Saturday, December 19, 2015

Waking the men.

The few blogs I have posted have been written quickly, at least as quick as someone who types 3 words a minute can write "quickly". They have been full of typos and well dodgy grammar. They have meandered and must have given my writer friends ( or anyone with an adequate education ) heartburn , at the least. 
But I've struggled to write about this pressing issue regarding Waking The Feminists.
Why have the men in Irish Theatre remained publicly silent ( for the most part)? 
Why have men ( for the most part)  not joined in calling for their female colleagues to be afforded the same chances and work conditions  as they do ?
If you agree with WTF, have you told them that? Have you told your female work colleagues that you support them? Have you? 
If you haven't , why not?
 Does the word Feminists confuse or annoy you?
Do you disagree with them?  Why? Have you discussed with your female colleagues why? 
Or are you afraid to raise your head in their defense ?  
Are you keeping your head down and looking after yourself? You may have a mortgage and a family, I get it. Maybe you think its not your fight. I think you're wrong on a basic level. Theatre needs an injection of  creative energy. Imagine the energy if the Abbey announced 50% female playwrights for the next 5 years. Imagine the great parts written for a handsome talented man like yourself?    
Are you hoping it will go away and you can get back on with how things were/are ? I don't thing that will work. Actually I'm sure it won't. Sorry.
Have you pulled a female colleague aside and perhaps said you are uncomfortable? That you're unsure how to work with women  now? Have you gotten annoyed that you feel uncomfortable? Have you spoken to other men about being uncomfortable with these feminists ? Have they thrown their eyes to heaven and shook their heads and laughed ? Have you been in a group of men that wished WTF went away? Did that make you feel good? 
Or have you talked with other men and said you support WTF? Have you told them why? 
Have you realized you have lived in a privileged work environment skewed in your way? In a society that is skewed your way. Just because of your genitals. 
This may get uncomfortable for a while. Particularly if you are a man who disagrees with what WTF are asking for. Equality. Simple. 
And particularly if you are a man who have bullied or sexually harassed women in the work place, and since Ireland has  bars for after show drinks in the Theatres , if you have bullied or sexually harassed women there too. I hope this gets uncomfortable for you. At the least.
And I encourage all the women who participated in the Abbey  WTFem  gathering to ask your male colleagues over Christmas ; Do you support WTF? And if they say no ask them why. And more importantly if they say yes, ask them why. And ask them to talk with their friends. Tell them to. 
Because we men have to tell our male colleagues this all stops now. That we want equality. 
So my male colleagues, can we not go all Irish on this and remain silent because of discomfort ( my poor wife has to deal with me expecting her to be a mindreader when I'm angry at her.  Yes it's embarrassing, I know ) 
Speak up men! Show your support for your friends. Because if you don't it will be noticed. 
And women of  WTF if you notice your partner is silent on the issue, may I suggest that you reread Lysistrata to help deal with the issue ( maybe the Abbey could produce it ! There's a thought.)
Lets get talking. Together we can make change simply.
Or else we should really make people uncomfortable.

My last blog about bullying and sexual harassment provoked a large response. I have been contacted by many people. Not just from Ireland. Although this is not a uniquely Irish problem, because the number of work opportunities is much smaller, the impact is felt much stronger. 
I am still gathering information and have had initial contact with some companies and agencies about best way to go forward. I will write something when I get a fuller picture. 
Suffice to say, it's shocking. Shocking. 
The bullying and harassment ( not just the domain of men btw), while jaw dropping , is matched by the total fear to speak out (AGAIN DO NOT SPEAK OUT AGAINST AN INDIVIDUAL OR COMPANY WITHOUT LEGAL REPRESENTATION ) 
It was also pointed out to me, that people who have suffered will commonly not speak even to friends because of the psychological impact of reopening those memories.
I hope I did not unwittingly trigger anything for  you my colleagues. 

Please share this if you feel inclined. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Bullying, sexual harassment and fear, part of the job. Actress.

I had a shocking call from an actress in Ireland a few days ago.
She told me of recent work in a Theatre in Ireland where her boss verbally abused her in front of co workers. It was the final straw in decades of what she , rightly, called "abuse".
You see she has been changed by Waking The Feminists. And truth be told, so have I. Not because of what they are proponents of, that, I have always believed strongly in. But because of the stories that I'm hearing from women, their reality. Thankfully they have stopped being silent. They must never stop.
I listened to someone I admire greatly, describe her work life. She detailed a  work place frequently filled with sexual innuendo , sexual advances, veiled threats , bullying rants and ultimately what I would consider is "grooming".
This is perpetrated  a "Boss". And she is an actress.
I'm sure this behavior visits other female workers in the Theatre and the Arts, but none are as vulnerable as actresses.
Imagine walking into a new career that demands instant access to your emotions to be displayed. Almost always in a sexual fashion, or distraught , and tears, always tears, usually over a man you will do anything to get back!. It can be mistaken that this is you. You are the part you play. You're young and entering a profession that offers few opportunities. It's a cut throat occupation that demands dedication, endurance, talent and craft.  Its a business that no longer, unfortunately,  has an apprenticeship. After a drama school you are supposed to be ready for a lead . And sometimes people offer to put you at the front of the queue. If you behave. The way they want you to. And then imagine this market you are entering is a tiny one, like Ireland , like Dublin. Where there are only a few "Bosses". Its a recipe for disaster. Unless strong labour rules are in place of course.... to protect workers in a professional employment. I mean those laws must be in place right? And we all know what they are right?
I don't think so.
My friend described how she fended off some "Boss" when she was starting off. Trying to keep his advances at a distance , but not wanting to offend him for fear of not working. Something that happened in many jobs. This can happen in other occupations too, of course, but I'm just concerned with getting our house in shape. Cleaning up our side of the street.
And none of this surprises me. Because I have witnessed it. And for some reason because this is the way things work I accepted that. I also accepted it I think, because I was busy trying to build a career myself. But I never , ever had to endure advances , overtures or bullying. Because I wasn't female. That's part of their workplace. Not us men. We NEVER have to even think about that. NEVER.
Why should a female worker have to navigate that field in a work place?!
I now realize I owe an apology to my female friends for not telling these "Bosses" to stop harassing them.  I didn't like these men , and they were always men, but I never really understood that these women were negotiating with their careers.
To my female coworkers ; I apologize. I will work to make amends for my mistake.

