Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Abbey and Pie.

Imagine you and I are sitting in a room.
Imagine someone walks in and leaves a pie for us to share ( I would pick Apple, but this is your imagination).
Imagine you are a Woman and I'm a Man ( I am a man, so we don't have to imagine that part).
For the hell of it, let's call this pie "Abbey Season". Well known as the pie with the most expensive ingredients in Ireland.
Lets imagine for years, actually , lets imagine forever, I have eaten most of the pie. I have.
It's been good. Tasty.
But this year, we get our very special 1916/2016 pie.
Then imagine I point to the corner and tell you to bring over the table so we can put the pie on it. When you come back the pie is gone. Save for a few crumbs nestled in my Manly beard.
Then you throw a hissy fit. You Woman you. And you shout out the window to some your wimmin friends and they feckin' start shouting, along with a couple of blokes with nothing better to do. Causing all sorts of mayhem.
And all I had  done was eat the pie same as always. Well maybe a bit more than usual, but you never seemed that bothered that I had eaten more than you before.
How was I to know?
OK. I get it. I ate all the pie.
There's another pie coming tomorrow.
It's smaller that the pie today, only a third of the size, but I promise I'll get the best ingredients.
I shouldn't have eaten all the pie. I'm sorry Woman. And your wimmin friends. And those couple of sad blokes.
I'll organize a committee of chefs to advise making this last smaller pie. The last of the year.

Now imagine the pie  arrives (we're in tomorrow, Oh you know what I mean)
We both look at it.
It really does look good. Well done to the bakers.
This is for you Woman. I'm sorry I ate ALL the pie yesterday that was twice as big as this one. I'm sorry I have eaten most of every pie that has come through the door.
So have this one for yourself.

I'll just take a slice. You can have the rest.
Aren't we grand now.

The Abbey Theater have announced what seems like a wonderful season. I hope they pack every house. It's a strong program for Mr Mac Conghail's last season. I hope to see some of it.

And yet it completely misses the point.

They got no pie.
You held on to a slice.
It was their pie.
You're grinning but there's cherry stuck between your teeth.

Good luck to the new Leadership of The Abbey. A new wind is always exciting.

Speaking of wind, HMS Gate will be captained by someone other than Mr Colgan OBE it seems. I'm sure that will be a teary goodbye.

I like pie. I like making pie. But it's no fun if not shared. Equally. So we can all talk about how good it is. And rub our tummies . And smile.

OK. You can stop imagining now.

Here is the season. Buy some tickets

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No, it's not about money Mr Colgan.

