Another day, another two emails in my inbox asking if we’d like to attend male written, male led LGBT shows.
Of course we do! Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that the men of the LGBT community are sharing a whole host of brilliant work, I’ve seen some astonishing pieces created by them, but I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about LGBT+ theatre, how and why it’s so ‘G’ dominated, and how we work towards subverting that.
My initial aim was to hold a festival this year of work about or created by queer women, lesbian women, trans and non binary people as well as intersectional queer voices. However, I soon realised that paying venue costs, artists and other fees was going to make it hugely expensive, and whilst the result may be a more diverse couple of weeks, I questioned how long lasting the effects would be. It would be a lot of work and time and effort, not things I’m afraid of, but I wondered if I needed to back-track a little to address the source of this lack of diversity.
There are myriad reasons why female, trans and non binary voices take longer and find it harder to reach our stages than their ‘G’ counter parts. I anticipate that in many instances the ‘G’ group may be more successful in getting their stories told down to finances, networks, self esteem and approach. The same reasons we see men succeeding over women in non LGBT theatre too (Lucy Kerbel’s book ‘All Change Please’ highlights all of this articulately, and I highly recommend it.)
Another concern of mine is the narratives we tell time and time again, often LGBT+ writers tell stories of homophobia, ‘coming out’, AIDS or other issue based plays in which we see LGBT characters suffer. It’s okay to want to tell these stories, but I’m sure the LGBT audience want more than this, so much more. In 2017 it’s time to be driving these narratives forward, for queer theatre to enter a whole new domain. For LGBT characters to appear in plays which aren’t simply about their gender identity or sexuality. It’s time to hear from the intersections, those that belong to more than one minority group.
So, in lieu of a festival this year, I offer this, a new writing night, for writers writing LGBT content, but with a particular focus on women’s, trans, non binary and intersectional voices – to support work and writers from the early stages. A space where those working full time jobs trying to write in the scraps of time between might find that little bit of extra support. Where those that are hesitant about sending work out can trial it in front of a friendly audience first. Where those that are trying to write, but have got stuck along the way can overcome those problems.
To host a festival would not be enough, the change needs to start way before that. Sticking a bandaid over the problem of the lack of diversity in LGBT theatre, won’t change the root of the problem. The aim for the new writing night is to create a support network for those writing LGBT theatre, whether that’s setting deadlines, organising a rehearsed reading of a full version, sharing details of festivals, setting up connections with artists or theatres, or offering help in any other ways we can. It will also offer a space for writers to discuss the messages they want to send with their work.
Last week I saw Joan, by Lucy J Skilbeck at Ovalhouse. This piece made me hopeful, it feels like a huge breakthrough in terms of LGBT theatre. It’s queer, it’s brilliant, it’s about gender and sexuality, but it’s so much more than that, it’s precisely how I feel queer theatre should be in 2017. I want more! I am still waiting to see the theatre, to witness the plays that my straight counterparts had the privilege of growing up with. I want gay and transgender and bisexual characters to appear in plays with their gender and sexuality a side note, rather than the crux of the story. I want to see varied representations of queer women on stage, and I want young queer women to have access to these too. It’s more than about time.
If we change the stories we see on our stages, we begin to change the world from the inside out. So let’s do this!
Amie Taylor 2017
Editor – The LGBTQ Arts Review
The first LGBTQ Arts writing night will take place over the summer, featuring 4 ten minute pieces of new writing told by or about L,B,T (+) characters. Follow @lgbtqarts and @AmieAmieTay for details of submissions opening (but it won’t be competitive thing, we will be saying yes to as many people as we can). We’ll be announcing a venue within the next week. And there may be some festival action this year, we’ll see, but first and foremost we’ll be dedicated to supporting writers and artists from the word go. If you want to offer support, space, money – or are a writer / theatre maker and want to know more, email firstname.lastname@example.org and say hi.