Commentary: In London theatres today, the director is more often a woman

Matt Wolf, International Herald Tribune, 10/9/12

"My God, there are a lot of women directors working in the theater these days in London," a female theater director who happens not to be from London remarked to me the other day. It's true. More women directors are proffering their work in London than I can ever recall and at a level lately that has often eclipsed the men in their midst. I'm thinking, for instance, of Carrie Cracknell, Anna Mackmin or Lucy Bailey. Women directors have triumphed on both big and small stages. Polly Findlay had a scorching success at the large Olivier at the National Theatre with "Antigone". And in the National's smallest auditorium, the Cottesloe, Marianne Elliott ("War Horse") consolidated her status as a possible National Theatre artistic director-in-the-making with "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time." One could add numerous names to this list. Nor can one forget the gathering presence of women in key theatrical posts. Josie Rourke has followed Michael Grandage at the Donmar Warehouse. Across town, Indhu Rubasingham is about to begin her own artistic regime at the Tricycle. And while we wait for Vicky Featherstone to assume the reins as artistic director of the Royal Court in 2013, the end of the year finds two major musicals in distaff hands. Maria Friedman will [direct] the Menier Chocolate Factory's revival of "Merrily We Roll Along," and Thea Sharrock is directing the stage musical of the blockbuster film "The Bodyguard." Why this concentration of talent? Chalk it up to a generation coming of age, alongside artistic directors of both genders more than willing to give women their due. And with increasing numbers of the people in charge here turning out to be women, too? Let's just say that the British stage as male preserve seems a thing of the past.


Commentary: How to get more women on Most-Produced Playwrights list

August Schulenburg, American Theatre magazine, 9/20/12

Every October, [our magazine] features a list of the plays slated to receive the most productions. [On the 2012-13 list] only one woman (Katori Hall), and two living playwrights of color (Hall and Matthew Lopez), are represented. Without taking anything away from the other playwrights on this list, we must acknowledge this list doesn't look like the America -- or the American theatre -- that many of us know or wish to see. An important caveat: this list does not represent the full scope of American theatre seasons, but is based on season schedules self-reported by TCG Member Theatres. Still, no caveats can take away from the painful questions raised by such a list. Last year's list [was] a little better for women, with three out of the ten slots, but not a single playwright of color appears. For 2010-11, the familiar theme continues: three women, two playwrights of color -- which could be considered the most diverse of the four years we've been tracking playwrights in this way. As often happens, when these lists emerge, conversation ensues, much of it valuable and insightful. And then, the next year rolls around, the next list rolls out, and it all begins again. How can we break out of this cycle and achieve a truly inclusive, equitable and diverse theatre field? That question is a major part of our upcoming 2012 Fall Forum: Leading the Charge. If you are unable to make it, consider joining the conversation on our year-round [online] platform, Conference 2.0. [Or] join groups like Gender Equality and Allies Eliminating Racism In Theatre.


Commentary: NYC exhibition of 45 female abstract painters shifts perceptions

Howard Hurst,, 10/9/12

It's funny that Patricia Albers's recent and authoritative biography on Joan Mitchell was given the subtitle "Lady Painter." My only guess is that Mitchell's lifestyle and painting were so out of character for the time that the term becomes ironic. The artist was known for her camaraderie with macho dudes like de Kooning and Pollock, her ability to party, and her tendency to drink and sleep around with bravado. At the time these activities and attitudes were thought to be reserved for men. Mitchell gradually carved out a space for her paintings to be given the same treatment. Brooklyn-based curator Jason Andrew's newest exhibition, To Be a Lady, takes a swing in the same direction. To quote his press release:

For much of the early 20th century, women were up against the "lady painter" image which historian Linda Nochlin suggests was "established in 19th century etiquette books and reinforced by the literature of the times." Despite what might appear to be great progress for women in the arts, these societal expectations continue into the present. As Lee Krasner said, "I'm an artist, not a woman artist."

Andrew pulls from a list of 45 female artists from the last century, showing how these artists hang toe-to-toe with the boys. This is a comparison that has never quite been made in a major historical exhibition so largely focused on mid- to late 20th-C. abstraction. Sure, there is literature on the subject, but it is nice to see an exhibition that treats female abstraction with the same level of attention as the male artists enjoyed in their own time. As if to fix the long-exclusionary art world, Andrew provides a space where we can judge the work of female artists in a formal void. The unfortunate side effect is that we are denied any and all sociopolitical context. This exhibition is not merely of historical value but presents an interesting grouping of younger and mid-career artists as well. The individual pieces remind us that before theory and politics, we see, feel, and situate ourselves within a work. Using tone, surface, form, and scale, the art on view in To Be a Lady sucks us in and shifts our perceptions.


Ambitious 30-film project to tell stories of women & girls who changed their fate

Abigail Pesta, The Daily Beast, 9/25/12

No fewer than 30 films about women and girls around the world will hit screens and social media in the next three years. NBC News correspondent Ann Curry, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues Melanne Verveer were among the advocates who gathered at the Ford Foundation headquarters to announce the project -- and also to celebrate the PBS debut of the film Half the Sky, based on the book of the same name by Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. Kristof and others said they hope all the films will inspire people to get off the couch and help forgotten women and girls in far-flung corners of the world, where news reports often focus on the negative, making people feel overwhelmed. "As journalists, we cover planes that crash, not planes that take off. Planes fly all the time," Kristof said. In other words, progress is being made too, he said. It's just less likely to grab headlines. The 30-film project, called Women and Girls Lead Global, is a partnership between USAID, the Ford Foundation, and the Independent Television Service, a provider of programs for PBS, working in collaboration with the nonprofit group CARE. The partnership will create an annual 10-episode documentary film series for the next three years, zooming in on women and girls who change their fate, carving out better lives for themselves and others. Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator for USAID, the U.S. government agency for international development, said projects like this can spark a "wave of interest" among young people -- and can also save lives. He cited a program with MTV in Asia, where ads showed hotlines for victims of human trafficking and sexual slavery. "We've seen kids who were trafficked in boats, stuck in brothels -- they've seen the ads and called the hotlines," he said. He called the film project a "quest for justice," noting that boosting stability, health services, and jobs in developing countries is "critical to national security" in America.

Please consider the environment before printing out this email.  Thanks.
YOU'VE COTT MAIL is a free service for professionals in the arts.  Emails are sent most weekdays. 
If you are not already on the distribution list and would like to sign up, please click here:

Join Our Mailing List      Follow me on Twitter     
Click here to view an archive of recent past editions of "You've Cott Mail."