Theatre is a female-dominated field, yet there are not as many women in positions of power; three female professors in the Fullerton College Theatre Arts Department share their experiences.
All three women reported having positive experiences with the theater department. Acting, performance and musical theater professor, Candice Clasby, found out that many of the men she worked with were feminists themselves and understand the importance of female representation and support.Not only that, but she noted how all the professors are connected.
When another female faculty member went on to apply for a full-time position, Clasby, as the only female full-time professor in the department, coached her and helped out as much as she could. In the end, the faculty member got the job.
She does this knowing that it can often be much more difficult for women in the industry to prove themselves compared to a man.
“Simply as a female, sometimes there will be multiple interviews just to prove that the work you’ve already done is shown on your resume— and I have a resume that’s like seven pages long. You still need to show more,” Clasby said, on her experience seeking employment.
Clasby, who still takes on outside work in the industry, went on to state that she is fortunate enough to have male contacts in the industry to recommend her for certain jobs. However, it made her question whether or not those male contacts were necessary to obtain those jobs in the first place.
“It’s a field where there’s a big female presence, but that’s not always the case for leadership roles,” musical theater professor Susanna Vaughn said. “It’s the same dichotomy in the theater tech world.”
Despite their own struggles, each professor stated that they each took steps to ensure that their students felt included, accepted and supported within their classes.
Clasby, for example, asks her students to envision what kind of person they see playing certain roles like doctors, lawyers and teachers. She tells her students to reach beyond the bubble and envision themselves in roles that they would nototherwise see themselves in.
“I have a lot of friends who are theater directors who are BIPOC. Great, I’m going to reach out to them before I reach out to my male counterpart,” she said. BIPOC refers to Black, Indigenous and people of color. “It’s not discrimination, it’s just that they haven’t been given the opportunity to elevate yet.”
She cited this as an important step necessary to normalize women in leadership roles in theater.
Allison Eversoll, resident choreographer and adjunct professor in the theatre department, noted that some theatre departments will sometimes take the steps to introduce an all-female production team. However, the women still find themselves being controlled in some ways by men in power.
She also said that normalizing women in positions of power would help alleviate this.
She likened this process to people often having strong, negative reactions to changes in social media interface, but are able to get used to it over time and realize that the change was not as bad as they thought it was and, in fact, heightened their user experience.
All three women interviewed were white, and they made clear that their experience would differ. Vaughn made note of how the industry was changing to create roles for diverse casts and tell stories that fell out of the cisgender male and cisgender female binary.
“I try to be really honest with them about the state of this industry,” Vaughn said. “However, I also empower them and say, ‘Once you graduate, you are the next leaders of this industry; if you have any desire to be a writer, producer or director, you are going to be the ones shaping the next generation of stories’.”
Efforts were made to reach out to women of color within the department. However, a timely response was not given.
Visit the theater department’s website for more information.