Weinstein, Sexual Harassment, and the Australian entertainment industry

Harvey Weinstein’s global exposure as a sexual predator within the entertainment industry has sparked a long-overdue public debate about sexual harassment, particularly within theatre, television and film.

WITS offers an official statement about the industry-wide problem within Australia and beyond:

Our industry’s problem with bullying, sexual harassment, and assault has been well known for decades. In a small industry characterised by insecure work, tight-knit social networks, and professional cliques, it has never been reasonable to assume that the silence around these issues means there is no problem. Artists are vulnerable, and speaking out is a daunting prospect.

The vocal commitment to zero tolerance bullying, harassment, and assault policies from the major performing arts companies is to be commended. However, the question must be asked: Why does it take a major Hollywood scandal to motivate some companies to commit to their basic legal obligation to provide safe workplaces? While artists are disappointed that it has taken a Hollywood watershed to make power brokers listen, we are hopeful that this can be a turning point for our industry.

We need an industry wide, no exceptions, no excuses commitment to changing the culture of fear and normalisation of abuse. Ticket sales, ego, and the status quo are not more important than vulnerable people’s safety at work. This means zero-tolerance policies developed and enforced in workplaces.

In a highly social industry where professional relationships and friendships are almost indistinguishable, it is crucial that we are committed to change as a community. We must ensure that the power structures that make speaking out at work difficult are not exploited in the bar, or at the launch, or at the premier or the opening night.

Companies truly committed to changing the culture will now ensure all complaints are taken seriously, will not hire known predators, and will demonstrate to our industry’s most vulnerable people—women, and in particular women of colour and trans women— and all artists, that they will be safe at work, and should they make a complaint, this will in no way affect their future employment prospects by hiring them again.

We encourage all employers to start with the simple premise that everything they do should embody respect for women. That means gender parity, producing work that respects women, and ensuring women (and all artists) are safe at work. WITS are willing to work with any arts and entertainment organisations wanting to improve their practices when working with women.

Statistics Revealed: Gender Parity in Mainstage Sydney Theatre Company’s 2017 Seasons

A year after Women in Theatre and Screen (WITS) formed in response to Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s (DTC) record low percentages of female directors and playwrights in its 2016 programming, the theatre company has made a complete reversal with a female-led 2017 season.

This revelation comes following WITS’ publication of its independent analysis of mainstage Sydney Theatre Companies’ recently announced 2017 Seasons (see below).

In 2017, DTC (59% women), Belvoir (50%) and Griffin (50%) achieved gender parity in their programming of writers and directors. Sydney Theatre Company (34%) and Ensemble Theatre (16%) have male-dominant seasons, again. It should be noted that Griffin did not achieve gender parity in its independent season programming (40%).

DTC has seen a 42 per cent increase in the employment of female writers and directors, while Ensemble Theatre remains the lowest, with a further 14 per cent drop since last season.

“WITS is thrilled to see DTC make such a complete reversal in approach to gender parity. The company who sparked the fire for the most recent wave of women’s equality rallying in the industry because of their almost entirely absent female voices in 2016 has taken concerted and successful action to give voice to Australia’s talented female creatives,” WITS co-founder Maryann Wright said.

“Not only has DTC’s changed attitude manifested in their 2017 programming, but DTC also offered invaluable in-kind support to give a platform to Sydney’s best Independent female theatre-makers by housing WITS’ inaugural women’s theatre festival, Festival Fatale, in October this year. DTC has set an impressive example for the rest of the industry, and showed that with initiative, parity can happen almost instantly.”

WITS continues its mission to empower female creatives and encourage theatre companies and producers to introduce effective gender parity targets. WITS believes in equality for diversity of women, and in affirmative action in pursuit of gender parity.

To see affirmative action in action, join WITS for the inaugural Festival Fatale 29 and 30 October at the Eternity Playhouse consisting of two days of female-led theatre projects. Full festival line-up at www.festivalfatale.com.

