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Welcome to Backstage: The TBA Blog! This is the place for Theatre Bay Area announcements, info on upcoming events, grant deadlines, ticket giveaways, shout-outs and special profiles of featured members. Visit early and often!


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From the Executive Director: A Future for Hyphenated Theatre?

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, September 1, 2015

By Brad Erickson


Torange Yeghiazarian, founder and artistic director of Golden Thread Productions, has invited me to moderate a discussion at the company’s upcoming ReOrient Forum, where she asks a provocative question: “Is hyphenated theatre dead?” By “hyphenated theatre,” we mean theatre that is coming from and speaking to a specific cultural community. Looking across the Bay Area theatre landscape terrain, one could have reason to worry.

As Torange writes in the ReOrient Forum program, “The landscape of culturally specific theatre in the Bay Area has shifted dramatically. National models such as the Traveling Jewish Theatre have closed. Longstanding organizations such as the Asian-American Theater Company and the Lorraine Hansberry have been quiet. How will culturally specific voices be represented? Are the days of hyphenated theatre over? As we move towards an ever more multifaceted population, are artists and audiences reluctant to align themselves with one cultural identity alone?”

As a culturally specific theatre itself, Golden Thread has a lot riding on the answer. So do we all. For many years, a vibrant cohort of culturally specific theatre companies was a hallmark of Bay Area theatre. Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinas/os and women, as well as Jewish, disabled and LGBTQ populations—all of these communities had a theatre here, often multiple theatre companies, giving voice to their stories and opportunities for artists. While some of these groups are still thriving, others have been forced to cut back on programming, or gone dark all together.

With the current push in the field for full inclusion, it is important to remember that one of the reasons many of these culturally specific companies were formed in the first place was to counteract the exclusion of non-mainstream stories and artists, and, by extension, non-mainstream audiences. Now, with “diversity” on everyone’s lips, and with some high-profile hiring by mainstream companies of women and people of color into leadership roles, has sufficient progress been made in the area of inclusion that the need for culturally specific theatres to give voice and provide opportunities has been met? Framed in that way, the answer must be a resounding “no.”

Research confirms the need for ongoing attention to this issue. “Not Even,” a WomenArts report on gender parity in Bay Area theatre by Counting Actors Project author Valerie Weak, showed that opportunities for women artists in the Bay Area are in no way aligned with opportunities afforded to men. A quick scan across the stages and season notices of the region will tell you the same remains true for people of color, the LGBTQ community, the disabled. So long as exclusion in the form of a dearth of opportunities exists, there will be a crucial role for culturally specific theatres.

Even if—or let’s say when—we, as a field, reach the goal of full inclusion, will the need suddenly vanish for theatres that consistently speak from and to specific communities? My sense is that the answer again is “no.” There is an unparalleled power in artists and audiences united by a common cultural identity working together to unearth and explore their shared experience. It is a power of recognition and self-understanding, of personal and communal critique and celebration that speaks to a deeply human need. As long as we have a desire to know ourselves and know the communities that shaped us and share our identity, we’ll need theatres committed to uncovering our culturally specific stories.  


Brad Erickson is executive director of Theatre Bay Area.

For more on the ReOrient Forum (October 3-4 at Z Space in SF) visit


Tags:  Gender Parity  Golden Thread 

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New Feature in "What's Playing" Listings: The Gender Parity Flag

Posted By TBA Staff, Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Theatre Bay Area is pleased to announce that, as a result of the diligent work of the Gender Parity Advisory Committee, and in response to a field-wide movement to recognize theatres that exemplify gender parity in their work, TBA's "What's Playing" listings will now highlight Bay Area theatrical productions that observe gender parity. 

Listings for theatre productions that meet the GP criteria listed below will display an easy-to-spot Gender Parity flag (see image at right). We feel that this will provide a valuable service to both theatregoers who want to see and support women artists and theatre companies that deserve recognition in this area. 

Visitors to TBA's "What’s Playing" listings will be now able to search for productions bearing the Gender Parity flag, in addition to "TBA Awards Recommended" and "Discounted TIX Available" designations.

Theatre productions displaying the Gender Parity flag must meet two of the following 4 criteria:

Writer: 50% or more of writers are female or female-identified. This category includes a production's playwright, composer, lyricist, translator, adaptor, librettist, source author.

Director: 50% or more of directors are female or female-identified. This category includes a production's director, music director, choreographer.

Design team: 50% or more of design team are female or female-identified. This category includes a production's costume designer, set designer, lighting designer, props designer, sound designer, specialties designers (mask/wig/makeup/effects/projections), fight choreographer

Performers: 50% or more of performers are female or female-identified. This category includes a production's actors, dancers, musicians, singers.

AEA: In addition, if the company employs members of Actors’ Equity/AEA, 50% or more of AEA contracts go to performers who are female or female identified.

