Taking The Stage - Discussions

By Taking The Stage


How are women represented and paid in the industry?

Maureen Beattie - Equity President
Maureen graduated with the James Bridie Gold Medal from what is now The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 1974 and has been working as an actor and director ever since. In 2018 she became Equity’s second ever female President following in the footsteps of Beatrice Lehmann in 1946. In response to the revelations about bullying and harassment in the entertainment industry in then wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, she formed a and led a working party which produced the union’s Safe Spaces campaign and its Agenda For Change. In  December 2019 she was awarded the OBE.

Panel Members:
Polly Kemp – Actor and Co-Founder of ERA 50:50 Equal Rights for Actresses

Polly Kemp has been an actress for 30 years with a wide ranging career in theatre, film and TV. With friend Elizabeth Berrington, based on the collective experience of many of her colleagues, she co-founded and now runs a successful grass roots campaign for  equal representation for actresses across UK theatre, Film and TV called ERA 50:50. With over 7,000 members amongst the most notable supporters ERA’s badge has been seen in the red carpet worn by Olivia Colman, James Nesbitt and Phoebe Waller Bridge.

Julia Pascal – Playwright, Director and Scholar
Julia Pascal  PhD is a playwright, theatre director and scholar. A graduate of the University of London and the University of York, she is a Research Fellow at King’s College, London. Her dramas are published by Oberon Books and her play have been performed in Europe and the USA. Currently she is writing a play about Hannah Arendt, Charlotte Salomon and Eva Daube, all of whom were incarcerated in Gurs in 1940.

Urja Desai Thakore - One of the UK’s leading Kathak dancers
Urja Desai Thakore is one of the UK’s leading Kathak dancers, who studied under the guidance of Kumudini Lakhla at Kadamb, Armeddbad for over twenty years. Urja was then awarded her BA in Kathak from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya. Urja has also completed n MA in South Asian Dance Choreography  from Roehampton University. She is Artistic Director of Pagrav Dance Company which she established in 2005. In 2015 Urja was selected to be the guest choreographer for the South Asian category soloist for the first ever BBC Young Dancer competition.

How are career paths affected particularly for older women? Are they invisible?

Professor Anna Furse (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Professor Anna Furse FRSA is Professor of Theatre and Performance at Goldsmiths, University of London, and an award-winning director-writer of over 60 international works, collaborations, and co-productions, funded by ACE, AHRC, Wellcome Trust, British Academy and numerous trusts, charities and international commissions. Her current research overlaps medicine and theatre. Her 10-year project The Art of A.R.T. on subfertility issues received Wellcome People and Impact Awards.  At Goldsmiths she Directs the MA in Performance Making and Co-Directs the interdiciplinary Centre of the Body with Wellcome Fellow, historian Dr Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim.

One of the handful of first-generation women directors in the UK, she co-founded the seminal feminist experimental company BloodGroup in 1981, touring Europe and with a London home at the ICA, and co-founded the venue Chisenhale (1980). She was Artistic Director of Paines Plough for 5 years (1990-1995) when she pioneered practices that have become commonplace today such as writers collaborating with dance companies, in site specific and immersive practices and with Live Art. Her contribution to feminist and experimental theatre is oft-cited in numerous books and journals. A regular speaker and keynote at international conferences, she is a widely published playwright and author. Her artbook Corpography was published in 2019, and her forthcoming book for Routledge Performing Nerves, four essays and four plays on hysterias is published in 2020.

Panel members:
Sue Parrish (Artistic Director and Producer at Sphinx Theatre)

Currently the Artistic Director of SPHINX THEATRE COMPANY since 1991, Sue has extensive experience, producing and directing Community, Fringe, Repertory and Music theatre.