Acting is a job where boundaries are willfully broken all the time. I have met actresses at work for the first time , on the first day, and had to make out with them or had a sex scene, or a had huge emotional scene. It's always , in my experience, a place where people are hugely respectful of each other , putting boundaries in place and making everyone comfortable. Respectful. Remarkably caring. That's usually Film and TV work. Theatre is slightly different  ( in that you don't have a scene first time you meet, there are prolonged rehearsals) . The work isn't as fractured, and so Theatre is a place where trust is built and you play out different scenes and scenarios finding the correct path of emotions. It's fun, infuriating, terrifying, rewarding and ultimately, play!  It can be a  deliciously bawdy environment, it can be emancipating and liberating. But like my kids at school during their play, there are rules and boundaries set up between practitioners. That are almost always adhered to. There are rare transgressions.
It can be confusing as well, of course. You fall for people , your character is in love.... you have the words of great writers to express it . It gets complicated sometimes.
But that's usually with the actors. Not the "Boss". Not the "Boss" who feels like he can do or say anything. Because another actress will be along if you give him trouble.
And the "Boss"  is paid by you ( in subsidized Theatre). The taxpayer. Remember that.
There is a lot I know and can't say. Because of legal reasons. And I'm not interested in calling people out, it would be anecdotal, and potentially damaging for the victims.
I will say, women's careers have been destroyed in Ireland because of the behavior of some people. That couldn't be more vague I hope. But if you are a Theatre practitioner in Ireland you already know who I mean. You have experienced them. The actresses have been destroyed in a real way in that their chance of employment has been taken away from them because they didn't behave ( NOTHING to do with their talent) . And almost more heartbreaking their careers stop because they have become emotionally broken. Because of the behavior of a few people. With power.
I have a challenge for us men. Don't accept this behavior towards our co workers. We would not accept it if men were treated this way. Stop these abusive men.
I have a challenge for my female coworkers. Talk about your experiences. Truthfully.
( IMPORTANT ; get legal advice if using social media. I do not want to call out any individuals, just change our ( Industry) behavior. I do not want to, or wish any female workers to be involved in a legal battle because you have told your truth. DO NOT NAME ANYONE OR INFER ANY ONE SPECIFIC WORKPLACE. This is an industry wide problem. On an aside ... where is Equity ? )
My friend said she felt like an abused woman as she was being quiet and accepting these terrible work conditions as just part of her work. If all my female coworkers step forward and say no more, this will stop. Because the horrid truth is these "Bosses" are terrified cowards. They divide to conquer. They silence and banish to protect their sick behavior. And they are actually afraid of women.
Lets end their reign today.
I call on Waking The Feminist to call each Theatre to furnish them with that companies work  practice rules . Immediately.
The  rules in place to protect workers from the bullying of sexual harassment etc. I presume they are in place. It would be astonishing in this day and age if every company did not already have this in place.
This must be done today, because some workplaces, this very day, are not safe places  for women. Women are going to work in theatre today knowing they will be bullied or sexually harassed.
I call on Equity and the Unions to step forward. Today.
We've all played along.
We've all been groomed.
The first day of a TV job here in the US, we have a meeting on sexual harassment. Everyone. We are given a lecture about what sexual harassment is, what work place bullying is . We sign contracts agreeing to abide by workplace laws. It initially seems like overkill, until you realize its protecting people.Its allowing people go to work and do their best in a safe environment and return home to their family afterwards.
Actresses in Ireland are not protected. Or they are not aware of the rights they have. Because some "Bosses" are getting away with abuse. And have been for a long time.
Let's end it.

 I have written to the contact info given for The Abbey, The Gate and Druid asking to see their sexual harassment and anti bullying policy, or their worker protection policy they currently have. I URGE you to do the same. A simple email enquiry.
The contact adresses are ;
Abbey Theatre main web page  ; . fill in contact form
Gate Theatre   main web page    ;  ( no there email contact info given on website )
Druid Theatre  main webpage  ;  .

Also write to Irish Equity  asking for action  ;    fill in contact form.

Take simple action.

