Is Theatre a Male Thing?

In Germany we have loads of theatres. Governmental funded, state supported theatres – Staatstheater, Landestheater and mixtures of both plus other forms of theatre being funded more or less. Germany has a very vivid theatre scene – as I keep stressing in my posts over at newmusicaltheatre.com – but most of the people in charge are men.

When I started my undergrad studies in theatre studies almost four years ago 90% of the freshmen were actually freshwomen (see what I did here?) and from then on I have kept asking myself what happens to all these girls on their way through their studies? They are probably not becoming theatre scholars because that’s mostly male as well…directors? Maybe, but most of them still are men. Theatre/company managers? – Nope. Dramaturgs….maybe, chances are higher at least.

The reason why I decided to write a post about the male/female ratio in theatre business (in Germany) is that in the last couple of days two voter committees were presented. Both of them will vote in competitions in contemporary (German) musical theatre. The first one I came across is a contest called CREATORS – Neue Musicals braucht das Land (which roughly translates to “Creators – New Musicals for Germany” and you can find a German website of it by clicking here...). It basically is to encourage young musical theatre writer/composer-teams to present their work – which is a nice idea, I’m not questioning that. And I am all in for new original German musicals and I am the first one to complain about a lack of said original German musicals.
But when I clicked my way through the pictures of the press conference they held (the pictures can be found on their facebook page) I couldn’t help but recognize that out of the eight people in the picture seven are men. Reading the website of the contest you’ll find that the commitee consists of 12 people. 3 of them are women.

Another committee presented was the voters of the 2015 (and first ever) edition of Deutscher Musical Theater Preis (Award for German Musical Theatre) presented by Deutsche Musicalakademie. There are six voters, two of them women. A slightly better ratio than the earlier one, but still….
I feel that we in Germany (and especially theatre people….) are quite gender-sensitive and we know that there still are issues. When Karin Beier first became successful artistically managing the Schauspiel Köln there were suddenly a lot of articles in (online) newspapers about how she manages to be a mom and a successful director and how seriously she takes her afternoons with her kid(s). The questions asked there probably wouldn’t have been asked while interviewing a man.

Just let’s be honest here.

Recently I came across a discussion on twitter regarding the small festival Marstallplan hosted by Resedenz Theater München. This festival showcasing works of young directors was focused on Goethe’s Faust II and all of the shown productions were directed by men. One of the invited productions was directed by a woman, Magali Tosato, but apparently she decided to have her work not shown. This is an unfortunate event, but one production out of 7 directed by a woman is also rather unfortunate…Another “only one woman!”-discussion happened on nachtkritik.de when the new committee for the Theatertreffen, a very prestigious theatre festival for mainly straight plays, was presented earlier this spring and out of seven voters there will be only one woman for the next year.

I’m a not saying “Yeah, women!” or “Just let women vote for awards and contests just because they are women” – choosing people because of their sex and/or gender is just as bad as not choosing someone because of his/her gender. What we should do is think about what that means for theatre.

Especially when it comes to contests and awards it is much about representation of the genre, the business, the works for other people and to the public. With men being the main part of committees there is a legit chance of the works presented seeing the world or whatever they’ll be about through a very male gaze – while audiences (especially in musical theatre) are mostly female.

There might be some people around saying: Yeah, maybe they just found not enough women being ‘good enough’/educated enough/professional enough to be a voter on this!
Really? Please!

What do you think? Where are the women in (musical) theatre? And especially to my readers from other countries – how’s the situation over there?

P.S.: This post does not mean I’m not happy for the men on those committees. Congrats to those of our German theatre creators to be able to encourage young talent in the first place. Regardless of sex and gender. (because not having to think in terms of male, female, sex and gender is probably the ultimative goal, right? At least it’s mine.)

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