Performing arts training in the age of #MeToo

October 9, 2019 | Society, Arts & Culture
I was hearing all of these stories in the media about #MeToo and the arts, thinking back on my own experience in the business and I got all fired up. I was so angry and sad. And it got me thinking about who is on our stages and who is telling our stories.

When I wear my voice teacher hat, I talk about the importance of finding your voice. But what exactly are we giving voice to? Whose stories as we telling? When we look at the stage, do we see ourselves?

I kept asking questions. A lot of questions. I spent almost two years looking closely at 30 years of historical data from the Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards – our local Edmonton professional acting awards – to see who was winning and what was happening. In the three decades since the Sterlings were created, a woman has only won for Best Director twice. Male nominations for Outstanding Production of a Play outnumber female nominations by at least five to one.

Those numbers matter. Those statistics matter. The silence – the missing stories of women, people of colour, the LGBTQ2S+ community and First Nations people those numbers represent – is deafening. I have been part of that silence. It’s not a role I will play any longer.

If we do not start taking our space and demanding that space be made for us, if those with power fail to relinquish space for us, if we continue to conform to the very narrow roles that continue to be written for us, and if our bodies and our voices continue to be used and abused in the furtherance of artistic training and production of art, then there will be more silence and more stories lost. This is not what I want. This is not what any of us wants, and together we must rise up and use our voices to insist our stories be told now, before they are lost forever.

– Jennifer Spencer, Sessional Instructor, Theatre Arts

Jennifer’s article, “Performing Arts Training in the Age of #MeToo,” received the Voice and Speech Review Forum Article of the Year Award. Read the full article.



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