The Gender Parity flag can be set by producers at the time they enter their show listings, or can be set by Theatre Bay Area's listings editor at the request of individuals posting qualifying productions.

Tags:  Gender Parity 

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Stuff We Love: 15 Best Tweets from #TBACon15

Posted By TBA Staff, Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We're still tingling from the excitement and energy after TBACon15! Relive the day with these 15 highlights pulled from over 500 #tbacon15-tagged Tweets!

1. On plenary speaker, Jesús Quintero from Tijuana Hace Teatro:

2. On that #tbacon15 livetweeting life:

3. On Mina Morita, artistic director of Crowded Fire Theater Company, another plenary speaker:

4. On Gender Parity:

5. On Triple Play,
a national project led by TBA and Theatre Development Fund reinforcing the relationship between audiences, artists and theatre organizations:

6. More on Gender Parity, behind the glass curtain:


7. On directors/stage managers acting as de facto HR reps:


8. On the lunchtime lull, from an active participant participating remotely:

9. On the Playwrights' Cabaret:


10. On Partnerships:


11. On reacting to #tbacon15!


12. On Sarah Moser, accepting the 2015 RHE Artistic Fellowship!


13. On Marcus Gardley, 2014 Glickman Award recipient, and his moving acceptance speech:


14. One of the many breathless (as far as we can infer) reactions to Marcus Gardley's speech:


15. On letting it all sink in, post-#tbacon15:


Honorable Mention:
Is it tastelessly self-aggrandizing to post one of our own? Nonetheless, one of the most engaged-with Tweets was a quote from Marcus Gardley:


That's all for this year. So many inspiring (and clever!) thoughts, reactions and conversations took place on #tbacon15—and in real life. Thank you for jumping in and speaking up. Say those changes aloud! Let's see what progress we've made next year at #tbacon16.


Tags:  #tbacon15  Annual Conference  audience development  Community Events  Gender Parity  Glickman Award  Marcus Gardley  Mina Morita 

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A Huge #TBACon15 Thank You!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Updated: Friday, April 17, 2015

Theatre Bay Area would like to say THANK YOU to the many, many people who made the 2015 Annual Conference such a success!

Thank you to all invited speakers, panelists, coordinators and consultants, for sharing your expertise and passion. You inspired literally hundreds of people at this event.

Thank you to all attendees, for being the reason we hold this event. It's amazing to get to spend a whole day together, hearing about what excites, challenges and moves you.

Thank you to all volunteers, for helping to get it all done. Your cheerful assistance reflects our community at its best: generous, collaborative and committed. You are deeply appreciated. 

Thank you to all donors and sponsors, for taking a stand to show your support for the arts, the Bay Area theatre arts community, and a world made better through expanding the public's access to the particular power of theatre. 

Special thanks to these major sponsors:



Musson Theatrical


See you next year at #TBACon16! 

Tags:  #tbacon15  Annual Conference  audience development  Community Events  Gender Parity  Glickman Award  Intrinsic Impact  Marcus Gardley  Mina Morita  RHE Fellowship  Works by Women SF 

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The Bay Area Celebrates SWAN Day

Posted By TBA Staff, Friday, April 3, 2015
Updated: Friday, April 3, 2015

By Dana Harrison

On Saturday, March 28, a vibrant group of women and their allies filled the Ashby Stage to mark a holiday dreamed up in 2008 by WomenArts founder Martha Richards and film critic Jan Lisa Huttner: Support Women Artists Now Day—or SWAN Day.

This year, SWAN Day events took place in 25 states, and in countries as varied as Burundi, the Czech Republic, Finland and New Zealand (view full list here). In the Bay Area, WomenArts hosted a special gathering designed to connect and celebrate women artists, and inspire women with news about the strength of the world-wide movement for gender parity in the arts.

SWAN Day participants deliver the "SWAN Salute" at the Ashby Stage event. Photo: Christine Young

The free afternoon event opened with a welcome by Martha Richards, and an invitation to all attendees to join her in the "SWAN Salute" [photo above].

Richards enumerated the SWAN Day events happening all over the world, and shared her work bringing to light the sad truth of the underrepresentation of women in all areas of theatre-making—a reality that is being more widely acknowledged through projects around the country and in Canada to collect statistically valid data to show the patterns and provide a baseline for policy changes and action. Richards is currently working with Shellen Lubin, copresident of the Women in Arts and Media Coalition in NY, to organize a convening in Toronto for people doing work on gender parity in theatre on April 28; it's scheduled to coincide with the free Equity in Theatre conference being hosted by the Playwrights Guild of Canada on April 27.