Sue trained in theatre at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before teaching drama and becoming a member of the Cockpit Theatre In Education team. She has thirty years’ experience of making theatre with text, working with Classics and New Writing and creating large-scale events with dance and music. As Producer Sue has produced all recent national and international tours of Sphinx Theatre Company: the TMA nominated GOLIATH by Bryony Lavery, starring award-winning Nichola McAuliffe and directed by Annie Castledine.  The TMA winner Best Touring Production The SNOW PALACE by Pam Gems, directed by Dame Janet Suzman, and British Council tour to Poland.  VITA AND VIRGINIA by Eileen Atkins directed by Maria Aitken.  A WEDDING STORY by Bryony Lavery directed by Annie Castledine. BLAME by Judith Jones and Beatrix Campbell directed by Deborah Bruce. Sue was a founding member of the Conference of Women Theatre Directors and Administrators, and of the Women’s Playhouse Trust which included Glenda Jackson, Jane Lapotaire, Diana Quick, Pam Gems and many other leading female creatives. Sue has remained involved in developing the feminist dialogue in theatre producing Sphinx’s major theatre conferences held at the ICA and the National Theatre annually for ten years from 1991: The GLASS CEILING. In 2009 she produced the first of four Sphinx Vamps, Vixens and Feminists conferences in the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre, followed by The Young Vic in 2010, the South Bank in 2011, and West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2012.

Most recently Sphinx produced the Women Centre Stage at the National Theatre Shed Theatre in which 24 theatre pieces were performed by 73 actors, and drew 1000 people through the door and in 2016 at Hampstead Theatre with 20 short plays and discussion events. Eight of these plays have been published by Nick Hern Books.

Sarah Wanendeya – Actor and Theatre-maker
After years of involvement in community & fringe theatre, Sarah finally plucked up the courage to apply for drama school in 2017 at the age of 47! This play is an autobiographical piece which examines her experience of motherhood, ageing & the lure of paths not yet taken.

Theatre includes: Pat in Your Way or Mine (Theatre 503); The Woman in Becoming the Invisible Woman (Tristan Bates); Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance (London Theatre); Paulina in The Seagull (London Theatre); Multi-role in The Laramie Project; Sofia Fuentes in Widows; Barbara in Knot of the Heart; Mary in The Passion & The Christmas Mysteries (small London tour); Duchess Ferdinand in As You Like It; Drunken Ale Woman in The Harrowing of Hell (small London tour); Megan in Parlour Games (Bridewell Theatre); Kitty Lashbrooke in Murder Me Too (Site Specific);
Short Film/TV: Written in Blood Promo (AMC Network); Angela – In Transition; Alice – Home for Christmas.

Jan Woolf
Born in 1949, Jan is now a playwright and short story writer. A varied working life as a farm labourer, teacher, events producer, political activist, BBFC film examiner and editor has informed her work. Her plays Sphinx, Porn Cracker and You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know were produced at The Hackney Empire and the Royal Court. Her short story collection  “Fugues on a Funny Bone” was published in 2010 and her second “Storm Light” will be launched in December,  She reads her work regularly at Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead, Writers’ residencies include Hackney Empire, Hampstead School of Art, Marx Memorial Library and an archaeological dig in Jordan. She is an active member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain where she sits on the Theatre Committee.

How far have we come in terms of accessibility for gender, race and disability?

Chloe Todd Fordham (Playwright, dramaturg and winner of Bruntwood Prize Judges Award 2015)

Chloe Todd Fordham
Chloe is an award-winning playwright from London. Her play SOUND OF SILENCE won a Bruntwood Prize Judges Award in 2015. Her play THE NEXT GENERATION was shortlisted for the 2017 Writers in Theatre Award, run by Out of Joint. Her first play LAND'S END was developed while studying at Goldsmiths University and through the Arcola's inaugural PlayWROUGHT festival, and was later shortlisted for Theatre503's Playwriting Award in 2014.  Short plays include: THE NIGHTCLUB (published in Women Centre Stage (Nick Hern Books); performed as part of Acts of Defiance Festival at Theatre503 and Sphinx's Women Centre Stage Festival at Hampstead Theatre), PLAY 9 (for PLAY Theatre Company, Vault Festival), CHICKEN AND CHIPS, part of ELEXION (Theatre503).

Panel members:
Jenny Sealey MBE (CEO Graeae Theatre Company)
Jenny Sealey co-directed the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony alongside Bradley Hemmings (GDIF). She has been Artistic Director and CEO of Graeae since 1997 and has pioneered a new theatrical language, coining the term “Aesthetics of Access”; the creative integration of sign language and audio description within performance.

