UCD DramSoc have introduced a 50% gender quota for female playwrights for all plays produced by them this year.
Seán Mac Dhonnagáin, auditor of DramSoc, made the quota a part of his election manifesto last year.
“The idea for me came from the #WakingtheFeminists campaign and just seeing how underrepresented women are in certain aspects” Mac Dhonnagáin said.
“It’s half the population, he added. “To be focusing entirely on how one half of the population feels about whatever issues come up in theatre and plays is a bit ridiculous, just to leave out the other 50%.”
“Specifically here in DramSoc; I think playwrights is where we fell down . . . In a lot of other aspects, like our technical managers and our set builders, we have a lot of women involved and it is a fairly even ratio” Mac Dhonnagáin added.
Ailish Toal, secretary of DramSoc added: “I think it’s just about people realising that there is no women, before you may have looked at it and not realised . . . I think it makes you aware of it, just being aware of it and then you might actually try and change it . . .You’re not consciously ‘we don’t want that person because she’s a woman’.”
Last year approximately 30% of the plays produced by DramSoc were written by women, this year Mac Dhonnagáin is determined to tip the balance in women’s favour.
“This time around we are just saying let’s just go over that 50% line because . . . it’s always been tipped in favour of the men, so let’s just tip it the other way for a year at least” said Mac Dhonnagáin.
There were six slots available this semester, four of the six were written by a woman. This includes two previously produced plays, one by a man and one by a woman, three completely originally original plays, two of which were written by women and one original adaption of Jane Eyre, adapted by a woman.
Although they have a framework in place to apply it, this semester, DramSoc didn’t need to implement the gender quota. Ailish Toal, secretary of DramSoc said: “I think just having it [the gender quota] in place encourages people to pick female playwrights.”
Mac Dhonagáin says that part of the reason people weren’t picking female playwrights was because they were relatively unknown compared to men. There are no female playwrights on the leaving cert. “People don’t associate any female playwrights with the classics when you talk about theatre” he said.
Both Toal and Mac Dhonagáin believe it is important to represent women and women’s voices in the theatre. “I think we’ve been listening to men’s stories in the theatre for hundreds of years” said Toal. “We [DramSoc] put on a Shakespeare play every year and I think we just need to hear women’s stories and women telling their own stories . . . We just need a space where you can hear female voices.”
DramSoc currently is taking submissions for slots in Semester Two.