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.