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Male writers dominate Australian theatre

AAP logoAAP 12/12/2016 Danielle McGrane

Australian plays written by men are much more likely to be performed in domestic theatres than those written by our female playwrights.

The National Voice, an annual survey of Australia's 10 largest theatre companies commissioned by The Australian Writer's Guild, reveals that just 44 per cent of the Australian plays to be staged next year have been written by a woman.

However, the number of plays written by an Australian to be staged next year are up 55 per cent from 50 per cent in 2016, but down from 63 per cent in 2015.

There is a large chasm between what's happening in the main theatres in rival cities Sydney and Melbourne.

At the Sydney Theatre Company, 60 per cent of the year's program will be from Australian works but 83 per cent of the writer opportunities go to male Australian writers.

While at the Melbourne Theatre Company, just 27 per cent of their 2017 season will come from Australian playwrights but 66 per cent of those are written by Australian female writers.

"The 2017 seasons contain the highest number of original works by Australian writers we have seen over the past three years," playwright Patricia Cornelius from the Australian Writers' Guild said.

"This is a welcome and major commitment from theatre companies to engaging with the original visions of Australian playwrights.

"It is disappointing, however, that we are in effect at a standstill when it comes to achieving a gender balance in the authorship of main stage Australian plays, with male writers continuing to dominate."

Out of the major companies surveyed, seven out of ten had at least half of their 2017 seasons written by women.

"Gender parity should be an achievable goal for these major companies that more often than not profess a commitment to providing equal opportunity for women," Cornelius said.

The National Voice 2017 surveys the programming of the Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Black Swan State Theatre Company, Belvoir St Theatre, Malthouse Theatre, Ensemble Theatre, Griffin Theatre Company and La Boite Theatre Company.

The first AWG National Voice survey was published in 2015.

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