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The Status of Women in Theatre – The Ontario Experience

ArtFacts, Volume 8, No. 1

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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This fact sheet “examines data on the participation rates of women as primary creators in professional Ontario theatre companies”, based on Ontario Arts Council Theatre Office records and previous reports on the topic. The fact sheet finds that the status of women has improved – there are higher proportions of women playwrights, directors and artistic directors than in the past – but parity with men has not been reached.

Historical Canadian data from 1978 to 1981 of 1,156 productions by 104 Canadian theatres is compared to Ontario data from 1998/99 to 2002/03 of 812 productions by 45 anglophone theatre companies funded on an operating basis by the Ontario Arts Council. This comparison shows that the percentage of female-written plays produced by theatre companies increased from 10% to 33% during the 20-year period, while female-directed plays increased from 13% to 28%. Women accounted for 11% of artistic directors in the earlier period and 31% in the more recent period. Women also comprised two-thirds of all general managers (or equivalent administrative positions) in the more recent period, but no comparable data is available for the earlier timeframe.

There is still much work to be done to achieve parity, as the fact sheet also notes that “the larger the theatre…, the less likely it is that women lead the organization artistically, see their work produced on the stages, and direct that work.”

Interestingly, data provided in the fact sheet shows that theatre companies led by women are much more likely to engage female playwrights and directors than male-led companies. Creation-based theatres and those programming specifically for children, youth and families are also more female-friendly.

The fact sheet also shows that the proportion of female jurors in grants allocated to individuals has increased from 24% of jurors in a Canada Council sample between 1978 and 1981 to 52% in an Ontario Arts Council sample between 1999/2000 and 2002/03. During the recent period, nearly one-half of applications to two OAC granting programs for theatre artists came from women or female-led teams, and about the same percentage of successful applications were from women or female-led teams.

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