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Summer camp programming curated to bridge the gender gap in theater

In 2016, Wellesley Center for Women, a division of Wellesley College, in partnership with American Conservatory Theater, published research findings titled Women’s Leadership in Resident Theaters (LORT). This study focused on the gender gap in multiple professional artistic disciplines with a specific group of theaters called League of Residential Theaters, that included artistic and executive directors, designers, playwrights and directors.

The following statistics are among some of the most obvious pieces of evidence towards the discrimination of women in the arts industry:

  • In any one year, in the last two decades, women have not held more than about 25 percent of artistic or executive director positions
  • From 2009-2014, design professionals were 78 percent male (Porsche McGovern, 2015)
  • Only 31 percent of LORT directors were female from 2010-2011
  • Fewer than 20 percent of plays produced in the US were written by women (NYS Council on the Arts)
  • In 2009 only 30 percent of scripts written by a women and only half ever reached production (Sands 2009)
  • Only 20 percent of plays produced nationally were written by female playwrights in 2011-2014

Women’s Leadership in Resident Theaters goes on to conclude, “that the low numbers of women in almost all aspects of theater not only deprives society of the artistic vision and representation of half of humankind, it creates a chilly climate for current and future generations of women who want to work in theater.” (Ekrut, Ceder 2016)

Rock Camp and Theatrical Institute

In order to address the gender gap in the professional performing arts work, we would like to offer specific and targeted training for girls to develop their skills and credentials, and provide networking and mentorship opportunities.

Redhouse Arts Center, in partnership with Girls Scouts of CNYPENN, will provide two [concurrent] two-day intensive programs for girls, designed to give them artistic and administrative experience. We will offer Rock Camp, in which participants will learn multiple instruments, how to write music, work collaboratively, develop a band identity and brand, marketing fundamentals and performance skills.

The second opportunity is a Theatrical Institute in which students fully produce an original piece of theater. In this program, they will gain experience in playwriting, production, technical theater and design, ensemble building, performance technique and marketing fundamentals. Rock Camp Weekend would culminate in a performance of at least two original songs; Weekend Theatrical Institute would culminate in the production and performance of an original play or devised piece. Both of these two-day intensives would be taught by an all female teaching artist team, allowing the students to develop positive relationships with professional working women artists. Additionally, we will add guest artist and focus group components that will expose the girls to more female theater professionals. The focus groups will also serve as a means for us to more deeply understand what prevents young women from following this career path, and improve our programs in the future.

Camps and classes: the impact

The Red House Arts Center, a nonprofit arts organization currently with a 90 percent female full-time staff members, and four of the five leadership roles staffed by women is committed to impacting the future of female arts professionals. We believe that young women’s participation in these proposed programs will impact them in three important ways.

First, these programs will provide girls training in specific artistic mediums in a pre-professional atmosphere, that can be difficult otherwise to attain. They will gain exposure to disciplines that are often not covered in traditional educational environments. While many students are able to learn to play instruments , dance, act or other performance-based skills, they are rarely given the opportunity to learn design, directing, playwriting, musical composition and leadership skills. Training in these skills will allow them to excel in their chosen field, and propel them further in the their college and professional careers.

Secondly, our Rock Camp and Theatrical Institute programs are designed to give students the opportunity to develop the imperative soft skills that allow employees to succeed in the workplace, especially within arts organizations. The structure of these programs allow a great deal of independence on behalf of the students, with the predominantly only guidance from instructors on the creation of the final product. Through this structure, they develop “on-the-job” skills through collaboration, teamwork, creative problem solving, communication and most importantly, leadership opportunities.

Finally, one of the most important ways in which we can impact these young women in theater through mentorship. Relationship building and positive mentorships with female industry professionals is an essential component to preparing young women for careers in the arts. The faculty of our proposed programs will be entirely staffed with female teaching artists and current Redhouse administration will be engaged through focus groups and career oriented meetings. Emerging female artists will interact with accomplished female theater professionals, building a professional network and learning from positive roles models.

To find out more about Redhouse Arts Center and their programming, visit them here: www.theredhouse.org

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