The National Women's Theatre Festival

Seven Actions for Allies

 Seven things you can actively do to support women in theatre:


1. Season Selections

If you\’re in the position to help choose a season, actively suggest plays written by women with 50% or more female roles.  NCSU\’s Theatrefest has a suggestion box in their foyer. NRACT solicits season suggestions yearly. Suggest Sister Shows! And help keep theatres accountable for their choices. When theatres post their season announcements, count how many shows they chose that were written by women. Is it bad (like only 20% plays written by women) or terrible (zero plays by women)?  Consider writing publicly under the announcement, \”Why did you choose only ____ plays written by women?\” Don\’t accuse, that causes people to delete your comments. Be respectful. 


Example: \”I couldn\’t help but notice that only one of the plays in your six-play season was written by a woman. What was the reasoning behind that decision?\”


2. Ticket Purchases

When choosing which plays to spend your money on, ask yourself, \”What is the gender breakdown of this play?\” Support theatres that make smart gender decisions.  Theatres notice what sells, so help equitable productions sell well!


Example: \”Wow, Bare Theatre cast Romeo and Juliet, a traditionally male-heavy play, as a 50/50 production! I\’d better buy tickets to that!\”


3. Check Your Bookshelf 

Go home and look at your own collection of plays. How many of those plays were written by men? Do you need to buy and read more plays written by women? Consider attending our monthly Meetup Group that reads a new play written by a woman every month. Consult our \”Resources\” section on this website and click \”Award Winning Plays by Women\” to see if you\’ve at least read all those plays.  


Example: \”I can\’t believe that only 10% of the plays that I own are written by women. I\’d better go read the Kilroy\’s list and purchase a few\”


4. Start a Conversation

When auditioning, notice your surroundings. Are there twice as many women waiting in the room? Are there only a few parts in the show for women, as opposed to many for men? Start building your own awareness of this problem. Point out the gender disparity situation to the guy you\’re sitting next to. Talk to a friend about it, or post your observations online, start a conversation. 


Example: \”There is only one lead role for a woman in this play, and yet I just counted 43 women here, while there are only 12 of us guys for these six male roles. Why do you think theatres keep choosing male-heavy scripts when there are tons of talented women available?\”


5. Watch Your Language

Do not refer to female actors as “sweetie,” or “hon,” or other diminutives. If you can’t remember their names, just ask them. These words can be perceived as insulting and imply that women do not have as much power as you do; that they are “cute” instead of your equal. Even if you\’ve been using these terms for years with women you know well, they may never have liked it, and may have just been too uncomfortable to confront you. Even if you only have the best of intentions, even if you think you\’ve nicknamed someone affectionately and they like it, try asking before you continue your pattern.


Example: \”I\’ve been calling you sweetie for years now, but are you really ok with that, or do you just not want to hurt my feelings?\” 


6. Ask First

Do not touch actors without permission, especially in auditions, especially with strangers. It’s always important to clear all physical touch with scene partners ahead of time because you never know what someone else’s experiences have been, and you want to make sure they are comfortable with any way that you might be touching them during a scene. Remember, one in three women has been victims of violence. Being touched without permission can be scary.


Example: \”Hi, I\’m Frank. In this audition scene that we\’re reading together, it says that I\’m supposed to roughly grab your arm. Are you ok with that, or would you rather that we fake it instead?\”


7. Raise Your Voice

If you find yourself in a male-dominated theatrical spaces, help represent the feminist point of view. Mention the fact that there are few women in the room. Ask people out loud why that is. Be prepared to have a calm and informative discussion about why that\’s not ok. Offer simple solutions, like inviting/casting/hiring more women. Suggest specific women that you know.


Example: \”Wait, is this everybody? I thought this was supposed to be a board meeting…do you not have any women on your board? You know, my friends Tanisha and Sarah would be excellent choices. I\’d be happy to bring them along next time, if they\’re interested.\”