This post is part of a series for our Her Side of the Story encounter, May 13-14 2016 located at the National Theatre School of Canada. We invited theatre artists from across Canada to reflect on how their work in theatre is influenced by their perspective as women. Are they conscious of promoting a “feminine perspective” or is it something that is intuitive? Imago Theatre would like to thank all of the artists who responded to our questions for their thoughtful, insightful responses. We will be sharing these responses on our blog for the first two weeks of May. We will also be creating a publication of selected quotes, which will be available for free at the Her Side of the Story readings, long-table discussion, and cabaret.
I firmly believe that theatre should reflect the world we live in but also teach us how to make the world a more humane place. One of my biggest frustrations, from the moment I chose to study theatre as an undergrad, was seeing that mainstream theatre was not reflecting back the female experience or my experience. Founding Sarasvàti Productions was partially about rectifying this frustration. After producing FemFest for 13 years, one thing has become evidently clear to me – there is no clearly defined feminine perspective or experience. This is a beautiful thing. What had been missing though was the voices of female writers and the diversity of their life experience. To me a feminine perspective is therefore women telling their stories in their own way. In a society that still has a gender divide, women have been treated differently. Audiences should be able to hear their stories. With a majority of theatre audiences being female, having the feminine perspective on stage should be mandatory. It is a powerful thing when we recognize something from our lives on the stage, when we view something that allows us to better understand the world we live in and know that we are not alone.
As a female practitioner I try, not always successfully, to be cognizant about the repercussions of the work. What are my built in biases? What have I been socialized to think? What am I saying with my art work? My most rewarding projects have been community-based creations where I facilitate rather than dictate. I don’t think this is unique to female practitioners but I believe I was drawn to it because I had felt excluded throughout the early stages in my career. In particular, I have made it my goal to give voice to female artists from all backgrounds. These are the stories that speak to me, inspire me and that still feel fresh. I have simply gotten tired of seeing stories about white men, because I have seen so many of them. That being said there are no limits to what female playwrights have submitted to us. I will never forget a reading where an audience member asserted that the play could not have hockey in it because it was a “women’s play.” We need to support female writers and give them opportunities in order to redress a historical imbalance; but please let’s not label, pigeon-hole or dictate what they write about!
I want to help put stories on the stage that have not been told. I want to be part of a process that allows us to expand our understanding and horizons. In my practice this means not working in a traditional model, perhaps not producing the work that would be an automatic hit, working hard to bring audiences to hear stories that are different. I look for work that transforms me in some way and that will help to transform audiences, allow them to understand, think, feel, respond or just nod their head as they acknowledge they are not alone.