I got to watch the videos from the Waking The Feminists gathering on International Women's Day on YouTube.
Stay with me if you can.
I grew up in a pasta free environment. Not just my family, but I imagine most of Cavan too. It was the 1970's after all. By that I mean, pasta hadn't arrived. Or rice for that matter. Potatoes, meat and veg was a dinner. Bit of gravy at the weekend. All cooked by the women, of course. My mother cooked every meal. She was/is a great cook, but had to cook within strict parameters as my father was/is fundamental in his approach to food.
Get it in, quick. And get out the door fast.
The only positive remarks he made about food was about the fish or game he had caught , or the potatoes and veg he had grown. And he was right, they were good. New potatoes with butter and fresh Pollock or Mackerel caught a hour earlier, ( we spent our summers in Donegal),still must be the greatest taste ever.
I don't remember ever being asked what I would like to eat. Ever.  If you are of a certain age I imagine neither do you. We didn't eat in restaurants, there weren't really any around. I don't remember a cookery show on the tv. Or anyone having a cookbook,  certainly not one with pictures. Women just cooked, they knew how to. And the odd Batchelor, of course.
Both my parents grew up on farms. Many of my relations growing up were farmers, of the small variety. Food was an energy source for a full day of physical activity.
But then the women of Ireland heard of Pasta. Started making the odd dish. (Dublin women already knew of it I think, at least I seem to remember my Dublin Aunt talk about lasagne and bolognaise ).
There's not a lot of use for a knife with pasta, particularly spaghetti. That's a problem for a man if he's used to getting stuck into a feed. A problem for a man used to meat. The type of man with big hands and a pride in how he can cut through a chop. With elbows raised high.
Put a plate of spaghetti in front of him , with a sauce, and well, its awkward.
And don't be asking him to use a spoon if it's not for soup or custard.
My beginnings with cooking pasta as a student were bizarre. That something so simple could be come so complicated. A common thread in my life.  I distinctly remember my first attempt to cook my friends pasta. Having cooked a vast amount of spaghetti in a small pot with insufficient water, I remember us all standing looking at the ceiling to see if the pasta stuck to it. This was how to tell if it was cooked I informed them. It didn't work out too well. I think one piece stayed up there for months.
But I learned from my mistakes, persisted , and became enriched as a result of being inquisitive about  something that did not fit straight away.
Watching my father encounter spaghetti is, well, complicated. Its endearing on the one hand, comical on the other. Ultimately a little sad and embarrassing that he can't conquer it.  That he can't enjoy what's set before him. That he can't ultimately change.
That's how I felt watching Michael Colgan deliver his speech on behalf of his theatre, The Gate , on International Women's Day, at a gathering for Waking The Feminists.
Watch him here ;  . Watch it all, but Mr Colgan appears at 24.30. Having watched it several times and wondering what exactly is wrong, I now can only see it as him eating spaghetti for the first time. At the podium. That makes it easier for me to have empathy for him.
It's great that he showed up. I believe him that he is "committed" to gender equality all across his theatre, (he oddly uses the pronoun "we" referring to The Gate on a number of occasions. The Gate has never been a "we" in his tenure, we all know that ). He uses his limited time to give us some history  of his theatre. Which will be illuminating to those who haven't lived in Ireland for the last 30 years. He defends his theatre ( regarding women playwrights) in some way by reminding us of his service to 19th century British female novelists adapted by men. Which wouldn't be a tact I would have taken at this event, but he was applauded at the end. He comes across as genuinely humble. Or as humble as he can be. But the whole thing doesn't feel right. Unless you imagine the plate, the spaghetti , and a hand left clutching a useless knife.
A producer of such a high calibre ( which he undoubtedly has been ) will of course find his groove. Which he did.
 Unsurprisingly it was about money. With his own pay down almost 60,000  euro from a few years ago ( now at 231,000 as per Irish Times ) he has first hand knowledge of the effect of cuts on planning for female playwrights. Mr Colgan states that  monetary incentives need to be in place from the Arts Council for change to take place in planning a season of theatre. More money is needed to make a programming decision. Not a production ........ a programming decision. More money is needed from the Arts council for him to say his theatre will have equality in programming the coming season.
Thats what he said.
Mr Colgan has had beef ( cough)  with the Arts Council before. The oddest dance in the country. The person who receives more money that any other single person from the Arts Council, by a mile,  complaining that his theatre is underfunded ( which it may well be,  but thats another discussion). I don't think I'm being unfair here, Mr Colgan states that they way forward for gender equality is money. Presumably for him, as he is the planner at his theatre.
I will take him at his word then.
If I take that Mr Colgan works a 5 day week, his daily wage , the wage he made on the day he gave this speech was 885.06 Euros. A few Euro short of the top weekly wage for an actor at his Theatre. Although if we take it that his top wage, that I know of, a few years ago was 1,111.11 euro a day ( based on reported 290,00 salary) we must deduce that he would need a greater wage than that to program female playwrights ( since he didn't do it then). How much more money would Mr Colgan need, I wonder, to allow women voices to be heard. An extra 50 Euro a day ? 20? 200? It will be interesting to hear what he thinks the amount would be for a change in his thinking to happen.
Since he doesn't  employ female playwrights yet, I can't compare their wages to his. But since he programmes for a 300 seat theatre, and they only get a percentage of this small theatre's box office, I don't think they could make his daily wage.
No, it's not about money Mr Colgan.
You are the first and only person to have said that money will fix this mess. It wont .
What was surprising watching the video was that there weren't gasps from the audience.
Maybe Mr Colgan can't quite let go of his old ways.
Maybe Mr Colgan just can't eat spaghetti. Which is a real shame. But good to know for the rest of us, it shouldn't be served to him so. It's just too embarrassing for us all.

