for help to facilitate work in the home. Arts”.
It also recommends specific support for women over 40 working in the theater, actions to raise awareness of gender prejudices, the establishment of quotas and training.
Commercial theater owner Dame Rosemary Squire said the pandemic has exposed “the fundamental inequalities that women in our industry have faced for years.”
Squire, founder of the Ambassador Theater Group, – which owns 39 theaters in the West End as well as regional theaters across the UK – and CEO of Trafalgar Entertainment, said family responsibilities “fell disproportionately on women “and often to those over 40 who have family responsibilities towards children and the elderly.
“I have experienced this myself during the pandemic and have seen many colleagues struggle with it,” she said. “Some of the hardest hit were the freelancers. Our business relies on an independent creative workforce, many of whom are women. They suffered the double blow of interrupted workflow and increased household responsibilities – and there was often little or no financial support available. “
Last year, a third of freelancers said they were considering leaving the industry.
Respondents to Tuckett’s survey said they looked to other higher paying sectors of the entertainment industry, including television, film and games.
“As an early career female artist, I think at a risky time for theaters I’m seen as even riskier than before,” said one of them.
Writers Guild of Great Britain secretary-general Ellie Peers said the research figures were a “shocking read”.
Tuckett added, “Dominic Cummings is would have said “The fucking ballerinas can end up at the back of the pack” in terms of pandemic support. We hope that as business returns to normal, ACE and the UK government will commit to supporting women in the arts, who as an industry contribute billions to the economy each year.