Happy rainy Monday, everyone. We at Tiger Lily have been hard at work planning our first fundraiser. Details on that in a bit. First, I want to share something one of our wonderful local playwrights sent me yesterday. THIS is a speech given by the playwright Theresa Rebeck as the keynote address of the 2010 Laura Pels Awards. She addresses gender inequality in theatre and the roadblocks female playwrights, and artists of all types, experience, as well as the pervasive dismissal of our concerns over their existence. I won’t recap the whole thing here, as her words are far more eloquent than my re-hash of them could ever be. Hop on over and take a look. We’ll wait.
Now, about that fundraiser…. It would be wonderful if I could afford to pay for everything we do for Tiger Lily myself, but sadly I am a working class girl and simply can’t. The goal of our first fundraiser is to pay for our 501(c)3 application and, maybe, take a baby step toward paying for the rights to our inaugural production, optimistically planned for this fall…fingers crossed. But we don’t want something for nothing. No, no, no. We will be producing an evening of short theatre, featuring the work of some of our local playwrights, as well as a one-act performance by the advanced theatre students of a local high school. A few weeks ago, the Tiger Lily board and I got together and sorted through a small handful of really great short plays from our local ladies and painstakingly narrowed down our selections. I have to say that my only real fear regarding our goal of producing local work was that we wouldn’t have enough. I worried that our local writers may not be that into plays, or would only want to focus their attention on full length productions. Thank you all for showing me how ridiculous that was. In the end, we had to read with an eye toward creating a cohesive production. It was hard to put aside some of our submissions that didn’t quite fit with the others, but it had to be done. To all of the wonderful writers that sent us their work, thank you! We can’t say enough about how grateful we are to have had the opportunity to read it, and how excited we are to see more from each of you in the future.
We’ll be posting the flyer for the event, along with details about the selected plays, a little later. In the meantime, here’s a little bit of pertinent information:
- The fundraiser/performance is currently scheduled for the evening of Saturday, April 28th, location TBA.
- We will be holding auditions for this production at Theatre Knoxville Downtown on the evening of Sunday, March 4th. Thanks to TKD for graciously allowing us the use of their space. We will need men and women for these shows.
That’s all from us for now, but we want to hear from you. Are there any particular plays you’d like to see produced? We’re always taking ideas and submissions.
A second blog post! Yay! Of course, at this point I think the only people who’ve read the first post are all tied to TLT in some way, but so what? There is so much going on at this stage, it seems remiss not to chronicle it a bit. The purpose of this blog is not only to get the word out about Tiger Lily Theatre, but also to act as a resource for other intrepid artists attempting to start their own company. It can be a bit overwhelming when you’re getting started, and there really aren’t many resources available to clue you in. There are plenty of books out there about how to run a non-profit organization or charity, but they rarely apply to theatres. Let’s be honest. Artistic non-profits are a niche industry and how-to resources are generally geared toward the broadest audience possible. As a result, we get left in the lurch with nothing to tell us how to handle our specific, arts related issues. We’re hoping to include a series of posts that address some of the hurdles blossoming theatre companies encounter. However, before we get to all the how, let’s start with the why, specifically “why a women’s theatre?”
As a woman in theatre, something you notice very early on is the limited number of opportunities for involvement. I personally became aware of this almost immediately in high school. I remember how we waited in feverish anticipation for the announcement of each seasons’ productions, only to be met with an overwhelming sense of disappointment and frustration. The young women were often faced with a play with one role for every five of them, while the male actors were actually outnumbered by the roles available. In short, we were left to compete furiously with one another and the men were not only guaranteed a role, but we often found our instructor recruiting young men with no previous interest or experience in theatre. There aren’t sufficient words to describe the sense of injustice a teenage girl can generate when she finds herself excluded from a production solely on the basis of her gender. In talking with my fellow artists, I know this was not an occurrence unique to me. We’ve all been there.