The two other main Theatres sent people to speak. They did well, but both used  key damning phrases.
Could the Abbey Theatre just stop using the title "sub committee". Call it anything but that. I'm sure said sub committee is working hard, it sounds as if they are, but we all know sub committees don't change anything. They don't. And it's almost April and The Abbey still haven't announced the end of the year program. Any sub committee would advise  all female playwrights directed by all female directors within a couple of minutes of meeting. Anything less would be a joke. A sad sub committee joke.
Druid used the horrible phrase "our record on writers and directors is not so hot" referring to dearth of female writers and no directors ( complicated in one way as Ms Hynes directs all). Yeah, its terrible. "Not so hot" is a terrible summation from a company that leads and thrives in so many areas ( this seasons triumphant gender bending casting being one ) . Why not say it's terrible. We know.
In truth there was a lot of good stuff spoken, although I'd loved to have seen someone walk forward and simply say "we were wrong. We apologise. This coming season we will have gender equality" and then walk away. Actions not words. Keep it simple.
Two voices stayed with me though. Oddly, neither involved with Theatre.
 Una Mulally speaking of violence to and at women was deeply affecting. It forced me to look hard at myself, my behavior as a man. And while I am busy pointing a finger in these blogs, I am aware that when I point a finger , three are pointing back at me. Waking the Feminist is forcing me to reflect and change also. We are all on a journey.  Together. If we want.
Katie Holly just said everything right. Everything. I so look forward to seeing her role in the Film board and what the IFB does with it's new knowledge.
They were the two final speakers on the second youtube clip, watch here
Not one person involved with theatre talked about sexual harassment or bullying other than Lian Bell of #WTF . Which is a shame. How great would it have been to witness a head of a theatre , like Mr Colgan for example (since he was the only of the big three present), to stand in front of this audience on International Women's day and proclaim that no sexual harassment or bullying would be tolerated in his theatre. None.  How great would that be? and what a simple gesture. How about the top three together making that commitment by way of public statement. Because the silence across the board on the issue (other than wtf and Irish Equity) is deafening.

If it takes money to incentivise us to change the way we think about women in our  small progressive community, we are in a much worse place than even I imagined.
Here's hoping the Gate 5 will have something to say when they turn up for work.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Theatre fails mothers. Happy Mothers Day.

Today ( Sunday) is Mothers Day in Ireland. Two days before International Women's day. The day #wakingthefeminists hold their gathering at SIPTU.

Today (Sunday) awards were handed out at the Irish Times Theatre Awards. Congrats to the winners and all who were nominated. I hope everyone had fun. Maybe even inspired. (And yay for Lian and WTF)

I looked at the list of nominees and it got me thinking of choices female actors make. And an observance I have made over the years that perplexed me.
I have written in a previous blog that child care should be provided for women during rehearsals and performances if needed. It would be a tiny expense for a Theatre and a huge financial and psychological boost for female actors. At least I imagine it would, those I  have spoken to about this agree.
 If one parent stays at home ( male/female parents), it's almost always the woman because as we know, even if they had the same job , the man takes home more money. Economics often dictate.
But single moms may be being excluded from Theatre completely because of lack of services.

Are Theatres actually condemning mothers from working? I will list some actors I have worked with , and please understand this is not saying if one chooses to not have a child there is anything wrong with that choice. Or having a child makes one superior in some way.This has nothing to do with reason not to have children, rather what happens to people who do have children. I am interested in a pattern, and does it say something about opportunities in our work environment.
Two of the best experiences I've had working with women were with Cherry Jones and then with Swoosie Kurtz. Neither have children. I have worked with Linda Lavin and Stockard Channing, neither have children. All have long distinguished stage careers. I looked at many others I have worked with who don't have children, and I thought, well that's anecdotal. And of course there's a myriad of reasons not to have children. Nothing to see here, keep on moving. Its just the world we live in. But is Theatre different? Is It worse for mothers?

Here is a list of  women nominated for The Tony Awards this year (2015) , The Olivier Awards (2016) and last nights Irish Times Theatre Awards.
And their status pertaining to having a child as per wikipedia ( so the info may be wrong!)
Again I just wanted to see if there was a bias, and wonder if the bias has to do with Theatre being an unwelcoming place for mothers who want to work.