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Statistics compiled by WITS’ Michela Carattini and Maryann Wright

Festival Fatale 2o16 line-up announced

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Women in Theatre and Screen (WITS) is thrilled to reveal Festival Fatale’s inaugural program.

Six staged productions, four play readings and 11 cabaret acts will be announced, making up a two-day theatre festival celebrating female-driven theatre works on 29 and 30 October at the Eternity Playhouse.

Festival Fatale comes as a response to the wider movement within Sydney’s theatre community to celebrate and enhance the ways we tell ‘Her Story’ in theatre.

“Festival Fatale’s program includes diverse, relevant and ground-breaking work that champions women artists and women’s stories. By not providing women with equal opportunity – as we have seen in historically male-heavy theatre season programming – Sydney audiences have been missing out,” said Festival Fatale Artistic Director and Co-Founder of WITS Lizzie Schebesta. “WITS hopes that by showcasing women in theatre, more companies will follow our lead and give greater volume and quality voices to women on stage,” Schebesta said.

Kate Gaul – representing the selection panel – announced the women-led independent theatre companies and their female-majority creative teams that will make up Festival Fatale (full list below).

“Under 30% of plays produced on Australian stages are written or directed by women, and of those many are at the smaller, often independent theatres where remuneration is minimal. In 2016 we are still educating theatre producers that women are capable and eager to contribute in all areas of theatre, including writing, directing, designing and producing. Festival Fatale encourages theatre goers to see performance work by women and reminds producers that equity matters to their audiences,” Gaul said.

Tickets on sale now! Buy single tickets or subscription packages here.

FESTIVAL FATALE 2016 PROGRAM 

PLAY READINGS

Gr8 Skin

Tee O’Neill

Gr8Skin is a feminist satire exploring the myths of beauty.

 D+NA

Dana McMillan

D+NA is a conceptual work about how collective feminism might look. The performance is framed by data and looks to results that can be charted concerning our identity and politics.

Normal

Katie Pollock

Abigail faints. She’s developed uncontrollable tics. Soon the whole town is afflicted. Normal asks questions about mass hysteria and the struggle for teenage girls to fit in.

Fallen

Presented by She Said Theatre (Melbourne)

STAGED PRODUCTIONS

Australian Booty

Australian Booty is a work consisting of a series of jokes, songs, stories and spoken word tracking Candy B’s journey from booty shame to booty pride. The work explores fierce intersectional feminism and empowerment in Australia in a delicious way.

Writer/ Performer: Candy Bowers

Composer/ Sound Designer/ Performer: Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers

Lighting Designer: Daniel Anderson

(Note Original Director: Nelly Thomas)

Slut

Slut aggressively explores the sexuality of young women in contemporary society. Lolita is the only named character, and is a slut. The play maps her rise and fall, her navigation of the line between sexy and slutty. It examines young women’s politics and the crucible of adolescence.

Writer: Patricia Cornelius

Director: Erin Taylor

Assistant Director: Laura Johnston

Actors: Maryann Wright, Julia Dray, Jessica Belle-Keogh, Danielle Stamoulos, Bobbie-Jean Henning

Set & Costume Design: Isabel Hudson

Sound Design: Nate Edmondson

Producers: Edgeware Forum and Rue de la Rocket

Selkie

Ronnàd is a selkie – a mythical being that is a seal in the water but a human on land. She finds herself trapped on the beach and is taken in by Séan, but struggles to fit into “human” life. Selkie is a play about “other”, cultural assimilation and emotional abuse from an intimate partner.

Writer: Finn O’Branagain

Director/Producer: Nicola James

Composer: Helen Grimley

Designer: Shelly Jam

A Little Piece of Ash

The play is about a young Aboriginal woman dealing with grief. It explores how to deal with loss and the survival of the modern Aboriginal woman.

Writer: Megan Wilding

Beatches

A comedic, satirical, cabaret-style piece that draws from famous cinematic female duos in order to subvert notions of power, beauty and age.