Recent theatre credits for Graeae include: This Is Not For You; Reasons To Be Cheerful (2017 tour, 2012 tour and 2010 production), In Touch (co-directed, performed at the National Theatre), The House of Bernarda Alba (co-produced with Royal Exchange Theatre), Blood Wedding (co-produced with Dundee Rep Theatre and Derby Theatre), The Threepenny Opera (co-directed with Peter Rowe, co-produced with the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, Nottingham Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and West Yorkshire Playhouse); Limbless Knight (GDIF); Belonging (co-produced with Circo Crescer e Viver); ); Blasted; Whiter than Snow (co-produced with Birmingham Rep); Peeling and Bent. In 2009, Jenny was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Honours and became the Artistic Advisor for the Unlimited 2012 Festival.  Jenny has been awarded the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award, is an honorary Doctor of Drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and at Middlesex University and is a Fellow of the Central School of Speech and Drama and Rose Bruford College. In 2015, Jenny won the Outstanding Contribution Award at the Signature Deaf Awards.

Shobu Kapoor (Writer and Actor - EastEnders and Bend it Like Beckham)
Shobu Kapoor is an actor, writer, director, and poet. A long and varied career has seen her work in TV (becoming a household name as Gita on Eastenders), theatre, radio, and film (both in the UK and Hollywood), moving with critical acclaim between dramatic and comedic roles. She also teaches acting and has now written her first one-woman show, which will begin a UK tour in 2020.

Urielle Klein-Mekongo  ( Actor, Writer,  Theatre-maker)
Urielle is a writer, theatre maker, singer/songwriter and performer. After first entering training via the National Youth Theatre’s Playing Up course in 2013, she went on to study Acting and Contemporary Theatre at East 15 where she graduated in 2017.Since Graduating from East 15 Acting School, Urielle has written for Young Hearts Company and Jude Law performed her work as part of the Lyric Gala. Urielle has also been working with the Soho Writer's group and BBC Writers London Voices. Urielle's one woman show, Yvette, which she performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 received 5 star reviews and won the Young Harts Writing Fest Audience Favourite, the Kings Head Theatre Stella Wilkie Award and The East15 Pulse Award 2017. Other theatre credits include: Swipe (The Arcola with NYT), Three Sisters (East 15) and The Croydon Avengers (Southbank Centre).

Technology- how have women harnessed technology? How are women working in technical fields treated?

Caroline Devine (Sound artist and composer. Work includes City of Things which was part of The Lie of the Land exhibition at MK Gallery)
Caroline Devine is a sound artist and composer whose practice explores the boundary between sound and music and includes sound installation, electroacoustic composition and work for radio, film and theatre. Involved in composition and live performance since 1995, Devine began her musical career as the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of alternative band, Linoleum, signed to EMI publishing and Geffen Records. She has a particular interest in the use of space as a compositional parameter and site-specific sound installations include the South Asia Gallery of the V&A, 18th Century Perrott’s Folly, The Open University campus grounds, Alan Turing Hut 8 at Bletchley Park and the air conditioning system of Temple Contemporary in Philadelphia, USA. Her works have featured on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, BBC World Service and Resonance FM. Throughout 2014, Devine was Leverhulme Artist in Residence with the Solar and Stellar Physics Group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at University of Birmingham where she worked alongside asteroseismologists studying data on the natural resonances of stars and newly discovered exoplanets from the NASA Kepler Mission. In 2018, she became Creative Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Birmingham. She continues to work alongside the HiROS team at UoB and researchers at the Stellar Astrophysics Centre in Aarhus, Denmark, developing work in response to the NASA TESS mission. Devine has been shortlisted twice for a BASCA British Composer Award for her works 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun and On Air.

