AHEAD of today’s (Thursday 12) protest outside The Oireachtas under the ‘Waking The Feminists’ banner – against The Abbey Theatre’s 1916 programme that places women playwrights and directors in the margin – people working in the arts assembled this morning at Hunt Museum.
Led by Louise Donlon of Lime Tree Theatre, herself an influential theatre maker over decades between work with Druid, The Arts Council and various art centres, at least 60 women and men with a say in the arts locally took a stance for fair representation.
Funded by the tax payer, our national theatre The Abbey released its programme by which to meet next year’s centenary expectations some weeks back. Just one of its newly commissioned plays is by a woman; three of 10 directors are women.
#wakingthefeminists has been the rally call to action. It has gathered momentum from actors, writers, dramaturgs, practitioners, audiences and anyone who gives a damn about talent and equality in such valued and internationally visible work. The most Oscar garlanded actor ever, Meryl Streep has lent ringing endorsement with a ‘selfie’ gone viral, pictured with Christine Baranski (‘The Good Wife’, ‘Mama Mia’) and other worthies holding up the hashtagged mission.
Playwrights Marie Boylan, Ann Blake, Mike Finn, Mary Coll were in the local contingent this morning, along with arts company representatives such as the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s Gerry Keenan, Mary Nunan of The Arts Council, Monica Spencer of Beoure Productions, Maeve Butler of Dance Limerick, Naomi Nolan of The Hunt Museum, Norma Lowney, Helen Donlan of Limerick City Business Association and many technical and freelance professionals as well as visual artists.
The outcry is directed at decision maker Fiach Mac Conghail, outgoing artistic director at the Abbey. This campaign’s objective is equality for women artists. In the years before 2006, 14 per cent of the plays presented at the historic playhouse in Dublin were by women but since then that figure has fallen to 12.3 per cent.
A debate is scheduled in the Dublin theatre’s auditorium today to meet and hear all pertinent voices. Ironically a Department of Arts-led consultation is long-billed at the same time at Hunt Museum, involving/ inviting regional voices in what will emerge as national strategy, led by Minister Heather Humphreys and The Arts Council.
The Abbey Theatre has been humbled by the ongoing rumble in power play, stating: “The board commits to work with the director and new incoming directors to develop a comprehensive policy and detailed plan to help address gender equality with the co-operation and input of the wider Irish theatre community.”