Please pass this on if you agree.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Abbey Theatre Board and Senator Mac Conghail working to become irrelevant

This is a rant of sorts, with little substance because I simply don't understand.
And since I consider myself  an incredibly average person in every way, I presume I'm not alone. What is Senator Mac Conghail and the Abbey Board at ?
Let's look  at where the voices of women playwrights currently stand, a mere 5 weeks after the disaster that is called #WakeTheNation , Senator Mac Conghail's programme for The Abbey Theatre in 2016.
Well, a lot has changed. The most crucial change has happened within the hearts of female Theatre partitioners. It has changed quickly as was warranted. And it is spreading across the Arts.
But lets look at number 2 and 3 on the Theatre funding scale. Theatres that get less than a sixth of the funding of our National Theatre; The Gate and Druid ( remember The Abbey gets 6.2 million euro.)
Well,  as per Waking The Feminists posting on their FB page both companies are engaged. To what extent we don't know yet . Certainly Garry Hynes has been out front in calling into question her own company and supporting WTF. And it will be interesting to see the numbers from Druid, as I suspect they may be horrendous regarding female playwrights , and indeed female directors other than herself. But Ms Hynes seems to have a fire in her belly , and that bodes well for us all. Because Ms Hynes reach is long.The statement from the board is also wonderfully encouraging. They seem eager for action , and critically , engagement with WTF. The West may be awake. I predict a wonderful out come. ( disclosure ; Ms Hynes is a friend, although we have not discussed WTF or any issues in this past 5 weeks. Nor have I worked with her in over 15 yrs, maybe longer. Sadly. )
This means we should all buy tkts for Druid productions! And encourage our friends .... once we see what their actions are.
We are also notified that there is a meeting with Mr Colgan from the Gate. This is also fantastic news, although WTF haven't said anything about the board there and I haven't read any statement from The Gate. But after his disastrous performance on the Finucane radio show, his immediate response to WTF for a meeting is admirable. My fantasy is that the #Gate6 are  wearing WTF badges around the hallowed corridors of The Gate. The Statement reads that WTF is meeting Mr Colgan, I presume he will have some of the #Gate6, perhaps all, with him. He certainly spoke as if they were decision makers in the Theatre, so it would be very odd for him to be meeting WTF on his own. I'm sure that's not what is happening, it's probably just incorrect wording on behalf of WTF. I hope. He wouldn't be that silly.  Surely.
So applause for number 2 and 3 !!  And I apologise to using numbers, it  only signifies position on funding.
 By the way , could they release their numbers of female playwrights over the last 15 years? Female directors? Could they release number of plays commissioned etc ? And later for another date, could we also be told how much a commission is etc ? I read an incredible figure for an Abbey commission, that    must be surely incorrect. ( the process of commissioning must also obviously be opened for viewing so discussion with our National theatre can be held)
And word is also filtering through that the other beneficiaries of tax payer's money, i.e. smaller companies, are also in planning stages of action. I believe they may be waiting, although I would suggest them leading. and gaining the plaudits for being out in front with their actions.
Because thats what it's all about, action.
Which brings us back to the Abbey. And Senator Mac Conghail.
The WTF statement reads that they are waiting to here about a meeting date? Why?
Yes , the Abbey responded quickly ( after the vacation silence)  opening the doors for WTF to meet. Yes, Senator Mac Conghail read a statement from himself and the board. We all thought , Hurrah! He's back from his vacation, that was obviously distraction free, and is rested, ready to engage. But no. Lets think about it. There really wasn't an engagement. He listened (  and I do recall one board member passionately speaking from the floor  ) and then read a prepared statement. A statement made before he listened to the voices from the stage. And now he hasn't made himself available for a meeting? really? Engagement ? I don't think so.
So whats going on? Well obviously I have no idea, I'll just have to speculate. Maybe he is working at his other job. Which I also find bizarre. Do you? The head of our National Theatre is also a Senator. Is the head of our National Theatre not a full time job? The Board must think so , at least now, as they have hired two people to do the job. Two people to do the job one person didn't need to do full time. That also seems very odd.  I presume  the board gave the ok for Senator Mac Conghail to take up his political appointment. Do they think the head of our National Theatre was not a full time job? And if they did think that, what does that say about their engagement in our National Theatre?  And why do they now think two are needed? ( I wish the incoming men the best, they come highly regarded)
Why did the Board approve the 2016 programme ? I presume they approved it. If they  now think it's wrong , have they asked for it to be changed? If they haven't , why not?  Do they support it? And if they do, should they be asked to resign? Why is #WakeTheNation not changed? The largest beneficiary of Arts Council money has offered up a shameful programme, the dogs on the street know that (I'm sure all involved will be wonderful at what is presentedby the way, but the programme is a disaster) but we are supposed to say "ah, it's grand". No its not! And since this disastrous programme by Senator Mac Conghaile is funded by our Govt, why has our Minister not been involved in any way? The Arts Council? Does anyone have oversight on anything?
 Mr O'Toole's article in the IT a number of weeks ago suggests that money was acquired for the Abbey in an unusual manner for the 2016 programme. Is that grand, Minister? Or is 500k no big deal? It is to a female playwright. Or a director, designer, actor, stage manager. An audience member.
So we have a Senator who created the programme, went on vacation and is now, what we Yanks would call, a sitting duck director. What's happening with our two new men I wonder. Are they engaged and with whom ?
Is the Senator readying to become a full time Senator , has he already left the building? Does he not care? is that it? Rather like my RC  confessions of old , has he mumbled his quick penance and gleefully kicked on with his life? Or am I wrong , and has the meeting with WTF not taken place because he is working day and night to announce the changes in #WakeTheNation. Is he in Scotland working with the two men waiting to take over his part time job? I guess we'll see.
And the Board, after making a brief statement to work with the Senator and the two incoming directors , whats happening ? Will we get a "it's very near Christmas" statement. Or a "we'll tackle it in the New Year "? . You were able to jump with the Senator when the heat was on a number of weeks ago. When passions were boiling. When 600 women were demanding simple equality. To quote a man who goes to sleep at night in a onesey ,with teddy bears and has a fondness of rubber ducks , " we haven't gone away you know" ( you have got to follow Gerry Adams on twitter ! ).
I am sure its difficult to organize so many board members , and a busy Senator. But here's the kicker, it's your job ( yes I know the board aren't paid) But being a board member carries a weight, a responsibility.
Being a Senator carries a responsibility. Being Director  of the Abbey carries a responsibility. Being incoming Directors of the Abbey carries a responsibility.  A responsibility first and foremost to the people of Ireland. WHO ARE 51% FEMALE. And to the artists who create for the stage.
And those who do not act immediately to this crisis in the Arts world should be called out. Of course it's not just the Abbey, or Theatre . It may be worse in TV and Film.  I call on the people who were at the Abbey, who supported WTF , indeed WTF themselves to not let up.  I call on them to demand a new programme. It turns out the Nation is Awake. The worry is the #AbbeyStillSleeps
If the Abbey Theatre and the Senator start playing with calendars , or using excuses about changing regimes to delay immediate action, I suggest stronger protests should start.  Much stronger.
Once again I applaud Druid and The Gate . I look forward to their concrete proposals before Christmas.  And Theatre workers and audiences members endorsing them with full theatres. A perfect Christmas gift .
We are all in this together. I hope.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

