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Monthly Archives: September 2016

We are currently at the midpoint in production of a new play called, Rock the Line by Kathleen Warnock. Here at Venus Theatre this is our 57th woman-empowering play produced over our 16 year lifespan. It’s an unheard of body of work that continues to be ignored and erased. 14390641_10209616172694415_493809871494379419_n

Rock the Line boasts a diverse cast of seven, six women and one man, and that is the max number of actors our 17′ space can support.

We’ve been criticized for a lot of things. Shamed really. Why don’t more people know about us? Why haven’t  I done this or that thing (usually an idea that someone had once when that thought about what I do for the first time)? Why aren’t I getting it right? How come my hair isn’t styled right? It’s neverending.

I had hope a year ago with the BIG SEVEN announced that after a delicious brunch they decided they would solve the problem of women in theatre. They said they had a half million dollar budget. Then, they said half of that was spent on a rollout party where we sang happy birthday to an older white man and watched him take the stage with a bunch of other older white men. There were a lot of old white man penises on the stage to kick off this event for women. Nothing against old white-man penises, it simply seems slightly insane to insinuate any kind of female power in that situation. Delusional may be the better word. Gaslit the action.

The rollout event to solve the female crisis in theatre cost $250,000 we were told in an email. No funds for artists, advocacy, or education. But the food was delicious.

The reason I love doing Rock the Line is because it’s a lesbian Cinderella story. It’s a lot of other things. But, I find at this point in the run the real liberating aspect to landing this work has been giving a romantic happy ending to a group of people who rarely ever see that.

It’s hard to reach the lesbian demographic though. It’s almost as if they’ve been sent a signal that theatre is not made for them. They have to work longer and harder for less pay and so each time a womanimages comes up and shakes my hand after a performance of this play there is a deep soul kind of shift that happens inside of me. This is what lets me know I am doing the work I am meant to be doing. Driving my company on the path intended.

It’s strange when the erasure IS the affirmation. It easily feels like investing in a cycle of masochism when you tell yourself, “we’re being ignored so that means we’re doing something right”. When press is scheduled to cover the work and not even a week before opening they pull out because “higher ups” said our subject wasn’t relevant and the response is, “yeah, I kind of expected that to happen” one is then inclined to ponder.

That’s erasure. That’s the world I’ve known for over a decade and a half.

Fellow artistic director, Howard Shalwitz, at Woolly Mammoth writes about a show struggling to sell tickets that has five diverse women on his stage and the same run timeframe as we do here at Venus:

  • Effective immediately, we’ve made $25 tickets available for every remaining performance of COLLECTIVE RAGE. Just use the code ALLTHERAGE when you order and select any seat in Section B.
  • In addition, we’ll keep the box office open through the end of every performance, and if you feel the play is exactly the sort of thing you want to support, you can make a donation on your way out the door.

 

What this says to me is that even a BIG SEVEN theatre located in the heart of the city cannot get away with predominantly female casts owning their own sexuality and using the word “pussy” in a play.

BOTTOM LINE!

Listen, if you want to stage a XXX night and tittillate men that’s one thing, but if women are going to own their own sexuality on their own terms well, that’s not relevant.

The point that Howard and his team is making as I see it is that there are 12 sources of criticism and only one of those determines ticket sales. This is incredibly problematic and indicates to me a toxic industry. It tells me that if the “higher up” had not pulled the essential critic our ticket sales would be in a much better place. Or, would they? I mean if Woolly Mammoth can’t get away with this subject who can?

Without that one source RECOMMENDING the work it doesn’t matter how many raves we get from how many other sources in terms of amping up ticket sales. This is insane.

So, for one man to have that much power over who lives and dies in terms of theatre companies is not healthy. It’s Autocratic and Dictatorial. And, by the way, don’t miss Freaky Friday or that Lillian Hellman play you yawned through in college, or another Anne Frank Diary. Because that’s what’s getting coverage and so those are the tickets being sold. This is “relevance”. Not women owning who they are, but dusty plays and disney movies that sell popcorn and wine at intermission. “RELEVANT!”.

I’m quickly back to feeling like plays that empower women, nevermind tell lesbian love stories and use the word “pussy”, are another way to volunteer to be a lifetime card carrying masochist, then along comes the presidential debate.

This is the first time in American history a woman has taken the stage in a Presidential debate. And so, this is the first time we collectively get to experience the erasure, the gaslighting, the sexism, pouring out over millions of people at one time from the mouth of an abusive ranting self-important lunatic.

The piece by Alexandra Petri healed my soul this morning. So hard to believe it’s from the same news organization that put the kabbosh on our coverage less than a week before it opened thereby likely affecting our financial bottom line in devastating ways.

She explores the perspective of Hillary Clinton in the face of an oppressive entitled white supremacist narcissistic monster:

  • “If I had coughed even once on this stage, I would have lost this debate instantly. And so you know what? I did not cough. Not even once. You sniffed and you lectured and you made faces and you sighed. And I stood there. Impassive. Like a screensaver. I focus-grouped my number of blinks.
  • But maybe it worked. Maybe, just this once, America saw a man yammer on for an hour and a half about a subject he knew nothing about to a woman who had spent her lifetime in that field, and America said, “Oh,” quietly, to itself. Maybe. But knowing America, maybe also not.”

 

This captures so much of everything I live both personally but mostly professionally.

I know that shame-mommy-hatred-blame-thing will continue to be vented my way to insure the erasure keeps me on my toes. Distracting me from just trying to keep my company and my art alive and give as many women opportunities as I can. But I don’t accept that shame anymore and I’m not doing any of this to be thanked or even acknowledged.

I just want to explore brilliant worlds of woman and pay my people, the company bills, and myself at the same time. I’ll never understand the multimillion dollar red columns of debt from the big houses that are viewed as successful businesses. Where I come from, if you can’t pay your bills you find your stuff on the sidewalk.

Our world is askew. And the work at Venus is directly confronting and combating that. I’ve spent my adult life doing this work. And, that is the indelible truth that no erasure will conquer.

Now, buy your tickets so I can pay our artists and our bills. And PLEASE, spread the word!!!

14316919_10209490963964275_8727274153185212927_nTwo weeks of Rock the Line remain.

www.venustheatre.org

(FOV, Friend of Venus gets  you $20 tickets)

Play on…

Deborah Randall, Founder – Venus Theatre

Venus was founded in 2000 and is committed to setting flight to the voices of women and children with theatre for a lifetime. Venus is among the longest running women’s theatres in the world.