How can we support and amplify non-binary theatre artists?

From Sharon Willems, Artistic Director of Barons Court Theatre:

Why is it that venues seem to treat gender queer artists as an exception, or an after thought rather than as a standard?

The work I make is intentionally friendly, collaborative, and inclusive as this is the kind of theatre I believe builds communities, which is really important to me. When I became AD of Barons Court Theatre in late 2021, I dreamt of creating a space that espoused these ideals throughout its work and principles. I’ve been conscientiously programming early career artists, neurodivergent artists, migrant artists, working class artists, LGBTQIA+ artists - whoever needs a space where they can tell their stories, sometimes for the first time. The only way to make the arts more accessible is to be that platform that says ‘yes’ as often as it can, not just when it’s financially safest or with a well established artist who already speaks to the masses. 

We’ve been doing ok in some areas, better in others, but as I looked over the numbers detailing who we programmed in 2022, it became clear that there are some gaps that need addressing. While we have gender parity onstage as it relates to male and female playwrights and directors, we don’t really know how to contextualise artists who live outside of the binary. This seems to be an industry-wide issue.

I’ve never understood why non-binary artists get tied together with female theatre makers when we talk about representation. They’re never lumped in with male theatre makers, are they? Why is maleness the default gender? And how are we feeding into exclusion by not allowing a minimum of a tertiary system to evolve? Isn’t that the point, it’s not just malesnesss and female+, but infinite?

I’m calling a Devoted and Disgruntled Satellite to ask: How can we move beyond the binary so that our programming, policies, and venues treat genderqueer artists as the standard and not an exception?

What can we be doing to support and amplify non-binary theatre artists? How can we reframe the theatre industry beyond the binary? What does non-binary theatre landscape look like?

I’d like to invite all who are keen to discuss these questions and more to meet up together as a community so the conversation can go wherever it needs. I invite you to be part of the conversation.

Because being the steward of a theatre is a huge privilege and one I don’t take lightly, I’d like to leave these questions as an offer that I, a cishet woman, don’t answer. I will say that I’d like you to know that you’re welcome, exactly as you are, at the Barons Court Theatre. If you have a story that needs telling, I want to help you do it. Selfishly, I’m hoping this conversation can be where that starts, but ultimately, this is more about what we can do for you than what we get out of it.

I’ll be holding a space for you on 23 June from 12:00pm - 4:00pm at the Bhavan Centre around the corner from Barons Court Theatre. 

It’s an accessible space. Please email [email protected] with any accessibility requirements.

This Devoted and Disgruntled conversation will be facilitated by Improbable, a theatre company who specialise in using a process called Open Space Technology (OST). OST is a simple way for groups of people to think, work and take action together around a shared concern. There is no set agenda and you decide what to discuss. You are free to move between conversations in a single session depending on what interests you.

Sign up here:

This event is part of the Mayors Community Weekend and has been made possible by the National Lottery Community Fund.


Booking for this event has now closed.