IrishTheatre ( World Theater) doesn't like pregnancy.

Why do we deny actresses the opportunity to work?
I worked almost exclusively in Theatre for two decades. I won't say it's hard work, certainly not compared to a multitude of other occupations. But it is demanding. You can't call in and take the night off because you have a sick day to use. Or because you're invited to a wedding. Or because it's Christmas Day. No. The show must go on. And if you're cast, you show up. You can't even call to say " I'm running 20 mins late , sorry!".
So theatre actors are often robust creatures of habit. Doing 8 shows 6 days a week eats into your life. It does consume. Particularly with your headspace , as all focus from when you wake ( subconsciously or not) is towards the time of the curtain.
But its different for men and women. Women have to deal with a lot just to get a job. One job . There are less parts written for women. If they are cast, they are often supporting roles. And while it is far less than the requirement in TV and Film ( which is absolute) actresses are demanded to be sexy. Sexy while sad, sexy while mad , sexy while happy and super sexy while being sexy. And über sexy while being cast. OK, it's not as prevalent as that with casting .... Perhaps... But there is a pressure we male actors never have to think about. Actresses dress as the part for auditions. They are very prepared. Actors grab a good coffee on the way. And try to remember a good anecdote for the room. ( ok maybe that's just me)
So our actress gets a job. Maybe gets a few. She's the hot young thing ( men are never a "thing" btw ) .
She's in her twenties and the world is exciting and fresh. The hard work is paying off. She has a couple of months rent in the bank.
She may be in a relationship. Having been hit on by actors, directors and crew for years , things seem to be in a really good place. This could be the guy ( or gal) ( disclosure , I'm married to an actress I worked with.... and her costume was a nun's habit.  Go figure.)
So this is usually the start of the end for most actresses. You see the biggest threat to this woman is not the industry that's stacked against her because of availability of parts. No. The biggest threat is inside her body. The threat of having a child. The threat of becoming pregnant.
OK , it's not an occupation where you can work right up till labor , it would be difficult to hide a pregnancy on stage ( although it has often been done) while playing a young virgin falling in love for the first time, perhaps ! Rather like an athlete , pregnancy impacts work.
And this is where we in theatre, we supposedly caring empathetic artists , destroy actresses. You see by this time there's a younger sexy "thing" on the scene. While the new mom is exhausted at home with no paid leave, No longer willing to jump through hoops because perspective has arrived. We move on. New mom can't afford child care. And can't be bothered to organize an entire day to read a " mom role" ( to teenagers) on two days notice. Because damn it she's breast feeding and hasn't worked the pumping out yet.
And we move on.
And then the baby is starting to feckin teeth and she hasn't been getting any sleep, and she feels like shit and not wanted and the last thing she wants to do is put up make up and a dress that used to fit a little differently and basically say " want me " to a director . Because deep down , or not even that deep , she doesn't feel anyone could want her. Other than this damn kid that she loves , but is sucking her career away each day. And she can't even go out the way she used to with the gang for a break , because she's still not drinking, because the breast feeding is going on longer than she had planned. Everything is going on longer than planned. The hours in the house alone , the walks in the rain with the stroller covered up, the time between phone calls from her agent.
And then a year has gone. And we've moved on. And maybe she should think about a second kid . Well, because.
And we assume she has given up.
A high percentage of the women I've worked with who have sustained careers in theatre do not have children. I have no idea of numbers , it is just anecdotal, but to me it's true. I have know actresses who didn't want kids and could sustain a career . I have known actresses who have wanted kids but didn't have any because they were getting work. And didn't want to loose a career. And then found themselves at a precarious age to have their own child. And I have known and witnessed actresses whom I've admired , disappear.
My wife disappeared for 7 years,( but that's her story to tell ) .
So here's a suggestion for the Abbey. Or the Gate , or Druid. But mainly the Abbey.
Last years budget for the Abbey was something like 6.2 million ( I think I heard that number, I may be mad wrong) This suggestion does not cost much. Just announce next week that you will provide childcare during rehearsals and shows for any actress or director or playwright who works on a production. ( I'm presuming staff get leave) . What a great piece of PR that would be! What a caring gesture. What an incredible impact that could have on women's lives. Immediate impact. A simple gesture.
We loose too many voices because of childcare. I have been around actresses who have managed to do theatre while in the early stages of motherhood. And a more civilized work environment won't be found. Babies and moms at a work place make us all better. We all know that.
It's easier to be a mom acting in tv and film ( still hard) but I've been on sets where we work around feedings etc. And it makes us all better humans .
Lead Abbey Theatre. Lead .
It's a simple thing. Would you deny it to your wife? Daughter ? ( I'm addressing all who make the decision s there )
And why hasn't the 2016 program been changed yet? Were voices not actually listened to? Does stronger protest need to be planned ?
Because I know I'm holding back. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Great Craic with Micheal and Marian.

