This year marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. To celebrate, female theatre practitioners from around the country will be coming together at the Isaac Theatre Royal this September for a Female Playwrights’ Forum as part of New Zealand Month.
On the 23rd September a series of female theatre practitioners will be discussing the reality of creating theatrical works in two discussion sessions from 10am to 12:30pm. Up first is a discussion on how works are staged led by writer and actress Pip Hall (known for her plays Ache and Red Fish, Blue Fish); director and actress Nancy Brunning (directing Astroman at The Court later this year) and director Melanie Luckman (known for In the Next Room, or the vibrator play). This will be followed by a conversation around content for mainstages led by Auckland Theatre Company Literary Manager Philippa Campbell; writer, director and actress Alison Quigan (who wrote The Court’s current mainstage production, Mum’s Choir) and writer and actress Lorae Parry (known for her plays Eugenia and Scarlet & Gold).
Speaking about why this event is valuable and necessary, The Court Theatre’s Literary Manager Roanna Dalziel says, “The Court, in collaboration with the Isaac Theatre Royal, want to support NZ Female Playwrights. These sessions aren’t about being prescriptive but are a discussion between participants about how works are staged, writing content for the mainstage and what might draw in larger audiences.”
The forum is catered towards professional theatre practitioners who identify as female and have had at least one play professionally produced.
Auckland Theatre Company Literary Manager Philippa Campbell is flying down to participate in the forum. She’s excited to be in the room with fellow practitioners from around the country, talking about the issues that face them as women in the theatre industry.
“I’m really looking forward to listening to everyone. It’s not often we get together to range through ideas and politics in this way.”
Talking about how she decides if work will be suitable for a mainstage, Campbell says, “I try to feel my way inside a play and then think about where our different audiences, the city and New Zealand more generally might be in relation to what’s at its core and how that’s expressed and whether we have the creative capacity to bring it to life really well.”
It’s these kinds of discussions that the women involved will be facilitating.
The participants are coming together to support each other’s efforts to further the growth of female, New Zealand theatre.
“This forum is about providing opportunities and pathways that lead to the mainstage,” says Dalziel. “I’ve been to a local hui where women practitioners felt they aren’t treated equally. I want all theatre practitioners to be empowered, including women, to self-actualise and to feel free to express their originality and world-views. Playwriting is hard work, so I want to increase a sense of being part of a supported network.”
For director and participant Nancy Brunning, the path forward for supporting women in theatre is clear.
“Companies should provide more platforms and strategies to include women in programming.”
Campbell agrees, saying that things will improve with “money, time, space, resources, inspiration, strong and sensitive collaborators, eager audiences, critics who take their roles responsibly, managements and investors who understand the profit of risk and why gender equality is a no-brainer…”
At its core, the forum is a way for professional women in New Zealand theatre to get together.
“We’re celebrating the women in the room who have got past the blank stage page – which is no mean feat!” says Dalziel.
The Female Playwrights’ Forum will be held on the 23rd September at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Attendance is free, but participants must be eligible. There is a domestic travel subsidy available for those playwrights outside of Christchurch. For more information and to apply, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*There are now limited spaces available for female theatre practitioners or playwriting students (no travel subsidy available). To apply, please email email@example.com.