‘We wanted to draw attention to the status of women in theater,” says Jill Dolan, a professor of English and theater at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, the director of its Program in the Study of Women and Gender, and co-organizer of “Women in Theater: Issues for the 21st Century,” a one-day conference that will take place on Saturday, September 26.
The conference is designed to explore the status of women in theater and discuss the recent research to understand the relationships among gender disparity, racial discrimination, and other forms of exclusion at play in the field and in other avenues of the profession, such as direction and artistic leadership in regional theaters.
The event is free and open to the public. Although the conference is technically at capacity with registrants Dolan says that there will be a waiting line the morning of the conference and that those on the line are likely to get in. It is generally expected, she adds, that some attendees who registered will not come.
Dolan came to Princeton in 2008 from the University of Texas at Austin, where she headed the department of theater and and dances’s MA/PhD program in performance as a public practice. In the process of organizing the conference, she conferred with Emily Mann, artistic director of McCarter Theater, who mentioned that this season would be her 20th anniversary with the theater. Dolan decided to honor Mann at the conference with a reception at the end of the day. Mann will speak on two of the four panels at the conference: the artistic directors panel, which opens the conference, and the summary panel. The other two panels feature directors, many of whom freelance in New York and in regional theaters, and playwrights. Each panel will last for about 90 minutes. A lunch for conference attendees will feature a networking session, with speakers — organized by the League of Professional Theater Women — discussing various topics at different tables.
In choosing panelists, Dolan says, “We looked specifically at women like Emily, who work in regional theaters, who are in that echelon of professional theater. What’s most interesting is that their work is really different than one another. What’s going to be interesting is to hear about the way in which gender influences their work, their aesthetics, how they came to be in the positions they’re in, which we hope will model for young women ways to break into the field.
“We’re really interested in how they disagree and agree with each other. We’re not looking for unanimity. Often when people talk about women in theater, they figure it will be a lot of complaining. We want to accentuate the positive. There are women [in theater] who are successful, and it is useful to hear how they’ve made their careers. There will be a lot of talk about their work, their process, their artistic choices, and anecdotal stories about how they do what they do and how they got where they are.”
Dolan concludes: “I think one of the most interesting things is the artistic variation, that these women come at this question [of gender] from such a variety of perspectives. Women in theater don’t work the same way; what unites them is the kind of discrimination that many face in having their careers flourish. They are exemplary in how they’ve gotten their work produced.”
Women in Theater: Issues for the 21st Century, Princeton University, Lewis Center, 185 Nassau Street. Saturday, September 26, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Conference focusing on issues, experiences, and vision of women in theater. Speakers include Gigi Bolt, Jo Bonney, Danai Gurira, Garry Hynes, Susan Jonas, Julia Jordan, Lisa Kron, Lisa Loomer, Timothy Near, Jennifer Nelson, Lisa Peterson, Therese Rebeck, Leigh Silverman, Molly Smith, Alisa Solomon, Maria Striar, Liesel Tommy, Alice Tuan, Susana Tubert, Paula Vogel, and Kate Whoriskey. Free. Conference is full but waiting line prior to registration will be available, and waiting line participants are expected to be admitted. 609-258-8920 or www.princeton.edu.