Dissertation | Women Directors: (Re)Staging a Discipline
Anticipated completion date: spring, 2020
The theater has a history of innovation and imitation. Art can push against aesthetic and social boundaries, but it can also mirror the culture that produces it, reifying norms and reinforcing hierarchies. In a theatrical context, this often entails the perpetuation, if not exacerbation, of racial and gender disparities through privileging of the voices and talents of men through the relegation of women to ancillary and administrative roles. The position of director, often considered to wield the most influence over a production, has historically been occupied by white men. In 1970 only 7% of professional off-Broadway productions were directed by women (New York State Council on the Arts). A recent study by the League of Professional Theatre Women shows this rate has risen to 40% percent. While the slow and steady move toward parity is promising, women and artists of color remain concerned that statistical parity is merely one index of deeply entrenched cultural and societal biases that plague the artworld. In a recent talk hosted by Roundabout Theatre, women directors noted that there are multiple issues to be addressed including the disproportionately high bar in which women directors are measured, reviewer bias, salary disparity, and sexual harassment, to name a few. The directing discipline is further complicated by an implicit hierarchy of professionalization that labels artists who work in community-engaged and applied theater as “facilitators” (rather than directors). Through the lens of women directors, my dissertation project challenges industry norms by historicizing women’s contribution to the field and broadening the category of directing. My dissertation will offer more inclusive pedagogical approaches to directing thereby shifting the artistic biases that delegitimize community-engaged work.