It is hard to believe it has been an entire week since I attended the launch of Women in Arts in London, England. This amazing three-day festival was presented by the inimitable Sarah Berger of the So & So Arts Club, in association with The Tristan Bates Theatre and the Actors Centre. I was utterly thrilled and quite honored to have been a part of such a marvelous event, and I can hardly wait until next year. (Which brings us to another point–events of this scale can only be had when we all pitch in and help. So please, members, PAY YOUR DUES! Yes, I am totally calling you out. For if I, a member ALL THE WAY in America can make sure I’m all paid up, so can you. It is not fair to the glorious Sarah, or the rest of the group if you don’t do your part)
Women in Arts was possibly one of the most amazing celebrations of women and gender equality across the disciplines that I have been to yet. It was full to the brim of rehearsed readings like “Tree of Seeds” by Kayhan Irani, “Doing Well” by Chandeep Uppal and “Character” by Florence Vincent. Interactive panel discussions focusing on Role Models for Women (this was probably my favorite event!) and Writing for Women in the arts. The one woman show, “What’s My Age Again?” performed by the hilarious Merry Ross. Plays like “Frozen Heart”, “Win or Die”, the renowned “Request Programme” starring Cecilia Nilsson, and “LuLu 7” directed by the one and only Ms. Berger (where and how this woman finds the time and energy to direct a play AND run a three day festival I’ll never know).
It was so refreshing to be in an environment where everyone, both women and men, were supporting each other, and standing up for the fact that gender inequality in the arts needs to be examined, questioned and challenged; and in its place, a new vision needs to be set forth. A vision in which women are not the minority. A vision in which texts include women as actual main characters and not just the supporting lover mother sister aunt grandmother best friend objectified hot totty. A vision in which women can and willing and eagerly identify. While powerful roles for women do indeed exist, they are all too rare an occurrence. More often than not these representations of strong, powerful, self-actualized women are relegated to the seldom known independent sector; the grassroots underground projects. The unfunded. The never (hardly ever) seen/supported/recognized. And it should not just be left up to women to write, direct and produce these roles and texts. Men need to participate as well. It is absolutely crucial that visual mass media (Here I’m including all forms of visual media and art), change the way women are viewed and presented.
During the Writing for Women panel, author, journalist and mentor Susan Grossman put a very interesting question to all of us, “Do you write for your audience?” The general consensus in the room was ‘no’. However, I beg to differ; when writing, be it a blog post, screenplay, short story, I most certainly do write for my intended audience. And just because I write for/to a certain group, does not mean I wish or intend to exclude others. The best part of writing and presenting work is its ability to reach the masses. So I put the same question to all of you that may be writers/producers/creators: Do you write (create) for your audience? And if you do, what does that mean for you? How do you ensure women are essential to your storyline and are not outnumbered? Are they presented in a fashion that would challenge the status quo? Until we can challenge (and change) our previously held notions about women’s roles in the arts, and answer these questions on a positive note, there is much work to do. And it is our belief, here at Black Chick Media, that The So & So Arts Club Women in Arts is just the beginning.
P.S. Check out another article about Women in Arts on the Female Arts website! xx