2015 Tony Nominations
Best Actress;
Helen Mirren ,     No Child.
Carey Mulligan   1 Child
Elizabeth Moss    No Child
Geneva Carr        No Child
Ruth Wilson        No Child

Best Actress Musical;
Kristen Chenoweth  No Child
Leanne Cope            No Child
Beth Malone            No Child
Keli O'Hara              2   Children
Cita  Rivera              No Child

  Featured in a Play;
Annaleigh Ashford     No Child
Patricia Clarkson        No Child
Lydia Leonard            No Child
Sarah Stiles                No Child
Julie White                 No Child

Featured in a Musical;
Victoria Clarke         1 Child
Judy Kuhn                 1 Child
Sydney Lucas ( child performer)
Ruth Ann Miles         No Info
Emily Skeggs           No Child

2016   Olivier Nominees
Best Actress;
Denise Gough        No Child
Gemma Arterton    No Child
Janet McTeer          No Child
Lia Williams           1 Child
Nicole Kidman       4 Children

Imelda Stanunton    1 Child
Laura Pitt-Pulford   No Info
Natalie Dew            No Child
Sophie Thomson     2 Children
Tracie Bennett         No Child

featured in a Play;
Catherine Steadman   No Child
Judie Dench                1 Child
Melody Grove            No Child
Michele Dotrice          1 Child

featured Musical;

Amy Lennox         No Child
Emma Williams    No Child
Lara Pulver           No Child
Preeya Kalidas      No Child

Irish Times Theatre Award 2015

Garry Hynes   No Child
Grace Dyas     No Child

Actress ;
Derbhle Crotty       No Child
Cathy Belton          No Child
Aisling O'Sullivan  No Child
Susan Lynch            1 Child

I apologize if I have revealed personal details  against anyones wishes. I am copying what is already on the internet. Should it happen that someone who reads this wants their name removed please just ask.

I think this random sample does ask questions.
It would be interesting to compare the men who were nominated, however I'm more interested in asking the question is lack of child care stopping women from working. I think it does.
And we should change this don't you think?

Please share or comment if you wish.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Anger and Big Ships.

There was a time when I would get up in the morning with a hangover,  dress,  rush outside to light the first cigarette of the day, then walk to the corner deli to grab a coffee and the New York Times.
I would spend the next hour coming to. Filling with nicotine and caffeine, I would read shit that pissed me off.
A time came when I realized this was not working as a way to start my day. My everyday.
I no longer drink or smoke. I enjoy a couple of coffees in the morning and I'm wary of wallowing in any form of anger, particularly reading news. Its just not good for me. Other people can let stuff slide off them. I can be sensitive to stuff I'm sure other people wouldn't notice. I feel uncomfortable with anger. Really because my reaction to anger is to destroy myself. The feeling is too strong to let out. Better to medicate myself with something.
I found a line of work where access to strong emotions is often rewarded. My work has thrown similar people around me. This can lead to exhilaration at times, other times , despondency.
I tell you this in relation to the Waking The Feminist movement. In relation to Theatre in Ireland, and in turn NYC. And my reaction to it.
To me , when the damning statistics were laid bare of the exclusion of female playwrights and directors on the Irish Stage, the solution was simple. Just change it. Make a decision. Take action. I mean it's a tiny community of good people. And in fact the number of people in charge, you can literally count on one hand. What's the problem there I thought. Easy.
But then mutterings of "seasons planned" , "not that simple", "committees " began to surface.
When I think of institutions being unable to pivot, I think of large ships. We all know they are difficult to turn. It doesn't happen fast. We all accept that.
Imagine my surprise standing on the Bridge of an Aircraft Carrier in San Diego in January,  being informed of a maneuver in the Persian Gulf by said ship. A young man leapt from the ship in the middle of the night, the boat charging along in darkness. The navigator told me with pride that they immediately went into a maneuver that enabled them to turn and find the sailor in 7 minutes. This enormous ship turned in darkness and found this man in the dark ocean. An extraordinary feat.
The Abbey, The Gate and Druid are no aircraft carriers.
A call of woman overboard was shouted in October. All 3 companies seem to have continued sailing in darkness. Let's consider where we are.
The Abbey had a meeting with WTF and said they would announce the end of the years planning in March. Well here we are. If I'm the woman in the water, I'm not feeling too hopeful. And btw , who is programming the Abbey? Is it the Senator ? If the two men required to fill his part time shoes are starting in June, when do they start programming? When do they have creative control? Have they opened back door channels with people already? I presume they have. Have they reached out to WTF? If they haven't, they need to.
The Gate met with WTF, we were told  they had a good meeting. Nothing else has been announced. If I'm the women in the water with that news, honestly, I stop struggling and accept I will die. I'm thinking the HMS Gate might turn around after they've eaten. Might. Unless the Gate 5 have a coup. One can only hope.
Druid have been out front with WTF. The only ship helmed by a female Commander one would expect this. But they have announced their season. I didn't hear WTF complain. Druid's reaction to the "Anger in Octobter " was to plan one play by a female playwright. Congratulations to her, but this is hardly a response that I expected from Druid. Waiting for Godot with a great cast will be a thrill, but sitting in the climate of WTF, it seems to me to be an affront. I'm sure the Druid Debut  series will have many female voices. I can't help but feel this is tokenism. How long has Druid been doing their staged readings of new plays and how many have they produced? It's nonsense. Play readings are not productions. People can't survive, I'm talking literally survive, on play readings. (This is a scourge thats happening all over the world by the way. Literary departments existing for reading series. A small industry to themselves, rarely having an effect. Have we ever heard how many playwrights the Abbey have on commission ? At what cost? )
If I'm in the water, I watch Druid turn around but sail a long way by me. Disappointing.

