by Cameryn Moore
Yes, in performance there is a machine, nesting gears within gears, if you will, and NO, theatre does not fall outside of that, not even the Canadian Fringe circuit. I thought so once, maybe two years ago. I bought into the utopian dream, but soon realized: Fringe is part of it, and independent theatre, too. There remains indifference or dismissal or outright hostility to women’s work—on the part of the reviewers, and the bookers, and the audience, and other performers, too, god, that always hurts—and this is because the theatre machine gets its grease direct from the source, baby, that viscous, aircraft-grade, heavy-weight sexism and misogyny. It encompasses the world. It gets everywhere. To paraphrase Madge the Manicurist, “We’re soaking in it.”
You say, “every theatre school teems with female students.” (Why did you put it like that, anyway? The word “teem” has a very mindless, nature-documentary feel to it, a river teeming with spawning salmon or a dirt mound teeming with ants, or something.) And then you wonder why that mindless abundance, the sheer force of numbers, has not translated to more works by and about women. I have a theory, and it relates to something you say in the very next paragraph: “across the country, women scramble for a precious few roles. Including so many one dimensional minor parts: the supportive girlfriend, the saintly mother, the hot chick.”
Because the pressure to conform is REAL, dammit. It is so heart-rendingly real, and I see it happen ALL AROUND ME: women artists taking a break because they have met the love of their life and want to give it a fair shake (because if they go on that once-in-a-lifetime artist retreat, it will be their fault for not giving it a fair shake); feeling torn up inside because they are away from their kids for six weeks, for three months (dads of course step up, but my feeling is they always want a gold star for being exceptional, when that’s just carrying your fair share); being their own artists but also trying to be supportive of their partners’ careers. Where are the partners of the women doing those motherhood shows you talk about? Are they taking sole care of the kids while their wives are jouncing about the countryside breaking box-office records? I hope so, but I doubt it; the nanny and childcare jokes in the indiegogo perks are probably true, so for me, they’re not that cute.