EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to the third episode of TeaTalks. In this monthly column, Seth Johnson and Olivia Grace Murphy, the founders of Flexible Grey Theatre Company and guests discuss issues important to the LGBTQ+ and other under-represented communities in the performing arts world. Excerpts from the conversation appear in print, with links to the audio files below.
TeaTalks runs on the fourth Tuesday of the month.
In this episode, Murphy and Johnson chat with three women directors, Emily Faith of Lily & Joan Theatre Company, Lindsay Goldapp of Stomping Ground Comedy Theatre, and Marilyn Setu, who is directing the musical Once On This Island, which opens Friday at the Firehouse Theatre in Farmer's Branch.
Welcome to TeaTalks, a monthly interview series where we, Seth Johnson and Olivia Grace Murphy from Flexible Grey Theatre Company, dig into the hot topics in the DFW theatre community and spill the tea. Usually these topics will revolve around the LGBTQ+ community or other marginalized groups in the arts. As a reminder, the full audio is available for the complete TeaTalks experience.
We met with Lindsay Goldapp, Emily Faith, and Marilyn Setu on rainy Saturday afternoon to discuss female directors in the theatre community, and specifically the upcoming shows for these women. Beverages of choice included Moroccan Mint tea, peach ginger tea, or nothing at all (Lindsay argued that tea tastes like cardboard. Seth and Olivia were quietly outraged, but still have immense respect for Mrs. Goldapp).
In this episode of TeaTalks we were exploding with conversation. Our guests had so much to say, and had a wealth of experience to draw from. Seth respectfully listened for the majority of the session, as these badass directors supported each other, shared stories, and asked each other questions.
How wonderful it was to spend an afternoon celebrating women in leadership roles.
If you would like to support the work of these amazing women, please check out the shows listed below:
William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Emily Faith for Lily & Joan Theatre Company. Running March 26-30 at House of DIRT.
Ahrens and Flaherty’s Once on This Island directed by Marilyn Setu at The Firehouse Theatre. Running March 28-April 14.
As Y’all Like It: Shakespearean Improv at Stomping Ground Comedy Theater, where Lindsay Goldapp is the Managing Director, premieres Saturday, May 4 and will be an ongoing series at SGCT.
You can listen to the podcast via the following platforms:
We talked statistics during this podcast.
We found the below statistics at https://equityintheatre.com/ and discussed them at length during the hour we had together.
“Developmental Theatres and Theatres for Young Audiences tend to be the most equitable, unlike Regional and Summer Theatres; thus, women are most often employed at smaller, lower-budget theatres, rather than the larger, higher-paying, and more visible companies.”
“Women earn less than men in major artistic roles. According to a 2011 National Household Survey, as actors and comedians, women earned 26% less than men; as authors and writers, women earned 12% less; and as producers, directors, choreographers, and in other related roles, women earned 16% less than men.”
“There is a correspondence between women artistic directors and women directors, and women playwrights and roles for women actors, meaning that increasing women’s representation in one area will have a positive effect on the others.”
Here is what our guests had to say:
EMILY: I was surprised when we began Lily & Joan. And because we use the word “feminine” and “from the female perspective” we were compared to a lot of other female companies in town. And we were questioned if we were ‘taking something away from someone’ - that even came from women! And I think that idea of instead of us adding more opportunities we were taking away and that’s what that kind of activated in me is flipping that mindset of there needs to be more, and so when those opportunities are provided not having the theatre community (in particular) attack that.
MARILYN: I think it all comes from opportunity, I think, is creating those opportunities. As far as like, my starting out as assistant director and then moving up to director, that was an opportunity that was given to me. And saying yes. And moving and not shying away from those opportunities. And once you get there, then creating those opportunities as well. Because I think for me there were so many times where when I finally achieved that title, I wanted to shy back I wanted to step back and say “oh God, it’s so freaking hard!” You don’t become a director because of the money, you do it so you can fill a void that is missing and then you cannot shy away from it because, you know, who is going to do it?
