‘Feminist Work Site’

Blog Post by Micheline Chevrier, March 10, 2019

This is an entry as a part of Imago Theatre’s Daring Feminist Artistic Practice blog series.

In April 2019, I had the good fortune of participating in a week-long conference on the place of women in the theatre. It was held at Espace GO and organized by a steering committee made up of amazing women from the Montreal theatre community: Catherine Bourgeois, Marcelle Dubois, Alix Dufresne, Marie-Eve Huot, Mayi-Eder Inchauspé, Mellissa Larivière, Marie-Ève Milot, Émilie Monnet, Ginette Noiseux, Solène Paré, Marie-Claude St-Laurent et Elkhana Talbi. Look them up: all incredibly accomplished artists who are moving and shaking our practice.

The title for the week was Chantier Féministe, which roughly translates as ‘Feminist Work Site.’  The stated objectives for this event were to better understand the constraints women deal with in the theatre; to make visible their contribution and celebrate its value; to come up with strategies that can create a more equitable workplace.

For four days, we were invited to listen to a number of panels on various topics connected to feminism and contexts for artists working in Quebec. The varied discussions focused on language, history, women’s fight for equality in the workplace, debunking myths around women’s artistic work, equal representation and artistic practice.  Facts and figures were offered up to feed the discussions. People spoke eloquently and passionately about their experiences, observations and concerns. The week then culminated into two days where the professional theatre community – men and women of all backgrounds and ages, from various disciplines, emerging and established – gathered to discuss the questions that had emerged. They identified key issues and made concrete proposals toward a more balanced representation of gender in the Quebec theatre landscape.

The Chantier Féministe, teeming with challenging and passionate discussions and reflections, allowed me time to examine women’s place in the theatre, the work that has been done, and what is left to do. There were many compelling questions put forward. Among them were: why are there consequences for a woman when she challenges the established order? Why is there often a high price to pay when a woman engages, questions and pushes back? Why is this “high price” punishment doled out as exclusion and invisibility?

I participated in the final panel that week, a panel entitled Theatre Practice: New Territories. On the panel with me were inspiring and inspired artists who, in their own unique way, are challenging the way in which we make theatre: Marie Brassard, Marilou Craft and Philippe Dumaine (Projets Hybris), Émilie Monnet and Lisa Ndejuru. The panel was moderated (brilliantly, by the way) by Jessie Mills, who asked us, in closing, to dream of a better world and to capture, in a few words, what this would look like.

And so, reflecting on the meaning of a feminist practice, the word that immediately came to my mind was: accessibility. The notion that theatre could be accessible to all. In the complete sense of the word. In this better world…

Everyone can see theatre.

Everyone feels included in the conversation we are having through the work.

Everyone can challenge what is being made without fear of being shut down.