This sort of experience can do far more harm in the long term than I think most people recognize. What we’re talking about isn’t just healthy competition, which I am all for. What we’re talking about is fundamentally affecting how a young woman thinks about herself as a person and as an artist. It conditions us to fall ravenously on the roles that are offered to us, regardless of what they are. It teaches us that our opportunities are few and far between, that every single one is crucial, and that we should just be happy with what we’re given. In some cases it could even teach us that we’re not as valuable as the guys, that what we have to say and share with the world clearly isn’t as important. It teaches us to settle. Now, most women move beyond the reach of this sort of influence as they progress, both as adults and artists. But does it really have to be part of our development at all? Do we actually need to feel inferior and underappreciated and alone in order to move forward? Can’t we just skip that part and move right into creating fantastic art and collaborating comfortably with our fellow artists.
I believe we can, and not just by leveling the playing field. Yes, Tiger Lily will provide more performance opportunities for women, but that’s not all. We also seek to foster a greater sense of community among women in the arts and, by extension, the arts community as a whole. We want to provide more opportunities for us all to work with each other, get to know one another, and create a system that provides support for its members. Some day down the road, we also hope to take this message to area schools and maybe, just maybe, we can teach our fledgeling artists that they never have to settle, that there is a world of opportunity and a wonderful community waiting for them. We can help them skip right past that step by giving them, and all our female artists, something amazing and unique to look forward to.
How do we plan to execute this lofty goal, you ask? First, and most obviously, we’re going to produce plays with roles for women. There are tons of quality plays out there with predominantly female casts. No, my dears, we are not talking about The Vagina Monologues, but that brings me to another point. We are a female centric theatre, not a “women’s issues” theatre. This is not to imply in any way that these issues aren’t valid or that we won’t be addressing them, because they are and we will. It simply means we do not wish to limit ourselves. In fact, we will not even be limiting ourselves to plays with all-female casts. Part of the responsibility in providing roles for women lies in providing quality roles for women. What purpose are we serving if we perform a horrible play in which the parts are garish, vapid caricatures of women? We would much rather mount a production of The Doll House and give one woman the opportunity to take on an iconic role, than provide many women with a big bowl of mediocrity. We want both quantity and quality and are determined that yes, indeed, we can have it all!
Also, if you look carefully, or cursorily, at our mission statement, you’ll notice that we aren’t focusing our attention solely on actors, but female theatre artists of all types. This means if we have a director that’s been dying to direct a certain play with a less than gender balanced cast, we will be open to the possibility. Now, don’t look for anything with an all male cast to come from TLT. Sorry, fellas. We love, appreciate, and want to work with you, but that’s just not happening.
Now that we’ve mentioned actors and directors, let’s talk about playwrights. Knoxville has some fantastic female playwrights and we want part of our mission to be getting those women produced. We want to hold a yearly place for the work of these wonderful ladies, whether it is a run of one-act plays, a full length performance, or a series of smaller staged pieces. We are open to submissions of all shapes and sizes, and even those from our regional ladies living outside of Knoxville. That’s right, folks. We are thinking big, but we can’t help it.
Admittedly, this post has kind of taken on a life of its own, but it’s hard to put on the brakes once I get going. However, before I cut myself off I do want to make sure a few points are clear. In no way, shape or form is this post intended to undercut the validity of women’s issues or the theatre companies that take them up as their full time mantle. The work those groups do is equally important to both the arts communities and the world at large. I am also not suggesting that there is some vast conspiracy afoot to suppress young women and their art. This is just a moment in time for this ceaselessly changing art. Theatre used to be all men all the time. The upswing for women began the day that first female actor set foot onstage and it hasn’t stopped. The gender imbalance is shifting, but if we become complacent, if we rest on our laurels even for a moment, we will lose the momentum we’ve been gathering for the last 250 years. We at Tiger Lily Theatre say forget that. Bring on the ride.
We want your feedback, future readers! What would you like to see in a women’s theatre company? What sort of productions and events would you be interested in?