Matthew Xia has committed to only commissioning female playwrights for his first three years as artistic director of Actors Touring Company in an attempt to “redress the balance”.
His comments were made during a panel discussion at an event organised by diversity campaign group Act for Change and hosted by Shakespeare’s Globe on October 6.
Xia said: “For the first three years all of our commissions will be to women, almost exclusively to women of colour.
“Because I’m trying to redress a balance, which is impossible to do in the small company that we are, but it sets a precedent that we can do this.
“You can go: ‘Look, every book on my shelf at home is written by a dead white man, so let’s try and introduce some new plays into the cannon as we go forward’. We have the power to start telling new stories.”
He added: “There are so many brilliant writers in this country who don’t come in the form of white men. There are also lots of brilliant writers in this country who are white men.
“I set myself a really simple goal when I first got into ATC, which was I’m not going to commission any men, it’s that simple.”
Artistic director at Shakespeare’s Globe Michelle Terry also spoke about a responsibility to commission female writers.
“I feel like I have a responsibility that every time I don’t do Shakespeare, I really should be doing something new,” she said.
“We should be commissioning female playwrights, we should be commissioning playwrights that haven’t been heard before.”