‘To be a woman in theatre is an act of revolution’
To mark International Women’s Day this month – and to call attention to the many perhaps unexpected theatre careers off the stage, we are asking six of the many women who work, play and make magic here at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts their thoughts on a series of questions related to women in theatre. Today: What does it mean to be a woman working in theatre?
• Eileen Garcia, Assistant Properties Director: “Just this month, the BBC released a study that found 90 percent of all people in the world are biased against women. That’s just horrifying. It’s not just men. It’s also women being biased against women. That means women are holding each other back. I believe theatre is a microcosm for the world. Meaning women face the same issues in theatre that we face in our larger society: Endemic racism, sexism, every “ism” there is – we’ve got it in the theatre, too. We have it in our plays. We have it in our administration offices. It’s everywhere, and it’s something we have to deal with. But because theatre is so focused on the human condition, we’re also moving forward at a more rapid pace for social change than other industries. Women of my generation all went to graduate school for theatre, and now we’re trying to catch up – to everything. Even though we love our jobs, we’re all trying to find that work-life balance. In my 20 years in this profession, I’ve seen major, positive changes in the way women are treated in the workplace. Here at the Denver Center, we now have maternity leave, and we actually have a paid holiday for our seasonal workers. Things like that have made it possible to have a chance at a real work-life balance. It’s been amazing.”
• Lydia Garcia, Executive Director, Equity and Organization Culture: “Frankly, to be a woman in theatre is an act of revolution when you consider that so many of our major theatre traditions around the world started as explicitly male-only spaces that women have had to fight to get into. The fact that there are so many incredible women working in the field today, to me, is nothing short of a global revolution. I am excited by the incredible amount of work that we have done as a field to keep breaking down those barriers. And at the same time, we wake up every day going, ‘OK, what’s next? What’s left to be done?’ ”
• Leslie Channell, Director of Business Operations, Education: “What does it mean to be a woman working in theatre? Well it’s interesting that you ask that because I have never distinguished any career in theatre as between men and women. So the question really makes me think about how being female might have affected how I came to this job. All of which is to say: It’s important for women to be in theatre. To be a woman in theatre is to make sure that all voices are represented and that all perspectives are considered. That doesn’t necessarily always have to do with gender – but I think that that’s one aspect of being a human that can affect how you see the world.”
• Helen Masvikeni, Marketing Project Manager: “It’s a great responsibility because theatre is a place where story happens. We are these custodians of storytelling, and of deciding what stories get told. As women in theatre, we bear this great responsibility to make sure that it’s done, and done right. And you know we women – we want things done right.”
• Cecilia Kim, Ticket Agent: “I didn’t notice a gender difference at first, honestly. But over time, I have noticed that we’re not represented enough in theatre. The more women you have working in theatre, the more people can see that we are here as well.”
• Tara Miller, Senior Event Manager: “Working in theatre is an environment that’s constantly changing, and I’ve been here since 2009. I have seen a lot of efforts going into more diversity and inclusion. I really enjoy things like the Denver Center’s Women’s Voices Fund, a $1.6 million endowment that enables our DCPA Theatre Company to commission, workshop and produce new plays by women. I’ve seen the fruits of that labor and what we’re produced from it. What it means for me to be a woman in theatre is to continue to be an advocate and a champion to bring that forward even more.”
Emily Holden is the Theatre Company Marketing Intern.