Writer/Performer/Producer: Kate Smith

Writer/Performer: Liesel Badorrek

Designer/Stage Manager: Annete Twenlow

Too Rude

Too Rude takes inspiration from television Variety Hours and explores the complexity and problems of gentrification: renewing neighbourhoods, pop-up galleries and art in the city. The work is a comedic and experimental interdisciplinary work.

Writer/ Musician/ Performer: Emma McManus

Performer: Maria White

FOYER CABARET

Toy Choir

A group of young women who sing and accompany themselves on the ukulele. They have a repertoire of 22 (and counting) original songs. The group is encouraging young women, their families and schools to get involved.

Director: Danielle O’Keefe

Sarah Gaul

Sarah Gaul’s cabaret tells the story of her life and the people she knows – all the stories feed back into her identity as a woman. Through song and comedy, she explores issues such as LGBTQI equality and the ethics of religion. She aims to empower through her show.

Yarramadoon

Come on a rural journey of a small town with big problems, sink holes, deadly snakes, diesel shortages!

Writers/Performers: Hannah Reilly, Eliza Reilly

Alysia Rose

Alysia Rose’s music is lyrically compelling and speaks to female issues such as abortion, objectification of women, love and the unspoken sisterhood all women share regardless of race and age.

Six Quick Chicks

CHICKS performances are different every time; they all rely heavily on audience interaction and provide quirky and empowering entertainment. They’re a collective of independent female artists who each have their own 5-10 minute piece in a Variety Show style format.

Kate Walder

One-woman cabaret act.

Billie Rose

Billie Rose sings her original work coming off the back as the successful lead singer/rapper of Daily Meds.

Curtains

Curtains shows showbiz disasters accumulating through the style of black comedy and lesser-known music theatre songs. A bio-cabaret recounting O’Reilly’s life and the theatrical disasters that went with it.

Blockhead & Singing Saw

Marlena Rosenthal’s acts focus on typically “masculine” skills such as comedy and dangerous stunts, which aim to subvert female roles in entertainment. She presents a powerful, queer, funny woman on stage.

Why did She Leave Me?

An interactive cabaret featuring originals and covers about a feminist comedy duo splitting up.

Performer: Irene Nicola

Monologue

Kate Hood performs a selection from her play reading application for Triple Take. 

Playwright Patricia Cornelius, whose play SLUT is programmed for a full staged production at Festival Fatale said on the news, “I’m delighted to have SLUT in Festival Fatale. It’s timely for a festival of Australian women’s work. In fact it’s long overdue.”

Pop-up Empowerment Session with Lynn Hegarty

Calling all female writers, directors, producers and actor/creators. Join prolific screen writer and director Lynn Hegarty for a pop-up WITS empowerment session focussing on how to create a vehicle for your own career.

DATE: Monday 13 June, 7pm – 8:30pm
VENUE: Hub Studio – 18 City Road, Chippendale NSW 2008
COST: Free
APPLY: Send a brief bio or link to your creative website to maryann@wits.org.au. Strictly limited to 40 attendees.

WITS strives to up-skill and inspire female creatives to take charge of their careers. Mentor Lynn Hegarty (Winter, A Place To Call Home, Packed To The Rafters, Crownies) knows how to get stuff made. From her first films out of film school to the television drama content she writes and directs today, Lynn knows how to package creatives as individuals and how to create a vehicle to start off and advance careers in the screen industry.

This empowerment session is an open question and answer evening where female creatives are invited to discuss the industry and strategies for getting ahead.

Strictly limited to 40 female attendees, please email a brief bio to maryann@wits.org.au to secure your place. 

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WITS GAME CHANGER LAUNCH

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ANNOUNCING… WITS Game Changer Launch for Festival Fatale & the WITS on AustralianPlays.org showcase.

WITS on AustralianPlays.org – A New Showcase for Women Playwrights

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On the eve of International Women’s Day Australianplays.org, in conjunction with WITS (Women in Theatre & Screen), will unveil a new showcase of work by Australian women playwrights.