Panel members:
Samantha McNern (Lighting Designer for Theatre and Film)
Samantha McNern began her career in stage lighting working as both a technician and lighting designer before later moving into architectural lighting.She has trained at post graduate level in both stage and architectural lighting at Royal Central School of Speech and Dramas and The Bartlett Architectural College at UCL.  Her stage lighting experience spans opera, drama and contemporary dance for companies such as London City Opera and Rambert Dance Company.She has worked on architectural projects ranging from office and retail spaces to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jo Mcllwaine (Sound Engineer)
Jo McIlwaine has been working as a Sound engineer/ Theatre Technician for nearly 20 years both in the UK and internationally. Jo began her career by training in Sound Technology (BSC) and working in both studio and live environments within the music industry before falling into the world of theatre. Her theatre career has included residencies at the National Theatre, Regents Park Open Air Theatre and a variety of regional receiving and production houses. Contracts with P&O and touring productions have enabled her to travel (another of her passions) and operate in site specific, immersive and new theatre productions. The birth of her daughter in 2015 saw a shift within Jo’s career moving from theatrical residencies to the worlds of education (teaching of A level music technology), administration (Theatrical crewing company) and currently freelance sound engineering. Jo’s devotion to arts and culture also fuels her personal life as an avid painter, reader and writer.

Jane Sanger -Film director
Jane started life as a drama teacher and seven years ago decided to take a sideways step into film directing. Starting with short films, she has made fourteen altogether, she began to win award and her work was shown all over the world. Her films mostly certain a social issue element such as domestic abuse, child slave trafficking, slavery and religious persecution. She has won fourteen awards including best female director. She has just completed shooting her first feature film “Swiperight”, a psychological horror/thriller about the dangers of internet dating.

Mental health – how are creativity and mental health connected?

Rosemary Hill (Artistic Director at The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company)
Rosemary first worked as an English and Drama teacher and then trained as an actor at the Drama Studio , London. She worked briefly on the London fringe before accepting a job at the BBC as a director and producer where she worked for twelve wonderful years in radio and TV and in both drama and documentary.  Her work took her all over the world, often working in challenging environments making programmes about controversial issues such as FGM, HIV and motherhood, maternal health, women’s rights and girls’ education in developing countries. She went freelance in 1999 and continues to work in the media where she has produced award winning programmes for BBC World Service and BBC Education.  She has also made several short films. Her first love though is the theatre and she founded The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company  in 2008. Rosemary has wide experience in directing ranging from Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekov to more modern classics such as “Abigail’s Party” by Mike Leigh  and of course  plays by remarkable women playwrights such as Bryony Lavery, Caryl Churchill and Timberlake Wertenbaker. She has also directed new work and is passionate about creating more opportunities for women playwrights, directors and actors. Rosemary is also very interested in mental health and last year she qualified as a psychotherapeutic counsellor after three years of training. She now works for Mind and YiS ( Youth Counselling) part time and has a private practice. Rosemary is a member of Stage Directors UK and Equity.

Panel members:
Roshmi Lovatt (Integrative Arts Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor)
Roshmi Lovatt is an Integrative Arts Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor working in Milton Keynes.  Her 20 years of experience in this field has spanned work within the NHS, statutory settings, corporate settings as well as private practice.  She collaborates with a variety of practitioners to offer cross disciplinary projects, workshops and trainings for local people and organisations.  She is a passionate champion around issues of diversity and power, often giving voice to the unspoken in order to address dis-ease at individual, relational, societal and political levels. Roshmi will be talking about her passion for using creative and embodied processes to explore what it is to be human.  She will be looking at the interplay between creativity and mental and emotional distress and reflecting on how the creative process links to, and informs us about, the human psyche - both individually and collectively.

Francis Grin (Playwright and Dramaturg)
Francis completed an MA in Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths in 2010 and then went on to work various literary jobs including taking on the position of Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre (2013-17) and reading for the Bruntwood and Papatango prizes. Her plays had been presented at venues including The Vaults, Southwark Playhouse, Soho Theatre, The Arcola, Spotlight, The Other Palace, The Pleasance and Theatre503. Her full-lengths include ‘Flash’ (The Owl and Cat, Melbourne, 2016 & The Karamel Club, London, 2018), Fixed Action Pattern (The Vaults, London, 2017 & The Bread and Roses, London, 2018) and That Was All (Theatre503, London, 2018). Francis’ plays have been short-listed for HighTide’s First Commissions (2016) and long-listed for the BBC Script Room Drama (2018) and the Papatango Prize (2016, 2018).

