Eleanor Massie, 25 January 2014

present; Anna Cottis, Eleanor Massie

Thinking creatively about situations we want to change, i.e. under-representation of

women in theatre. Idea from Howard Becker, which is viewing society as a machine

which produces a particular outcome, like there being one woman in a cast of ten.

instead of asking WHY this is, ask HOW is the machine constructed to make this

happen; what needs to have happened to produce the result, i.e. agents only sending

cv's of men for roles that could be played by women, playwrights putting male names

on roles that could be gender neutral. This way of thinking can then suggest solutions.

WHY can make people feel guilty, which wastes energy that could go into action.

HOW is easier to fight than WHY.

Metaphor is a human way of understanding the world, because there is too much

information to process everything new that happens so we use metaphors to group

experiences into something we can grasp. Narrative is a big metaphor, a map of the

world, the way we see the world as working. When we create narratives in theatre we

are proposing maps of the world. These narratives can be useful, but can also hold us

back. The narratives we propose can be liberating and illuminating, but they can also

help outmoded attitudes perpetuate.

Certain narratives are aimed towards one segment of society, we can think of this as

segment theatre. This perfectly legitimate: there is nothing wrong with producing a

segment theatre show of Buddy Holly classics to be toured around old peoples homes.

The problem comes when people are not honest about or aware of the choice they

have made in only representing the interests of one segment of society. By being

clearer about this we can be more alert to areas of society which are not represented

in theatre, as well as knowing how to make a popular theatre that can aim at

representing universal interests.

Why should we bother with this? Because one possible function of theatre within a

democratic society is for society or a group within society to have a conversation with

itself through narrative; to bring out conflicts and work out possibilities for resolving

these conflicts. Segment theatre can address a specific group; popular theatre can try

to address everybody.


popular theatre, equality, gender, representation