The brilliant producer Micheal Colgan fired me once.
And he was right to. It had a knock on effect that was to shape my life as an actor in a very positive way. But at the time it was a miserable experience. I had let my colleagues down, I had let myself down. (He did recently make an overture to have me back at the Gate, which unfortunately , I couldn't take up). It is not something I am proud of. I wish I had immediately learned something from that experience. I never got fired again, but the source of my problem, or rather the manifestation of my problem, alcohol consumption , was something I didn't  deal with for years to come. Needless to say I hurt a great many people during that time.
I'm sure Micheal Colgan hurt a great many people with his interview on the Marian Finucane  show. (btw I'm not suggesting he was drunk!) Lets face it, if you are a producer on that show and you want to have a person come and explain what Waking The Feminist is ....... Micheal Colgan may not have been top of my list. Unless it was an opportunity to finally hear about his record and what he had to say about it. But that didn't happen did it.
Instead I listened to one of the most brazen tone deaf interviews in a while.
You see, unlike Fiach , who will undoubtedly bounce back , be stronger and loved , Mr Colgan sounded like some General who has no idea a revolution is taking place. Comical Micheal , if you like. The group started the discussion about WTFem with laughter. It was revealing in that it genuinely felt like they were all talking about something for the first time together. In a back room. And that it didn't matter much. Which was alarming when paired  with interviews with Fiach and Garry Hynes , both of whom it seems this will be a defining moment in their professional and personal lives.
Not so with Mr Colgan. He was dismissive from the beginning, with valid reason. He couldn't get a seat for the Abbey event. No seat was kept for him. He even called only 25 minutes after the seats were released and couldn't get a seat. Somehow this showed how silly WTFem was.  He couldn't think of the word "viral" , one must presume because he is immune to whatever virus WTFem is spreading. He talked about Fiach's  "house" and had a dig about  budgeting. He gave us a lovely image of himself ( away from those horrible computer thingys) not only a voracious reader of novels, but of female novelists. That's how comfortable he is with women. He did feel that the whole thing had blown up rather too much but conceded that everything had in fact changed . And yes, eventually he said there was a disparity. But you got the feeling listening that everything was grand. Although as the discussion progressed I got the feeling Comical Micheal started to hear distant rumblings of tanks progressing up Abbey St and making a difficult right on O'Connell St.
Nobody asked Mr Colgan anything. They just let him talk. And give his opinions. Shine the brass on his shoulders.
I really didn't know what he was doing . Until he played his trump card. Or cards. Turns out Mr Colgan had 6 queens in his back pocket all the time. He placed them gently on the table before us. He has six women working for him he told us. Six women and himself making the decisions for the Gate Theatre.
Why has the Gate not been held up as an example of  how to do things correctly ! Talk about righting the wrongs of the past. Six women. And Mr Colgan.
This information threw up so many questions for me I momentarily stopped worrying for any women related to Kevin Meyers. If every women in Irish Theatre was clamoring to get to the Abbey to voice their , well, voice , were these six women there also? . Do they diagree ? Why have we not heard from them? The Gate 6 . Showing how they run a Theatre ( with Mr Colgan) the right way. Not like the Abbey.
I would love to hear from them. Or hear them talking with Mr Colgan.
Something doesn't add up.
And doesn't the fact that there are no men seem a little odd. Maybe I'm old-fashioned and not the progressive that the Gate courts, but I don't know. That just seems odd.
Equally odd is the fact that I haven't heard much from the WTFem about his interview. Maybe thats not what they're about . I haven't seen much reaction online . Maybe Mr Colgan is right and its all over. Maybe I've read it all wrong.
Mr Colgan has presided over many storms. I will forever be jealous of him. Having had relationships with Beckett, Pinter , Friel in the manner in which he had, would fill any producers resume with such quality that everything must seem mundane.
Even women making noise in the Abbey.
Maybe those gallant women driving those revolutionary tanks from the Abbey have actually made a left. Maybe they are not interested in The Gate. Its full of their own, surely.
But if they are , and if they listened they way I listened, we'll be hearing more of Comical Micheal soon. At least I hope we do.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Wake at the Abbey. Boycott the Gate?

It looked amazing at the Abbey yesterday, and yet , like plays that are recorded ..... you need to be there  to get the full effect. Thank you to the people who organized it and periscoped it.

