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


Statistics compiled by WITS’ Michela Carattini and Maryann Wright

Festival Fatale 2o16 line-up announced

WITS FF poster 2

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.



Gr8 Skin

Tee O’Neill

Gr8Skin is a feminist satire exploring the myths of beauty.


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.


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.


Presented by She Said Theatre (Melbourne)


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 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


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


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


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.


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 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


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.”

Second Forum: Monday 23 November 2015, 7:30pm

VENUE: Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney.

WITS welcomes you to the second forum: Making Gender Parity a Reality

Join a panel of industry professionals to discuss HOW we can achieve gender parity and diversity on our screens and stages, and why it makes good artistic, cultural, ethical, and business sense to do it.

Featuring Panellists:

Pete Evans (Co-Artistic Director, Bell Shakespeare)
Pearl Tan (filmmaker Pearly Productions, co-chair of Equity Diversity Committee)
Wesley Enoch (Artistic Director, Queensland Theatre Company)
Ana Tiwary (filmmaker at Indivisual Films, co-organiser of WIFT)
Dino Dimitriadis (Artistic Director, Apocalypse Theatre Company)
Penny Harpham (Artistic Director, She Said Theatre)
Lisa Havilah (Artistic Director, Carriageworks)
Courtney Gibson (Chief Executive, Screen NSW)



Gender parity is good for everyone. Join the conversation.

All welcome: women, genderqueer, men. You have a place here.


BOOK here:

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Organisers: Erica Lovell, Libby Munro, Lizzy Schebesta, Maryann Wright.

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First Forum: Monday 26 October 2015, 7PM

A Conversation between women, for women.

VENUE: York Theatre, Seymour Centre, NSW. 

Featuring Guest Speakers:


WITS coordinators from L Erica Lovell, Libby Munro, Clementine Mills, Lizzie Shebesta

Why are women still so underrepresented in stage and screen? Why are women underrepresented in creative roles? Why are we still reading disturbingly sexist casting briefs? Why are there so few women artistic directors?

As women in the arts, we have a responsibility to foster and fight for an industry that gives a voice to women, not only for the sake of our own careers, but for women as a whole who have a right to see their stories represented on stage and screen.

We invite you to an open discussion of our experiences as women in the entertainment industry, and a brainstorm of practical strategies to address these challenges and facilitate change.

Equity is not rocket science. Let’s make it happen.


Media coverage in the lead up to the event: 

Sydney Morning Herald


Email your responses to the following questions:

Q1. What gender related issues have you observed as a consumer and maker of theatre and screen content?

Q2. How have these experiences impacted on you emotionally, psychologically, professionally, and financially?

Q3. What does your ideal future for women in the theatre and screen industries look like?

Organisers: Erica Lovell, Clementine Mills, Libby Munro, Lizzy Schebesta, Maryann Wright.

For more information, contact:

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