It’s International Women’s Day, with the campaign theme for 2017 being: #BeBoldForChange. Here at ICTheatre, we’re boldly celebrating all the amazing women in the theatre industry, past and present, whilst also looking at what can be done to encourage a future of equality and diversity…
“International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.” Find out more here.
Women in theatre – a brief history
- In traditional Greek and Roman theatre, it was considered ‘dangerous’ for a woman to be on stage; a lot of the time men would play both male AND female characters.
- Despite this, there are still many female characters of their time that were represented well, for example, the Greek mythological character of ‘Antigone’ – the mortal daughter of Oedipus – was depicted as ‘strong in every way imaginable’.
- The first English woman to appear on stage was Margaret Hughes. Marking theatre history on 8th December 1660, she appeared as ‘Desdemona’ in Shakespeare’s Othello at the Vere Street Theatre.
- The second half of the 19th century brought a great change in the dynamics of theatre, with female playwrights, females acting on stage and a prominence in female audiences. In fact, women were seen to be directly responsible for the rise of popularity in theatre.
Unfortunately, inequality is still present in the theatre industry today – for example, within the National Portfolio Organisations, 76% of Artistic Directors of theatre are said to be male… while statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveal that out of those who study dramatics in the UK, 70% are female. Both statistics are examples of where gender equality is needed. (See more statistics here).
For us to move towards a future of gender parity, we must look at how certain traits remain attached to gender roles. In a generation of gender fluidity, it’s important for a more widespread gender education, as well as building a foundation of awareness.
“When it comes to the question of how we can achieve greater gender equality in the theatre industry, I think there’s a similar principle at play to how we put a show on stage. It will only happen, and happen in the best way possible, if a whole range of people are involved in its creation and can bring their own particular talent, skill and interest to the mix.”