I was thinking of the word Wake. Yesterday was billed under the magnificent banner of Wake The Feminists. But while I watched I thought of it in the terms of an irish wake. It was the celebration of someone (thing) who had lived a long life, too long really, and now it is time to bury him. So we had a lot of speeches about the corpse yesterday. Some were careful to announce that he had some good qualities , and it was appropriate in his house that he be spoken of with some respect. But we all knew this guy  was an asshole, really. He had treated all of the mourners with contempt for decades. And so when the women were waking him , they were celebrating their own empowerment.
But it is only a wake. The story goes that irish wakes are 2/3 days to make sure the corpse is dead. As happy as I was to witness yesterday. I want to see the funeral. I want to see him lowered into the ground ( or cremated, less fuss, and you can have glee tossing the ashes) . But it is important that he ( the history of exclusion) is buried. Then its time to get rid of his belongings, clear the house , get a fresh coat of paint on his moldy room and invite people over.  He wasn't a nice guy. And it needs to be done fast. Otherwise we are back in the same house and everything looks and feels the same.And remember the will seems to be saying that the deed will be handed over . Of course the will hasn't been read yet. Thats a problem.

I , along with the audience applauded Fiach for his speech yesterday. It was brave to sit there, he applauded everything that was said, although almost everything that was said was damning towards him and the institution. Thankfully there isn't a witch hunt. Because he has humbly admitted he was wrong. Very admirable and brave.
But Fiach needed a director and another speechwriter yesterday.
Fiach don't read a speech whose pertinent line was " I didn't look up" with your head buried in your notes. In fact don't read notes. All you needed was two friggin words. Spoken looking at this incredible gathering. You stand up. You Pause. You take a breath and say  ... "I'm sorry".
the ubiquitous forms of 12 step programs focus on the first step of admitting you have a problem. They then go on to suggest a house cleaning of "character defects" , which you have to look at first of course. But then these programs suggest you make an apology . When said apology is made you  ask the poor unfortunate who had to deal with your horrible behavior , is there anything that one can do to make things better.
Fiach is stuck on step one of admitting he has a problem. I heard nothing of his list of the Abbeys defects clearly spelled out. He did not issue an apology , and then told the victims of his ( Abbey's) behaviors what they would do to fix it. Errrr no. No . Thats not how it should work. Thats ridiculous. Cop on.
You say your sorry . You ask the 600 people in the room what they need to make it better. Don't rant on about boards and shit ! they are sitting around you !!!! "Im sorry, and I'll be in the office for the next month asking you how can I fix it for YOU ".
Made me angry, not at Fiach , because he is a really good person . But we all have to Wake up.
Does the Gate theatre actually exist in Dublin? Does it have some kind of diplomatic immunity ? Is it the embassy of some foreign tyrant? Is it time to boycott it?

Mr Colgan wasn't there yesterday. ( although I believe the Gate  was represented) Mr Colgan has said nothing on this debate. That I have seen, perhaps I'm wrong. Nobody from his staff have said anything that I can see. Their silence speaks volumes. Mr Colgan is the brilliant producer of Beckett and Pinter  but his admiration of silence and a pause regarding WTF is alarming even by their standards.  Mr Colgan , by his silence has reaffirmed the status of his theatre company regarding women. Given the nonexistent female voices in that ivory tower at the end of O'Connell st. , what can one assume other than his total disregard for female voices. Even now, when it is the loudest shout in the history of irish theatre.
 Mark my words , when he does speak he will say he was giving space for the WTF to be heard. It was about the Abbey specifically yada yada.
Unless these two men  ( Abbey / Gate ) announce  immediate  new programming change , the corpse will not have been buried. The wake will continue . And if the wake continues, a boycott of the two main Theatres in Dublin should be called for. No more putting it on the long finger. There's talk of committees already !!!!!!!
 I have no idea what Garry Hynes will do. The first woman ever to win a Tony for directing, and she built  that with the help of her female friend from a sleepy fishing town in the West of Ireland! Two kids still in college . They are extraordinary examples of strong female practitioners. Not just in Ireland but world wide. But even she has  risen her hand to say Druid should be looked at too. And it should be. We all need to look at ourselves.
But particularly us men.
Watching the Estrogen Rising yesterday I had this one funny thought. Imagine if this was men. What type of discourse would be happening if we were the excluded. How quick would we be demanding change to happen?
And lastly ....... would men rally with this passion, enthusiasm and dignity to enter a profession that would surely condemn us to a level of poverty. That to me is the truly beautiful thing about these incredible female voices. Its a fight to be heard, nothing about money. In what seems like decades of men roaring about Celtic Tigers and then Austerity. Woman are stepping forward to just say, "listen". "Stop." "There another way." How beautifully refreshing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

You wanna play ?

