The first thing I was able to attend was the Season Selection and Local Acting Landscape panel. I wasn't sure what this would really address, but it turned out to be a glimpse into the mind of people who make casting decisions. There was some terrific discussion around how they all talk to each other ALL THE TIME. They are constantly having conversations about 'do you know any actors who fit this specific type that I should be seeing?'. My take-away - always go to the audition, and focus on the relationship you're building over time, not just whether or not you got this part this one time. The other topic they really delved into was when actors are dealing with multiple offers. My take-away here was - be as honest as you can, and involve the casting director in the conversation as early as possible. It's much worse to drop a show when it's already in rehearsal than it is to leave prior to rehearsals starting. Also, they're dealing with this conflicting set of emotions - some frustration and hurt because you've created more work for them in having to recast, but also a lot of excitement for the actor who is making a big leap with his or her career. Two more takeaways - make a facebook connection to casting directors, and keep letting them know what you're doing. Your headshot and resume may be on file in their book, but their book isn't their brain - connecting w/casting directors will keep you in their brain.
After lunch, I went to the Diversity on Purpose panel, I'll confess to a combo of nerves about my upcoming panel and a little bit of the post-lunch spaciness. I didn't get a lot out of this panel. Diversity is a huuuuge topic for one hour, but the points here about diversifying the audience, not just the actors on stage was well taken. Also, the many forms of diversity that exist - not just ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, but what about age, political affiliation, religion.
My last event of the day was my personal MAIN EVENT - the Gender Parity panel. Panelists AJ Baker playwright and founder of 3 Girls Theater, Rebecca Ennals of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, also an independent director and Marilyn Langbehn, another independent director who also works in the Cal Shakes marketing department were all fantastic, and I'm so grateful to them for their contributions. After about 30 minutes, we began a group discussion with the 30-40 women and 3-4 men who were in the room.
Some takeaways for me: How to change the perceptions in the general population so that women's stories become human stories is a big one. Also I was surprised that a lot of people who were there weren't familiar with things like the Bechdel test and who the Guerilla Girls are. Rebecca Ennals spoke about her experience of watching women audition at the TBA generals with monologues along the lines of 'why doesn't he like me?' or 'how can I get him to notice me?' and coming out of that with an idea to create a monologue database of empowered female characters. Marilyn spoke about creating change from within - coming to a company as a freelancer, and then suggesting to that company plays by women and/or roles for women for future productions.
Mostly I was struck by the fact that we can all be agents for change. We need to read women's writing, get to know the plays with roles for women, and the women directors and women actors so that moving forward we can advocate for each other when the opportunity arises.