Why we're running 'STORY MACHINES' (and why it relates to the Abbey & #WakingTheFemi
White Label is a collective of independent theatre makers. We are not a theatre company, but a group of individual artists who got together to "redesign our creative landscape, to make it better for us and for you."
That might sound like a rather lofty mission statement but practically, it just means we believe we can make better work by helping and supporting each other rather than stumbling around in the dark on our own. Think of the theatrical equivalent of an independent record label with a stable of artists.
The 'you' in that mission statement above is a little more interesting. Who are you?
If you're an audience member or a theatre lover, we believe that raising the bar and trying to make better work is going to be to your benefit. If you're a theatre maker or an emerging artist, we hope that we can help raise all boats with the tide.
With that in mind, aside from making our own work as artists, we are trying to identify areas where we feel a bar can be raised. One area that stands out repeatedly is the use of multimedia technology in theatre. And for that reason we have arranged a weekend long symposium on that very topic. 'Story Machines' is a series of talks, demonstrations, panel discussions, readings and performances exploring how we can use modern multimedia technology to invigorate theatre and performance art.
It's almost entirely free and not for profit. We hope it stimulates debate and professional connections that will benefit Irish theatre.
Full programme here:
For us, it's about saying things can and should be better. And this feels particularly relevant in the week when The Abbey announced their programme for 2016 with only one production by a female playwright and only three from female directors.
We would add further questions into the discussion, which we feel are understandably going under the radar due to the vital importance of the debate around gender equality in theatre.
We would ask questions like: Where are the emerging artists in the programme (particularly the female ones)? Where are the people who are getting a chance to step up to the national stage?
Why are the Abbey repeatedly bringing over British directors whilst hugely talented directors are being forced to leave the country from lack of work, thus perpetuating the cycle (and the perceived need for British directors).
Why was the New Writer's Programme scrapped?
Is there any intention to continue the resident assistant director programme or is that yet another rung of the ladder being removed for emerging artists who are finding it next to impossible to build a career?
This is intrinsically linked to the #WakingTheFeminists debate as these rungs on the ladder are getting removed for men and women alike but women - already facing an uphill battle for recognition and opportunity - will feel the pinch to a much greater degree and their chances of a sustainable career in theatre may become even more remote.
It's easy to point to cuts and financial pressures. It's not good enough. Giving someone an opportunity costs very little and equality costs nothing. It's not just the Abbey's fault. Irish theatre can and should do better. We can raise the bar together.
We hope we can give it a small push in our own little way this weekend. We hope everyone will keep pushing on the bigger issues on an ongoing basis.
See you at the weekend,