Anna Berry  (Artist)
Anna is a local artist, known for creating socially- and politically-conscious work, often large kinetic installation, and working with paper. Very much an art-world outsider, her work is usually shown in non-gallery environments. She is currently the first DASH curator in residence at MAC Birmingham, and the recipient of an Unlimited Commission to tour her piece Breathing Room. She has shown work internationally in places such as Venice, Orlando, and Iceland; was shortlisted for ‘Open Cube’ at White Cube in London; shortlisted twice for the Adam Reynolds memorial bursary, and for the Jon Schueler Scholarship. She once managed to crow-bar a piece into Tate Modern as part of the Tate Exchange programme. She has done four international residencies. A large chunk of her body of work explores space and social climate in Milton Keynes.   Anna also speaks and writes commissioned pieces about disability, outsiderness, access, and radical politics.

Parents and carers – how can we juggle being parents and carers with a career in the performing arts?

Courtney Johnson (Creative Producer at Carbon Theatre)
Courtenay is the Creative Producer of Carbon Theatre. She is currently producing Sea Girl, a multi sensory and interactive show for children 7+ and their families about sailing round the world. Due to tour in 2020, the show will tour with two additional specialised versions for children on the autism spectrum and children with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Panel members:
Jo Blake (Story Teller, Actor, Theatre-maker)
Jo Blake works across the disciplines of storytelling, theatre and dance. Her dynamic, poetic performance style draws upon traditional and contemporary storytelling practices, somatic and contemporary dance, and psychophysical acting, exploring current cultural and personal questions through the lens of the mythic. She has a PhD in Storytelling Practices at the University of Chichester, and holds an MA with Distinction in Dance Theatre from Trinity Laban and a First Class BA (Hons) in Performing Arts from the University of Winchester. She has trained with leading practitioners in the field of storytelling (Ben Haggarty, Hugh Lupton, Abbi Patrix, Ashley Ramsden and Sue Hollingsworth), theatre (Song of the Goat, Complicite) and dance (Helen Poyner, the Tamalpa Life/Art process by Anna and Daria Halprin). She was nominated for an Arts Foundation Fellowship Award for Storytelling in 2009 and was Resident Storyteller at Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton from 2010–2013, for whom she created ‘Behind the Curtain’ – a backstage story tour that continues to run regularly. Current works include 'Blodeuwedd Untold' - a reimagining of an ancient Welsh myth – funded by Grants for the Arts, The University of Chichester and The Northamptonshire Community Foundation, selected for the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 as a supported show on the Regional Theatre Partnership Programme with Pleasance Futures and the Royal & Derngate.

Tina Hofman (Theatre-maker, Director and Producer)
Tina Hofman, theatre-maker, director, producer, mother. Of Croatian origin, Tina moved to UK to specialise in movement and physical theatre. Tina co-founded Notnow Collective in 2015 of which she is now Artistic Director. Notnow Collective are committed to developing a new model of contemporary performance and events that are radically inclusive of parents and carers. We do this through offering BYOB (Bring Your Own Baby) engagement, and crèche supported performances and events. Our shows so far include “Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth” examining early motherhood, “DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior” looking again at early parenthood, and the role of a father, and “Pepper and Honey”, which examines issues of migration, traditions and home. Tina’s theatre and performance-making work is inspired by quiet truths and intimate spaces. It includes one-to-one solo “Talking to Shiran” created under the mentorship of Adrian Howells (which Tina performed 7 months into her pregnancy, examining the creation and loss of life sitting close together), site specific “From Terror”, examining the rhythm of women-led intimate conversations, and a solo physical theatre performance “Lucid Interval” which explores the space and impact of shock caused by the sudden loss.

Rhiannon Meades (Actor and Director)
Rhiannon Meades is an actress, activist and mum based in Bedfordshire. She has worked for the National Theatre, Young Vic, Opera North  and Shakespeare's Globe, also appearing in commercials, films and most recently Channel 4/Hulu co-production "The Light". Rhiannon took her baby daughter with her on an Opera tour, and performed in a Shakespeare season whilst breastfeeding through the night, and continues to attempt to balance working in the Arts and being there for her family.