I've been quiet for a few months watching, because , well I don't want to get angry. And my way is often not the best way of affecting change. I'm reminded of that constantly by my wife and kids. Even the dog knows. My best thoughts on the inaction with the institutions in Irish Theatre is walk in, lock the door and refuse to leave until change happens. I mean I want them to sign a document before I leave. And I want to stare menacingly at them.
But as I said , even my dog knows I'm wrong most of the time. And I rescued him. Feed him. Pick up his shit.

You know when you are angry and then , thankfully in a way, it turns to disbelief ? A true WTF moment.
I had that in December having made contact with the 3 main Theatres about their policies regarding sexual harassment and bullying. ( Again I use the main 3 because of funding, but I know whats found in the 3 will be replicated  throughout Theatre. )
Lets recap; stories of harassment surfaced almost immediately when Waking The Feminists voices started to be raised. The most high profile being the courageous Tony nominated actor Dawn Bradfield. Followed by the indomitable Derbhle Crotty. I wrote a Blog about it. I received many other contacts detailing horrible events. Perpetrated by men and women.
Out of this came an unexpected champion.  Irish  Equity, a much much maligned organization ( rightly fully so I'm afraid) stepped forward. In the person of Anne Russell particularly , they have taken steps to at least address the issue.
They have a much too brief survey that I urge you to take
which is a good start. I have a feeling that Irish Equity also realizes that if they cannot protect their members they may as well close its doors. Unfortunately the mistrust that members have towards the union, it faces an uphill battle to be relevant. The truth is, actors and the union need each other. the main problem may be that its regarded so poorly by SIPTU. Hopefully WTF holding their womens day event at SIPTU will light several fires over there. I will say that my dealings with Irish Equity give equal sense of hope ( the passion of Ms Russell) and despair, emails to the union were unanswered when asking for details regarding the protection of its members. I was told Equity shares a phone number for other unions  of SIPTU .... one being workers in Bookies offices. I leave that one there.
So my interaction with the 3 was interesting. I wrote a simple request asking if each company had protections on their books regarding sexual harassment and bullying. And I phrased it around the public pronouncements made by actors.
The Gate Theatre  has no policy regarding bullying or harassment for those on short term contracts, which are used for actors and other non permanent creative personal. It does have policy for permanent staff.
Read those last two sentences again.
One more time. No really.
They told me they have been reviewing employee related policies for the past year and intend to update both permanent and short term when they finish.
I responded asking when they expected the review to finish and how many permanent staff were employed at the Gate.
 I did not receive and answer. There is nothing on their website showing policies other than financial governance ( that I could find )
I contacted The Abbey. They have a well documented policy. Crucially defining what bullying and harassment looks like. I will post it at the end of this blog so you can see. I don't know of this document is handed out to all who work there, or if it just exists until required.
Druid responded that they were aware of the laws of the land and adhered to them. When I ask for specifics regarding harassment and bullying they didn't reply. I asked again and was told that a workers handbook that is given to all employees would be posted on their website "shortly" .
And indeed it was. I think it was, because while the document does detail how grievances are handled, there is nothing specifically written about sexual harassment or bullying . (I will post it also).
So we have a problem. A big problem. Its clear we don't know what sexual harassment is or what bullying looks like. There is nothing in place to stop the predators that exist.