 Isn't it strange that when the veil was lifted on the Wake The Nation program from The Abbey , it was actually lifted from our eyes?  It was so simple and clear the absurdity that was being presented. It is absurd ( that's why changing the program must happen). But what has occurred since has been equally odd. In a good way.
                                            I remember a day as a young man in London deciding to shave off my beard. I wasn't working at anything. I knew I would never be an actor so I was living vicariously through my girlfriend who had, remarkably, secured a West End job straight from Drama school. I sat in a basement off Ladbroke Grove and shed the bearded, tweet jacket wearing image, I had been cultivating.  It was shocking to see this fresh faced youth looking back at myself. Lost really. 
Then the radio announced the Berlin Wall was coming down.  What !!! Just like that? No warning, no one  had informed  me it might happen. No one  had suggested I run out and grab a Guardian newspaper and get caught up on what I needed to think. It just happened, or at least I felt like it had just happened. From my perspective. I sat with my baby complexion and watched scores of people drive through this impenetrable divide. It was incredible , and I was shaved for the occasion. It felt like anything was possible in the world.
                                         In a way, ( and I'm aware this may sound absurd too) I feel I'm witnessing something similar in Ireland. This great wall around Theatre has collapsed. It seems almost easy. Although the truth is women have been throwing themselves at it, trying to break it or scale it,  while I wandered around the garden inside. Blissfully smelling the flowers . A decade ago I realized it was a garden I didn't want to be in, but thats another story. This garden is about to be cultivated. And it's not before time. The soil is old. It doesn't produce like it used to. Nobody really seems to know what to grow anymore. Nobody really cares what it produces. Lets be honest. 
                                           But here come the women. Finally. To save us.To help us all grow together.
                                         The crazy timing of it all really helped. Fiach's mad dash to the airport may be the greatest moment in Irish Theater. Seriously. A PR machine was not able to respond to dampen the questions from the first responders. Lian Bell and Belinda McKeon , among others, were not rebuffed thoroughly enough. The ridiculousness of Fiach charging off on holiday after the business was announced highlighted the complete institutional blindness. His hasty tweets do however show the reason why change will happen. They were very human. He shouldn't have replied , he pressed send . There was no pause. He had a flight to catch, probably a passport to locate and all that too too familiar rush we all are engaged in. And then he went silent.
                                           It was beautiful. A space was created to whisper, shout, rail. Moments of personal reflection buoyed by collective support. #WakeTheFeminists rallied. The wall came down because we on the inside were on vacation. We didn't realize the gate used for entry was hopelessly small. As I watch women stream in now, I see amongst them Irish speakers, Travellers, Immigrants, LGBT,Disabled etc. I hope I do.  I see the real world. 
                                         So what is it all about I wonder. As I, thankfully get older , I know it all to be play for me. Life is just play and storytelling. Nothing else, for me.  I find myself pretending to be something that my deep insecurities tell me I'm not. I act at being a good father, a good husband, a good friend. As I do this people respond to me as if I am and I believe it. And become it. I fail miserably at various times daily of course. But I actively participate in the story of who I am. The world is, in fact , a stage. And we are, indeed, all players. But its no fun playing on your own. 
                                          Imagine a playground where we witness boys in control of all the playing structures. Occasionally letting a girl or girls  play with us.  Imagine that. No, really, conjure it. Ok. When I listened to Fintan O'Toole suggest on the Women's podcast ( with the enlightening Ms Donohue and Ms McKeon) , that a women's theatre festival be set up  in response , I guffawed. So his reaction is to create a special corner of the playground for girls to do their own thing. This is a very smart man whom I admire. As is Fiach. And they are just wrong. Not a judgment on the good people they are. They are just wrong. At the moment.  No Biggie. 

                                           Listen , men. My brothers. The jig is up. We don't own the playground. Our job is to listen and encourage the voiceless to speak. That's all. Here's the thing, these girls won't take over the playground and keep us out, like we did with them. They don't want that, from anything I've seen . They just want to play. We all get to play together. Its a joyous thing. We just have to listen. And let someone else lead. We will all change as a result of this. And it will be better. And we will grow together. It will be uncomfortable, and mistakes will be made by us all. But the change has happened. The wall is down. 
                                            Well done to the Abbey for opening it's door to the meeting, and for Fiach to attend. I presume Garry Hynes and Micheal Colgan will be there listening too. And Heather Humphreys ( if she's not too busy searching for the next board member for IMMA) . And Orlaith McBride.  I will be listening with great excitement . Maybe even on  Irish radio that we now learn has 78% male voices ..... well I mean that has to change too , right? Who decided that ?  Thats not right is it? I guess that should be changed while we're here. And what exactly is going on in the Film and TV industry? Who has the numbers ? Its all about numbers you see. Just plain simple numbers. Not hysterical women. 
And while we're here , who the hell says I decide what happens in your body. In YOUR frigging body !   ah here....
                                            Before the meeting starts in the Abbey, some of the leaders of the group hosting the meeting should stand outside the GPO and read a proclamation that women voices will be heard, and then walk down Abbey St.. Turns out the Revolution will start 99 years later.

                                         Thats just a suggestion by the way.   I'm not telling you what to do. I'm really just interested in listening. Its not my time . Its women's time . I know that.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Exciting times at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

November 4th 2015.
Los Angeles.

