Calling All Gatekeepers


Today's New York Times gave us an article about a new wave of advocacy from playwrights and directors seeking an increased representation of women in commercial theater. A particularly shout-out must go to legendary playwright and HBIC Paula Vogel, who has given permission to many women who feel voiceless to voice their concerns on Twitter:

Creating more gender diversity in commercial theater is a challenge with a million complex causes and historical precedents and one simple solution: we need to produce more plays by women and trans creators and directors. 

I hear you saying, "Great, genius, but how does that happen?"

The heftiest burden for for #changingtheratio is placed on Gatekeepers: producers, artistic directors, literary managers. There are tons of great playwrights and directors and designers out there, but they simply are not produced and hired at the same rate as men. Now, there do exist in this world white male gatekeepers who are genuinely dedicated to change, such as FX's CEO John Landgraf. There are great white dudes everywhere, and we cherish them with all our hearts. 

However, I vote that we don't wait for the existing Gatekeepers to let more women in. I am calling for more women to join the ranks of the Gatekeepers.

This is not a simple task.  This is a lifelong pursuit.  It will require you to dedicate years of your life just to get in the door, and if you don't come from extensive wealth, you are going to have to elbow your way in.  If you do come from extensive wealth but don't know how to make this work for you, let's talk.  At this point in history, chances are you're going to need to come from a place of privilege to take on the internships, low wage jobs, classes and training courses, and times of little to no income necessary to put you in the drivers seat. There is a long, long way to go before the playing field looks any different than it does now.

But if you genuinely care about change, we need more generals in this army. Here are a few Gatekeeper paths for you to check out:

Start a Theater Company: The development of new work that ends up on Broadway and the training grounds for playwrights happen largely in the NFP sphere. Jobs at the larger not-for-profits are few and hard to come by.  But there is nothing to keep you from starting your own. I started producing for an indie theater company back in 2003 when I was tired of auditioning. You can too! 

Fundraise for Organizations And Producers that Do Good Work: Not ready to become a Gatekeeper but want to help the ones you like?  Throw a party and raise some money for them.  Write a letter to 20 friends telling them why you are passionate about their work and put in a link to their donation page. Contact the development officer and ask them how you can help get them some cash. If you love a particular producers work, introduce them to potential investors. 

Become an Agent or Manager: Do you want to shape the careers of the next generation of playwrights? Do you want to become an advocate for their work? Do you have an eye for spotting amazing talent? Do you prefer working with artists rather than productions? You may want to become an agent.  Hey look, I found an article on this after 10 seconds of Googling! 

Become a #Ladyproducer of Commercial Work: Check out the courses at the Commercial Theater Institute, Theater Resources Unlimited, ProducersPerspectivePro, or a local university.  Read Ken Davenport's blog, or Lee Seymour's blog, or the JumpStart Entertainment blog, and comment.  Listen to Ken's interview with Eva Price. Notice how all the most popular blogs are by dudes? Let's change that. Start your own blog and build an audience. Read this book.  Write to 20 producers whose work you love and ask to take them out to lunch.  If none of them respond, write to 20 more.  Have a lady-friend with a play who needs a production? Raise them some money and put it up on a stage.  "Let's hear it for women producers!" 

Get yourself some power, then hire yourself some women. 

Change is more achievable than we give ourselves permission to believe.

Be loud. Be bold. Be a leader. Be a Gatekeeper. Be a #ladyproducer!