Let’s celebrate theatre’s trailblazing women – your views, May 9
As a female working in a largely male environment, I was struck with such a sense of empowerment and pride reading Paule Constable’s article about the National Theatre’s role in supporting women.
I am always interested to read about women paving the way for other women in an industry that has been so heavily led by men. When I do, I am reminded that many women continue to move barriers, smash glass ceilings and hold open doors for new waves of women entering the industry. We need to be careful not to fall into the positive-discrimination trap: no woman working hard and fighting for her place on stage (or backstage) wants to be ushered into the boy’s club because they tick a box or meet the equality quota. I want to know that I have earned my seat at the table by lifting the flats, welding the frames and wiping the grease off my forehead after the same 16-hour day as the guy stood next to me.
Reading about Paule’s career, her passion for women finding a voice in the theatre industry, and her praise for the NT as a world leader in allowing women to do so, I am moved and inspired to continue to seek new challenges as a women in a male-orientated environment. Just as Paule owes her strength in the early days to Vicky Mortimer, Rae Smith and Jude Kelly, I owe mine to the many men who have not questioned my worth as a female fabricator and have helped me progress through the industry and within a career that I am so proud of. Though I could not have risen through the ranks without their teaching and faith in me, I know that I actually owe my career to the women who came before me. Those who lit the stage, rigged the truss, sat on the boards and made sure that while men held the doors open for them, it was women that made sure the doors didn’t slam shut behind them.
How lucky I am to work for a company, surrounded by a (completely male) team of managers who show me continued respect for my technical knowledge and foster my passion for scenic construction.
Project manager, Cardiff Theatrical Services
Dyslexia in theatre
The greatest issue that I struggle to manage as a dyslexic actor is the frequent task of cold reads. When I have time to process text and can do the extra work, I can familiarise and internalise the text in ways that use my dyslexia as a strength, if anything.
However, as a huge percentage of work as an actor is the audition process itself, this is a significant hurdle to getting gigs. The practice of connecting with your fellow actor/reader as much as possible means pulling my eyes up away from the text. Finding my place again and continuing is very challenging and often derails the momentum as I take longer to find my next line again each time.
Since nerves often exacerbate symptoms, self-awareness that this is happening can really allow the situation to snowball. Finding ways to manage this in auditions is a challenge, and one that I hope future audition rooms might be more mindful of in future.
Actors and others working in the creative industries who have dyslexia find an atmosphere that is often supportive and where their creativity can be encouraged. However, I’m often surprised at how little use is made of technology to read text. Free or low-cost apps can photograph a page of text and instantly read it out, greatly reducing time spent on decoding difficult text.
Give new work more support
Lyn Gardner is spot on when she says UK talent is worse off than its European counterparts.
Trying to pull together the funding to get even the smallest-scale pieces off the ground can be excruciatingly slow and laborious for artists and makers. When you aren’t well known enough to be earning full-time from your art or practice, most of your time is spent working other jobs (and even just looking for other jobs) and very little can be given to pulling together a myriad of funding applications to make enough to give your project the time it deserves in the rehearsal room.
What is the solution? My producer is adamant that all venues booking my show should pay a minimum guarantee to reduce the risk I carry as an artist. But what do you do when the tour you’ve planned is looming ever closer and some venues say they can’t commit to even £500? Do you take the risk to protect your planned project? Do you cancel the tour? Worse still, some venues insist that the artist pays them a guarantee.
That model is totally unworkable. The Arts Council’s pot of money for artists is ever-diminishing, so competition for that money is tough – making the time needed for getting the application perfect even more important. Who’s paying for the time needed to do that?
It takes serious resilience for new artists (and established ones) to keep pressing forwards when it feels the odds are stacked against you.
If art is not the place to be provocative, then we may as well all give up and go home. Being provocative is exactly what art is for.
Amy Bonsall Redston
Quotes of the week
I think the industry, especially in America, they want to kind of keep you in one place. So you have to fight them and change their minds.” – Actor Kelsey Grammer (Telegraph)
“We argue rarely, because neither of us is naturally combative. We would both rather avoid raised voices. Sometimes we disagree about plays because the stakes are really high. I’ll argue passionately for the stuff I love.” – Playwright Ben Power on working with Rufus Norris (Evening Standard)
“We should be beyond the age of dictators. It should have died out and it hasn’t. Screaming and shouting is not all right, and I am happy to deal with it.” – Glyndebourne’s Stephen Langridge (Telegraph)
“Being in Hamilton meant having almost a monk-like way of life. You have to take care of yourself: you need to keep fit and you can’t really go for a drink or party. But Lin-Manuel Miranda created something extraordinary and like nothing I’d been in the presence of before and we all wanted to get it right. Lin-Manuel had thought ‘I’m not really seeing myself represented on stage’, so he created the kind of show he wanted to see.” – Actor Giles Terera (BBC)
“I am still trying to work out a way that I don’t come off stage completely exhausted. But I suppose in the early days in my career, I would have come off stage absolutely buzzing and come home
and sat up for hours. These days, it is a cup of tea and straight to bed.” – Actor Linzi Hateley (Chichester Observer)
“Nobody made me feel I shouldn’t be there – it was my own imposter syndrome making me worried. I was very experienced, but I’d never done a musical on this level or in that company.” – Actor Peter Forbes on being in Follies at the National (London Theatre)
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