Next, we enjoyed four ten-minute plays by and about women that were developed in collaboration with PlayGround and Symmetry Theatre. In Katie May's Abominable, Fate and Luck dueled using mortician's assistant Beverly Onion as their pawn. In Lean in with Liz by Rachel Bublitz, a new mother on leave from her job as a lawyer is challenged by her teenaged self, and appreciates the ground gained since the era of her suffragette ancestor. Street Photographer by Genne Murphy provided a vignette into the life of street photographer Vivian Maier, through an imagined encounter with John Maloof, the man who "discovered" and publicized her work after her death. And then we wrapped things up with a hilariously inspiring and infuriating look at Feminist Valhalla by Takeo Rivera, in which Pharaoh Hatshepsut and her court of feminist icons rule in the Norse afterworld, welcoming new warriors to their hall—until they're infiltrated by a modern capitalist who threatens to trigger Ragnarok by her perversion of feminist principles.

After this enjoyable warmup, Valerie Weak and WomenArts Board member and USF professor Christine Young presented high-level results from NOT EVEN: A Gender Analysis of 500 San Francisco/Bay Area Theatrical Productions 2011-2014 from The Counting Actors Project. This project, initiated by Weak in 2011 after she joined Actors Equity and noticed the disparity in awarding of union roles to men and women, consolidates the data provided by hundreds of volunteers on professional productions in the nine Bay Area counties which is reported monthly on Weak's blog on the Works by Women SF siteThe full report, presented on the WomenArts site, includes a wealth of supporting data and analysis—but perhaps most importantly, a very useful infographic summarizing the results—which demonstrate not only a frustrating disparity in opportunities for women, but also no progress over the four years studied.

We wrapped up the day on a high note with a lively Q&A and the opportunity for women to promote their work and upcoming events. Young reminded attendees that the Theatre Bay Area Gender Parity Advisory Committee is working year-round to improve this situation, and invited everyone to join her, Weak, Richards and SF Shakespeare Festival Director Rebecca Ennals at the TBA Annual Conference on April 13 at Berkeley Rep, where the committee will host two panels and a networking lunch—and, for the first time, the conference will offer a designated Mothers' Room. Young and Richards acknowledged our hosts, Shotgun Players, who have kicked off their 2015 season featuring six productions and six staged readings—all of plays by women. Shotgun's experience will be featured as a case study in a session at the TBA Conference, titled "Who's Got Next?", as a way of inspiring other companies to follow suit.

The event ended with wine and cheese, plenty of conversation and connection-making, and renewed inspiration to be certain that women's voices are heard and women's talents are seen and recognized on stages across the Bay Area and beyond.


Dana Harrison is managing director of Theatre Bay Area. 

Tags:  Christine Young  Community Events  Gender Parity  Martha Richards  SWAN Day  Valerie Weak  Works by Women SF 

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Gender Parity Events at the 2015 TBA Conference

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Bay Area theatre community is leading the way on the important issue of gender parity, both onstage and off, thanks to proactive theatre-makers and awareness-raising groups like "Yeah, I Said Feminist," Counting Actors, and the TBA Gender Parity Advisory Committee.

The 2015 TBA Annual Conference is delighted to host a number of gender parity-related events for all theatre-makers who want to know more about this movement and how it's transforming Bay Area theatre.



Photo: "Bildung für Alle" by rosmary on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.



Gender Parity Events at the 2015 TBA Conference



Who's Got Next? – Gender and the Season Planning Process

Time: 10:45 a.m.-11:45 p.m.
Type: Breakout session (roundtable)
Location: Bakery Room, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre


Moderator: Christine Young (Professor, University of San Francisco)
Confirmed panelists: Patrick Dooley, artistic director; Liz Lisle, managing director; Joanie McBrien, development director; Fontana Butterfield, actor

In this roundtable discussion, Shotgun Players' artistic leaders and company members will reflect on the process of planning their 2015 all-female playwrights season and will consider how their company values and season-planning methods have been transformed. 


Equal Opportunity Obstacles Overcome – Successful Strategies

Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Type: Breakout session (roundtable)
Location: Bakery Room, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre

Moderator: Rebecca Ennals (Artistic director, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

This roundtable discussion will feature artistic leaders sharing their successful strategies for diversifying audiences, overcoming casting obstacles, and integrating artistic and social values in the season planning process. 

Negotiation for the Individual Artist

Time: 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Type: Lunchtime session (informal discussion)
Location: Bakery Room, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre


Velina Brown (Actor, Theatre Bay Area columnist and career consultant, The Business of Show Biz)
Valerie Weak (Actor and creator of the Counting Actors Project

Bring your lunch and talk with fellow artists about negotiation, a crucial part of securing work. Whether it's financial compensation, scheduling, childcare or something else entirely, individual artists have the opportunity to negotiate as part of accepting any role, job, or gig. We'll share stories about successes and challenges, and offer peer support to those with upcoming negotiations.


While everyone is welcome to attend, we recognize that women may face unique challenges relating to confidence and negotiation which we hope to address as part of this session.

See you at the Annual Conference! Registration is open now!

Remember to tweet #TBACon15! 


Tags:  #tbacon15  advocacy  casting  Gender Parity 

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