Raging Toward Balance in Theater

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Rage on

A few weeks ago I found myself thumbing through the dictionary for the meaning of the word rage. I had seen it used in the context of gender parity, and it made my spine straighten in discomfort — a reaction that surprised me given my active involvement in the parity movement. I found a few different meanings, not in this order or these exact words: [1] Rage as in anger. [2] Rager, as in the kind of partying that as an adult I still do not fully understand. [3] Raging, as in the uprising of a natural phenomenon like the sea or a storm. This one really spoke to me.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I prefer to look at the parity movement as the third kind of rage – something natural like an oceanic swell.[/pullquote]Gender parity should be exactly that: natural. Nature itself keeps the sexes pretty evenly balanced. So why, if we are talking about something so natural, is making change toward parity in the theater so difficult? Perhaps this is out of habit, lack of knowing how, lack of awareness, lack of time and resources to make organizational change, and on and on. Whatever the reason(s), it is easy to feel as though working toward parity means working against something, and working against something creates a breeding ground for the first kind of rage. While there may be a place for this, I do not recognize myself there, and yet I am showing up to do the work.I prefer to look at the parity movement as the third kind of rage – something natural like an oceanic swell. A raging meant to return us to balance.

Astonishing work toward parity in theater is being done by organizations like Women Arts, the Kilroys, Women in the Arts and Media Coalition, Age and Gender Equity in the Arts, the list goes on and on. Statera Foundation dove into these waters to bring the regional theater more prominently into the conversation. Working from small, fly-over cities in Southern Utah and Colorado, and formerly in Wisconsin and Michigan, my Co-founder, Shelly Gaza and I joined, not to duplicate existing efforts, but because we saw a gap in effort in the very heartbeat of the American theater, in regional or LORT (League of Resident) theaters.

Statera Executive Team: Sarah Greenman, Creative Director; Shelly Gaza, Co-Founder & Director; Melinda Pfundstein Vaughn, Co-Founder & Executive Director.
Statera Executive Team: Sarah Greenman, Creative Director; Shelly Gaza, Co-Founder & Director; Melinda Pfundstein Vaughn, Co-Founder & Executive Director.

Statera, deriving its name from the Latin word for balance, is working middle-out and bottom-up to bridge the parity efforts already in motion, and our work starts with the life-blood of the theater itself, the artist. If we take care of ourselves and each other, our theater organizations will follow, because they are run by human beings who are artists. Theater organizations may implement small changes or even big programs that address gender disparity, but if the human beings in the organization, men and women alike, feel isolated or have grown into their professional selves with the message that women should whisper rather than speak, apologize rather than state, ask rather than expect, or turn against one another in vying for the too-few jobs for too-little pay, the problem of inequity persists. The work must start with supporting a shift in the artist.

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The most effective way to manifest such a shift is to work together. Statera’s mentorship program is our way of directly addressing this issue. This is a free program open to women, men, trans, and gender allied people of the theater. We are also in the throes of planning our second national conference, to be held in October 2016 in partnership with Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

STATERA-logo-blackAs suggested by the Statera logo, if we imagine the two bottom corners of a triangle to represent the artist and the theater organization, together they create a solid foundation for the top of the triangle: the art form itself. In other words, supporting a shift in the artist and in the theater organization may be the answer to a thriving, equitable theater.

The gender parity movement in the American theater is indeed beginning to swell up and rage like the sea. Care to take a swim?