EMILY: I’ve been in Dallas just for a year and a half and I’ve noticed a lot of women, just because of their own gumption ask to be assistant director or assistant direct for a long time, and I don’t notice that will male-identifying artists...
MARILYN: For me it was finding my voice. Derek Whitener was the one who said “listen you’ve got something that you’re not doing and saying yourself, so you’re going to direct a show, and you need to do it.” If you see something in somebody... then you need to advocate for them.
TEATALKS: Emily and Marilyn have the more theatrical experience, whereas Lindsay has a background in comedy. It seems that the experiences are similar, however.
LINDSAY: It’s really interesting to - I hate the phrase “women in comedy” - but to like, think about my journey over last 20 years because I’ve gotten to really see the women in comedy, you know Tina Fey and Amy Poheler in the early aughts, they really changed things. And I really got to be on the journey, and my very first improv teacher was female and I’m so lucky for that. Um, in college... but I have not had one since. I have not had a female improv teacher. And I have had one sketch director who was female. So that’s hard. And I’ve gone from, in the early aughts, I was one of one or two females in an improv class or on the group where it’s like “okay we have to have a couple of girls.” To now, it’s like, all-female teams, or like, the teams are much more balanced. I’ve had some nightmare experiences... and I’ve gotten to kind of watch the journey over the last couple of years, uh, the last 20 years, but like, we just have so much longer to go.
TEATALKS: Women creating opportunities for women and other marginalized groups was a hot topic during this TeaTalk. Lindsay relates that to her own company, Stomping Ground Comedy Theatre.
LINDSAY: And to your point, I think creating opportunities for women is much like our approach to diversity at Stomping Ground. Which is, it’s a long game. Because, what you don’t want to do is just go “well, we need to tick our boxes - here’s a girl, here’s a person of color, here’s a gay person, here’s a non-binary person, check, check, check...” So it’s a long game. So for us, what we’ve been doing is, we know that part of it is accessibility. It’s like, improv classes cost money. Having a coach costs money. All of these things cost money and time and so our goal is to remove those barriers... We do get some of that blowback when it comes to our approach to diversity of like, well we don’t want to push the white males out. No, no we don’t. We want our stage and our audience to be a reflection of our community. And our community is very diverse. And we have to be purposeful when we build diversity and when we build inclusion. It does not just happen on accident.
MARILYN: Purposeful is a good word.
LINDSAY: Purposeful and have an intention.
TEATALKS: We also made sure to touch on what makes it unique to be a female-identifying director in the theatre.
OLIVIA: How do you think your femininity and your voice benefits your projects? Or does it?
EMILY: I think as a female-identifying director what I have run into is wanting to create this space where people feel empowered and like they can do anything and like it is safe... Where is the other part of me that I need to realize that my actors also need to bring 50%... And I think as a female, I have felt like I need to be taking care of you more and empowering you more and making you feel the most confident and not backing off and saying “no, you have agency here and in fact, you should be using it, you’re a professional” so what is that job and what is that balance there.
MARILYN: The thing that stuck out for me is creating that safe space... I think as a female when I watched it (the end of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND) in the revival it didn’t feel justified, it didn’t feel like a woman directed this woman on stage to accurately portray everything a woman would go through... It didn’t justify the rest of the show... It’s looking at those opportunities of how we can take the narrative back into our control.
LINDSAY: I just love working with women... Our rapport is different, the way we communicate is different, it’s all different... in the most beautiful, magical way.
TEATALKS: Thank you to our readers, our listeners, our guests, and to TheaterJones for hosting this podcast. Honestly, everything these women had to say was incredibly insightful, so we recommend that you check out the entirety of this podcast. We also would like to encourage you to check out their shows (listed at the beginning of the article). These powerhouse directors obviously know what they are talking about, and we at TeaTalks fully anticipate that these shows will be incredible. And please join us for the next TeaTalks, released every fourth Tuesday of the month. Until then, #ThatsTheTea.