The first meeting of the GAP Salon was held on 1 October, 2013. Here’s what happened:
Following our first meeting, the group is now called the Gender and Performance Salon (GAP) – we prefer this broad moniker to the original placeholder London Feminist Theatre Salon. An online discussion forum and details of future meetings can be found at the new GAP Salon Facebook group. Please join the group to see conversations and event details.
The first Salon’s attendees were a diverse group of 15 actors, directors, writers, designers, and technicians. We discussed:
- Ideas and inspiration from the San Francisco group YEAH I Said “Feminist:” a theatre salon, which was formed one year ago. The group has fluid membership with core advocates who come to every meeting, and others who drop in when they can. The loose structure of the group allows for individuals and small teams to spearhead their own initiatives with support from the group. Some initiatives have included: a successful letter writing campaign to influence the agenda of the Theatre Bay Area annual conference; the creation of small “career affinity groups” which provide a network for women to support each other in the next stage of their careers; the creation of the Works by Women SF website and Meet-Up group which organises group trips to see plays by and featuring women artists; and many other initiatives. It was very inspiring to hear about things that have been achieved in different places that we could achieve in the UK if that is where we choose to put our energies.
- Founding members met at a Gender Integrated Casting in Shakespeare workshop at the Young Vic. We wanted to continue on conversations that had begun at this session – so we decided to hire a space and see what would happen and who would show up. The Salon will be an informal space, with no hierarchy of “leaders” and no imposed agenda for the evening beyond what the group wanted to discuss. As they say at Devoted and Disgruntled, ‘the right people are in this room right now, and this is the right time.’
- Moving around the circle, everyone introduced themselves, said a bit about why they were in the room and what they were interested in, and what their hopes were. Something we all held in common was the feeling that the theatre (which we all love, otherwise we would not be in the room) is not telling the range of stories and experiences that we would hope to see. And how frustrating this was.
- Our conversations went off in lots of different directions. Touching on childcare, gender constructs vs innate gender characteristics, diversifying cultural gatekeepers and supporting those who are already making inclusive choices; empowering individual artists; including people on both sides of gender privilege in our advocacy; our desire to write and hear human stories above ‘female stories’ – how to empower and encourage writers both male and female to write fuller human characters. How we wish that feminism didn’t have to exist. And lots of other topics.
- This first session felt very much like it was necessary for everyone involved to discuss frustrations and difficulties they had experienced in order to move forwards. The San Francisco Salon has developed a discussion structure they call VIVA: Venting, Ideas, Victories, and Action, which helps the conversation move from the much-needed release of frustration to what we can do next.
- Our major achievement of the first Salon was in finding a name. Though we as a group of attendees are happy to call ourselves feminists, we understand that for some, this word could be potentially divisive and a little scary. Lots of men were invited to the Salon and one turned up. We wanted to name the Salon something that reflects our belief that gender representation is not just a women’s endeavour, but a human endeavour. We wanted the name to encompass a broad definition of gender representation for everyone concerned about the limiting representation of women and men onstage, including trans* and gender non-conforming artists.
- After some brainstorming, GAP Salon was suggested: Gender and Performance Salon. The GAP is a subtle nod to the iconic London Underground’s “Mind the Gap,” the “gender gap,” and the idea of a “lexical gap,” a linguistic term describing a lack of language for experiences out of the mainstream. One member shared a theory that women suffer from a lexical gap, and have to use more words to convey their experience…until we invent the words to take our own space. The name GAP Salon is in keeping with our beliefs, goals and values as detailed on the about group. We are open to all. We are interested in all discussions surrounding the intersection of gender and theatre.
- The Salon ended with time for members to discuss or offer invitations to anything that they may be working on that we could come support.
- For next month and future Salons, we hope to create partnerships with theatres and other organisations that are concerned with issues gender and performance. Some members are going to look into theatres that might be interested in hosting the next Salon in their cafe, bar, or rehearsal space.
Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday November 4th. Venue TBC. Details to come via the GAP Salon Facebook group. As always, you are welcome, and feel free to bring any interested parties.