Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blazing a New Trail

Picture provided from oneminuteplays.wordpress.com
By Marisela Treviño Orta

This is the third year that the One Minute Play Festival has come to the San Francisco Bay Area. And I’m sure each year festival producer Dominic D’Andrea returns the process of organizing the festival here becomes easier. But it’s important to remember that easy has its own pitfalls.

It would be very easy for the festival producers to simply repeat themselves—call up the same list of actors, directors and playwrights who previously participated and be done with it. That would be easy. But sometimes the easy route means we aren’t seeking out new talent and voices.

Happily, this scenario isn’t what’s happening with the San Francisco One Minute Play Festival (SF OMPF).  Check it out:
  • the upcoming festival is the biggest SF OMPF ever
  • it’s the most diverse festival yet with more women and people of color participating
  • and while many of the artists are returning, there are plenty of new voices and talent added to the mix
  • all the artists—playwrights, directors and actors—are local!

Learning that the festival producers have been intentional about who was invited to participate will resonate with many here in the Bay Area. You see, there’s been a lot of conversation locally about the realities of representation on our stages.

While lots of conversation includes anecdotal information about disparities, I’m happy to share that one Bay Area actor has begun collecting data to map out gender disparity.  About a year an a half ago actor Valerie Weak began the Counting Actors project http://sfbayareaactor.blogspot.com/2012/12/counting-actors-november-2012.html which looks at Bay Area productions to count actors (tallying how many roles there are for women, men and how many of those roles went to union or non-union actors), directors and playwrights to map the gender breakdown.  With the help of volunteers the Counting Actors project has now exceeded 200 shows.

What has Valerie’s data mapping uncovered? Well, after she assessed information from the first 100 shows she found the greatest gender imbalance to be among playwrights: 84 male playwrights to 30 female.*

Then there’s the Yes, I Said Feminist Theatre Salon http://theatrebayarea.org/editorial/Chatterbox/Yeah-I-Said-Feminist.cfm which started this past summer. These monthly salons have been tackling several issues of gender parity within theatre. In January they’re holding a launch gala introducing themselves as an advocacy group for women in theatre.

And most recently Theatre Bay Area http://theatrebayarea.org/ held a symposium bringing together artists to grapple with how the local theatre ecosystem can better reflect the vast diversity found here in the Bay Area.

I find all these conversations really exciting. So often the discussion theatres are having focuses on who’s sitting in their seats (bringing in new audiences), so it’s great to see theatre artists expanding that dialogue by examining who (and whose stories) we see on our stages.

So thank you, SF OMPF for leading by example. Thank you for being intentional and thoughtful about having a diverse mix of artists participating in this year’s festival. Thank you for not taking an easier route, for using each year you return as an opportunity to push yourself and artists here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And know you have plenty of allies who are just as interested in breaking new ground, in pushing our field be equally intentional and thoughtful about the artists they work with and the communities they reflect.

See you at the SF OMPF! See you in the seats, and on the stage.

*yes that adds up to more than 100, some shows had more than one writer.

The 3rd Annual San Francisco One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with Playwrights Foundation will take place on Sat Dec 15th at 8PM and Sun Dec 16th at 3PM and 8PM at the Thick House. The Sun 3PM performance will livesteam on Howlround.com‘s New Play TV here.

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