The gender agenda

4 Jul 2011


Articles, posts and podcasts exploring the representation of women playwrights


There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few years about an endemic imbalance between opportunities for male and female playwrights in main-stage Australian theatre.

It’s a debate that’s not likely to dissipate anytime soon but constructive solutions are being investigated across the sector.

In August 2011 a representative group of playwrights and theatre company stakeholders will meet in Sydney for a roundtable discussion aimed at producing practical outcomes and a way forward. Interested parties can find more and/or contribute to this process here.

This compilation of articles explores the ongoing conversation about the representation of women playwrights in Australian and international mainstage productions, and in the literary landscape more broadly. If you know of an article or resource you think should be added to this list, please get in touch.



Drama Queens

Podcast of a panel session hosted by the Wheeler Centre - March 2011

Playwrights Patricia Cornelius and Van Badham, Artistic Directors Marion Potts and Ralph Myers and moderator Chris Mead discuss contemporary Australian theatre’s relationship to gender, diversity and the canon. What broader representational responsibilities does the theatre have, and how can female playwrights be released from perceptions of tokenism and kid glove criticism?



Women in theatre – let’s get rid of the equality myth Theatre Blog post by Krystina Nellis - July 2011

 'Women are under-represented in theatre – not for lack of interest, but because the industry is failing to provide long-term support.’




Literary women, literary prizes. Not often to be found in the same room

Bidisha blog post - June 2011

Women are everywhere in the book world and even on the bestseller lists. We are the overwhelming majority of book buyers, book readers, book editors, agents, PRs, event attendees, festival-goers, champions of literature, literature teachers, writers and book club members. We are everywhere except in the nicest place: the prestige podium.



Is it a man's world, literally?

by Alison Croggon, The Drum - April 2011

Yesterday the Miles Franklin judges announced their short shortlist. It's an exclusive bunch of three books culled from the original longlist of nine novels: Chris Womersley's Bereft, Kim Scott's That Deadman Dance and Roger McDonald's When Colts Ran. They are, according to the judge's report, books chosen for their "distinctive, indelible Australian voice."



Solutions Roundtable Background Paper: a perspective from women playwrights (PDF download)

Compiled from various sources – July 2011

A summary of issues for discussion at the Women Playwrights Solutions Roundtable in Sydney in August 2011, as identified by Australian women playwrights.




Where are the women?

Blog post by Augusta Supple - December 2010

This time last year, a conversation started about the lack of women included in Australia’s mainstage seasons. Triggered by a shocking image at the launch of Company B's 2010 season – a line up of men in black with one woman in a white shirt… the question was asked, where are the women?



Where are the young male playwrights? Theatre Blog post by James Fritz - 25 May 2011

“In a traditionally male-dominated theatre culture that celebrates the concept of "voice", could it be that the twentysomething British man is finally finding it difficult say something fresh?”



Female author wins award, still gets ignored

by Cassandra Langridge,, March 2011

When Brooklyn-based novelist, Jennifer Egan was awarded the National Book Critics Award for A Visit From the Goon Squad, instead of celebrating Egan’s achievement, the LA Times decided to highlight the fact that Jonathan Franzen had not won.



A Literary Glass Ceiling?

by Ruth Franklin, The New Republic - February 2011

It is sobering to realize that we may live and work in a world still held in the grip of unconscious biases, no less damaging for their invisibility. 



Merit vs misogyny in Australian theatre

Blog post by Augusta Supple -  January 2011

Currently in mainstage seasons, women are grossly unrepresented – and it’s not because there aren’t any women writing plays. When curating the multi-playwright seasons I have produced in the last 4 years, I have not struggled to find quality female playwrights, and not just any female playwrights – excellent playwrights.



A hard road from page to stage

by Joyce Morgan, Sydney Morning Herald - January 2011

Around Australia women playwrights are asking why their stories are not reaching our stages in greater numbers....With new artistic directors having arrived at, or poised to take the reins of, Belvoir and Griffin in Sydney, at the Melbourne Theatre Company and Malthouse, as well as at the Queensland Theatre Company, there is a sense that it is time to act.



Dramatists stage protest about gender but do they protest too much?

by Joyce Morgan, Sydney Morning Herald - January 2011

When Suzie Miller looked at this year's season brochures for Australia's leading theatres, the playwright was appalled. Where were the plays by Australian women? Less than 12 per cent of plays reaching the stage of the major companies were written by women.



Double Act

Interview by Elissa Blake, Sydney Morning Herald -  July 2011

Veteran actor/artistic director, Robyn Nevin in conversation with prolific young playwright, Lally Katz about her play Neighbourhood Watch and the Australian theatre scene in general.


If you’re not Shakespeare, it’s good to be Brecht (or Lally Katz)

Blogpost by Jane Howard - November 2010

An analysis of Australian Theatre in 2011 through the Major Performing Arts Group theatre companies 




Text of Theresa Rebeck Laura Pels Keynote Address

by Melissa Silverstein - March 16, 2010

Last night I saw someone do something very brave.  My friend, Theresa Rebeck, a very successful playwright, TV writer and novelist, got up in front of a group of theatre people and talked about gender. 



Re-thinking gender bias in theatre

by Patricia Cohen, New York Times - June, 2009

‘When more than 160 playwrights and producers, most of them female, filed into a Midtown Manhattan theatre Monday night, they expected to hear some concrete evidence that women who are authors have a tougher time getting their work staged than men. And they did. But they also heard that women who are artistic directors and literary managers are the ones to blame.’



Male Dominance in Theaters Rallies Women Playwrights

by Philip Boroff, Blomberg - November 2008

Let's call this drama Many Women Playwrights in Search of a Stage. Because if you write plays and have the wrong chromosomes, you're in for a lot of frustration in New York.



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