 I'm a little giddy.
 I was angry. Not for long, I did have Twitter to vent a little. And I talked to some people. And I made little decisions and plans . That made me feel good. I don't like feeling angry. It's usually a lonely place. Even now with our "social" platforms it seems futile letting ones feelings be revealed as there is usually someone with  as strong opposing feelings with much more time and faster typing skills to contend with. You know those anonymous cowards.
 But this time I see something happening. Out of anger mostly, initially at least. Heads are popping around corners, curtains are being pulled back. The unmistakable sound of shackles being dropped. Something is afoot. Someone has said the Emperor has no clothes. The murmor has started. A shout is heard. Soon , very soon, this will become a roar.
 I'm a little giddy.
 The most moving political moment in my life so far was the legalization of same sex marriage in Ireland. The journey ( in the end) to get there seemed lightening fast. It was joyous and exuberant, hopeful and free of cynicism. Of course it was overwhelmingly embraced. But where did the spark come from that set the tinder alight and burned so bright, it was seen around the world?
The Abbey stage!
A friggin Theatre! But listen ... it wasn't even part of the play that night. It was a speech afterwards. A call to converse.
It gets better; it was a man, dressed as a woman, being honest about horrible discrimination in his life.   And we all got to see it on "social" media. Millions of us, in Ireland and around the world. Of course the great thing was the Abbey , our National Theatre, got behind it all. No doubt it's proudest moment. It led, almost by accident, and the country followed. It was glorious. It was needed.
And now it's time for the really, really, big change. Once again the Abbey has allowed a space for the spark to be lit. Unknown to itself it seems. But the burn has started. We must collectively fan this flame and once again show it to the world.
Women in Theatre are not second class citizens.
Women in Ireland are not second class citizens.
Women in the world are not second class citizens.
My mother and my sister have not been given the same chances as my father or me. Thats a fact. A fact I disagreed with, and was cognizant of , but did not do enough to rectify. When organizing any arts events I strove to have parity in gender, I thought I was on the front foot with this "issue".
I was wrong.
I'll share my moment of enlightenment. I have a depressing addiction to following the exploits of Celtic FC. I try to watch games, on my computer at ungodly hours. For a middle aged man, I have a worrying amount of Celtic Jerseys taking up closet space. My two young daughters (7and 5) are aware of my affliction. I don't watch sports on TV though. That's their domain at weekends, and family movie night. But, when the last world cup came around, I decided to liberate said flatscreen to a few games.
Then it happened. At the beginning of some first round game, Molly turned to me and said "why do you only watch men playing sport ?"
I looked at my daughter , I didn't know what to say. Because she looked disappointed . Disappointed that her Da (that tells her she can do anything , is equal in every way to every other human being) doesn't care about girls sports. I was jolted. How could I be so blind.
The only tv show I watch regularly is "Later with Jools Holland". When I discovered it on a cable channel here, I thought , I must get the girls to have a look at this. Some amazing musicians, an eclectic mix, be good for them to witness.
The girls took to the couch. We watched, and then they immediately  started doing it. The thing they always do  now. They count the girls in the band. First thing each new group comes on. The girls start ....'One, Two .....". they decide who they'll be. Then they rock out. Or not.

My girls look to see if they are reflected. In everything. My other sporting passion is the NY Mets (who played in the World Series last week). I haven't had to watch them for a decade because they've been so bad, but watching recently, Molly became distressed that she could never become a baseball player. She could never become a member of the Team I was leaping and screaming passionately about.
I remember when I fell into Drama School in Dublin, I started to go see some theatre. I had made it to 18 having seen just one professional Play ( at the Abbey) and only a few movies in the cinema . I never really thought I was going to become an actor. I mean a real one. Gracing the Abbey. How could I ? I was from Cavan. It seemed only Dublin people were on the stage. It was the 80's , culchies were culchies. And then one night I watched Brendan Gleeson stick his hand out from a toilet door (on stage , the Olympia or maybe Gaiety ) and introduce himself in a broad Cavan accent . His name was Valentine. The play may have been called House, it was great etc .... but all I still really remember was there was a Cavan character. And I still remember the feeling the quiet voice inside me that said , I could do that. I'm from Cavan.
What must it feel to be a female playwright in Ireland? When our National theatre says you're not important. We don't need to hear you. And it does so with the best intentions at heart. It does so unbeknownst to itself. It does so being run by enlightened people.
It is a profoundly difficult, lonely job being a writer. A playwright perhaps even more so, because your chances of seeing a production of your work is tiny. And it's a life of poverty for many. How about that? Why would one want to do it? Well of course there's an awful lot of reasons why! Which I'll not get into, as it would demand a discussion on Theatre (which I believe is broken almost beyond repair yada yada ).
But if one did want to become a playwright, and you spent your time being poor and you have your manuscript . You finally look up , and you have a play that is extraordinary, about , say ,The Easter Rising ... And if you are a female Playwright,  you have a voice , and you have a story .... who do you give it to? To celebrate it. To celebrate your voice? Well obviously not the Abbey Theatre.
The same Abbey Theatre that wrote to the son of Irish immigrants in London 20 years ago  to give him advice to stop writing ( literally stop) when he submitted a play called the Beauty Queen of Leenane to it. Because he thought maybe his voice would be welcomed there. But it wasn't. Now it wasn't welcomed at any other theatre either btw.
 This year female Playwrights weren't programmed into next season at The Manhattan Theater Club in NYC. There was , thankfully, uproar. So this is not a peculiarly Irish phenomenon.
But maybe we also have a history of crushing female voices across our ( Irish )society. Maybe this can  be about playwrights and more.
Maybe the Abbey can, within a year,  cause another storm. I encourage them. It should happen. It will happen.
I assume an apology is being typed up to be issued to female playwrights. I assume corrections will be made. I assume this is a moment to be seized by them (Abbey), and embraced . Embraced fully , spectacularly. Other wise it should cease to exist.
And the rest of Irish Theatre should pause, and reflect. It is long past time for change all across Irish Theatre. Its long past time for change in Irish society.
Finally something that would honor a rebellion for independence in 1916 ; a rising of women in 2016 ! Given voice through theatre and the arts. Now that's exciting. Throw the doors open. Let everyone see and hear what Irish women have to say. I want it. I need it.
This is an exciting time.
I'm a little giddy.