Throughout my theatrical career, especially at Boston University, I have been surrounded by almost exclusively women in rehearsal rooms. The first three shows I was in here were 90-100% female casts. And man, there is something special in a female-dominated room. Safe, powerful, someone probably has a tampon if an emergency arises.
However, within the past two months, I found myself in two different rehearsal rooms where I frequently was/am the only woman present.
These have been rooms of my friends, classmates, and most trusted collaborators. These men are kind, worldly, and well-trained in empathy.
I have grand respect for each of these recent artistic partners – and I’d like to think it is reciprocated. These men are no f*ckboys, they respect women as equals, would never do anything to capitalize on their male privilege, and would probably feel pretty bummed when reading what I am about to say.
Here’s the bummer –
The male presence in rehearsal still remains to be insidiously oppressive, even when they are friends.
All of it.
Being the only woman in the room is more difficult than I had even imagined.
For me, it manifests itself in conversation. Sociolinguist Deborah Tannen observes that men often enter conversations with the goal (conscious or not) of achieving dominance. Have you ever noticed that conversations between men become this strange ritual of exchanging and exhausting their fact database? They are literally sizing each other up.
In rehearsal conversation, amongst the fact-flying, I sometimes find myself just a liiiittle more invisible than I’d like to be, a liiiittle less-heard than the men in the room, interrupted a liiiittle too often, and that thing kept happening when I would speak an idea, but a man would repeat it and get a response.
Recently, a well-meaning actor mansplained to me in the first 10 minutes of rehearsal. While I was internally filled with fury, I did nothing other than passive aggressively tweet about it.
In moments like this, it is tempting to get snarky or bitter towards my fellow collaborators – but what good does that do? Pointing out microaggressions is hard enough – nevermind laying them out bitterly in the rehearsal room, where unnecessary conflict, hurt feelings, or animosity may develop.He earnestly had no idea that he had done anything wrong. (That is an explanation, not an excuse.) It is undeniably the earnest and blissfully ignorant oppressor who is extra frightening.
The question is … how do I navigate these rooms then? I guess I possess solid wit, and have a decent database of facts to throw out in the conversation…
Yet, am I doomed to a life full of people laughing at my one-liner repeated through a man’s mouth!?
I am sure I will be in many more male-heavy rehearsal rooms in my future. Moving forward, I am looking for more methods to communicate effectively with them, make sure that my voice is heard, while slowly but surely chipping away at those nasty male-interruption habits.
To the men reading this, simply remain alert and aware of your voice in a rehearsal (or any) room in relation to the non-male voices.
but stop stealing my jokes.