WITS on Australianplays.org will highlight a collection of over five hundred playscripts amassed over nearly forty years. The online Showcase will feature the capacity to search for scripts written by women or containing significant and complex female roles.

Director of Australianplays.org Gail Cork said:

“Australianplays.org is delighted to be collaborating with WITS to highlight the extraordinary body of work by Australian women playwrights.

“Australianplays.org is the definitive online repository of Australian playscripts, featuring over 2,000 works. WITS on AustralianPlays.org makes that vast collection accessible in a brand new way that advances gender equity, an issue that the theatre sector has struggled for years to address.

‘When this collaboration between Australianplays.org and WITS was first suggested we immediately recognised it as an idea whose time had come.”

WITS spokesperson Matilda Ridgway said:

“The WITS on AustralianPlays.org database is a tool for vigilance. For promoting female playwrights, promoting stories that have a significant and complex female experience at their heart, and promoting plays that have great roles for female actors.

“We hope it leads to a richer and more diverse theatre ecology and to true parity for Australian women writers for performance.”

See the database here: http://australianplays.org/wits/welcome

Festival Fatale – Making HERstory

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On the eve of International Women’s Day, Women in Theatre and Screen (WITS) proudly announce WITS will produce a two-day women’s theatre festival, Festival Fatale, in October at the Eternity Playhouse, supported by Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Creative Partnerships Australia through the Match Program.

The festival will include main-stage performances, cabarets, play readings and workshops by female-driven independent theatre companies. All programmed writing will be by women and all leading protagonists on stage will be women.

Festival Fatale comes as a response to the gender gap in Australian theatre company’s 2016 Seasons, where roughly 30 per cent of women make up the writer and director creative teams. The festival attempts to bridge that gap by showcasing groundbreaking, relevant and significant work by women.

“WITS want to demonstrate that by not providing women with equal opportunity, Sydney audiences have been missing out on experiencing women tackle the human condition in the theatre in a complex, challenging and significant way,” festival director and co-founder of WITS Lizzie Schebesta said. “We hope that ‘Festival Fatale’ will excite and encourage other theatre companies to follow our lead in programing significant female content for their audiences.”

In order to raise required funds for the festival, WITS has launched a Pozible campaign, asking the Australian theatre community to put their money where the women are and pledge today: http://www.pozible.com/project/204514.

WITS is a Sydney-based arts collective fighting to ensure that women are represented equally and with integrity across all creative fields in the theatre and screen industries in Australia. Founded in October 2015, WITS works to steer energy and resources towards positive advocacy and support for women in the industry, as seen in their Think Tank events previously hosted at the Seymour Centre, Belvoir and Carriageworks.

Submissions for Festival Fatale open in May. More information at www.festivalfatale.com. Connect with WITS on Facebook: www.facebook.com/witsaus

FESTIVAL FATALE IS PROUDLY SUPPORTED BY

INVITATION TO MEDIA LAUNCH:

Monday, March 7th from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Equity Courtyard MEAA, 245 Chalmers Street, Redfern NSW

RSVP BY 2PM MONDAY 7 MARCH 2016 
RSVP to info@wits.org.au

CONTACTS  

Australianplays.org: Gail Cork 0412 106774

WITS rep: Matilda Ridgway: 0433 753583

Media and Publicity: Maryann Wright: 0414 621 917

CPA MATCH Funding Successful

WITS is pleased to announce that we are recipients of the Creative Partnerships Australia MATCH Funding for 2015/16. We are in excellent company with many female independent artists being funded this round. See the full list here: https://www.creativepartnershipsaustralia.org.au/how-we-can-help/programs/decisions/match-2015-16/. WITS will use the funding to curate an all-women’s festival.

If you would like to find out more about what ‪#‎WITS‬ will be doing in 2016, come along to our WITS Think Tank 3: Women in Film & Television. Tickets available here: http://bit.ly/1XeKnkD.