This requires an overall strategy for the Theatre community. And most importantly I include all Drama schools in this. Drama schools are places where abuse is almost expected and worn with a badge of honor. People often talk of "surviving" drama school.
So who do we turn to? The companies are mostly failing miserably . Appallingly. What about the boards of each company? Well I don't think that will work as its not just a matter of having a document in place, although that is crucial.  And bizarrely I discovered that the boards may not be so independent. Mr Colgan is on the Board of his own Theatre.
Please read that sentence again.
One more time.
How does that work?
Lets move up from the boards then. Surely the Arts Council shouldn't be funding organizations without the basic protection for employees? I will contact the Arts Council this week. I know WTF had a meeting with them. I don't know what that entailed.
Above that is the Minister. Which of course may change. But let's look at Ms Humphries briefly.
She was an insulting snub to Arts community, a political pawn.
A person whose first action was to elect a gas station owner to the board of IMMA for 2 weeks so he could be handed a Senator's job. With a pension. For life. And she defended her choice.
And her other interaction with a Senator, was to give 500k Euro to the Abbey. Not through the Arts council where it should pass. But directly to the Abbey. It wonldn't surprise me if it was in a paper bag.
I didn't read any statements from her regarding WTF. I don't believe WFT met her.
Since WTF are the main catalysts of change I urge them to add harassment and bullying policy to their demands. Start with the Minister and The Arts council demanding that money will not be given to Theatres without policies in place. Get one policy for all institutions. Not individual ones. Have it as a requirement for funding. This should be set up by the council immediately.
But here is a crucial part. It is easy for companies to have a policy on their books. But what happens if someone is being harassed of bullied. Are there people trained to deal with this? Not just a title of company management. But trained. The Arts Council should create and hold training sessions on how to deal with such complaints. Industry wide. And the Arts Council should have a dedicated professional ready to deal with disputes that occur. So people within a company know that if they have a problem that can't be solved internally there is someone independent to speak with.

This problem should be easily corrected. Theatre is a small community in Ireland . We just need to speak up and ask for change. I urge WTF to take up this mantle. I urge you the reader if you work in Theatre to talk about it and ask questions of your own theatre. If you run a theatre I urge you to lead and make public your policies and ask the Minister and Arts council to take immediate action. Make a public statement that you want to see change and robust policies in place.

And I wasn't going to reveal this, but it saddened me so much I wanted to close the curtain that I had peered behind looking into Irish Theatre. When I asked  a friend who I should speak to at the Arts council they responded two days later and said "you're not going to believe this , its happening there as well".
Sexual harassment and bullying does, of course, happen everywhere. But we have a chance to address it now. With the momentum of Waking The Feminists.

Sorry for going on.
A quick congratulations to Mr Colgan, great to  read the report in the Irish Times announcing that his pay topped 240k Euro. Fantastic renumeration for a 300 seat theatre. Well done. Its no wonder he's  held the job for over 30 years. I would too.
I think its time we start looking at money in theatre now,where it really goes . Since its publicly funded and is a non profit sector.
And what the effects ( positive and negative) on continuity of leadership has on Theatre. Given that 3 of the 4 directors of the top funded companies have run them for over 30 years. And the 4th is the Senator at the Abbey who has been there longer than a decade.

And a big well done to Lisa Tierney Keogh (@lisatk)for starting a dialogue in NYC with WTF . I have a wonderful feeling that doors will be kicked down there.

See Documents from Abbey and Druid below.

Please pass this on if you have the inclination. And feel free to comment.