Abbey admits programme does not represent gender equality

Theatre will host a ‘Waking the Feminists’ debate on the issue on Thursday

Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, director of the Abbey Theatre, during the launch of the theatre’s controversial 2016 programme. The Abbey Theatre has said it acknowledges that the programme, Waking the Nation, does not represent gender equality. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Senator Fiach Mac Conghail, director of the Abbey Theatre, during the launch of the theatre’s controversial 2016 programme. The Abbey Theatre has said it acknowledges that the programme, Waking the Nation, does not represent gender equality. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Abbey Theatre has said it acknowledges that its centenary programme for 2016, Waking the Nation, does not represent gender equality.

Of the ten plays on the programme, only one was written by a woman - a “monologue written for children” by Ali White.

The lack of female representation in theatre sparked a debate on social media and the #WakingTheFeminists hashtag on Twitter, along with a flurry of letters to The Irish Times.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, the theatre said: “The Board commits to work with the Director and new incoming Directors to develop a comprehensive policy and detailed plan to help address gender equality with the co-operation and input of the wider Irish theatre community.”

“The Board and Director of the Abbey Theatre have acknowledged and approved requests received for the Abbey auditorium to host a #WakingTheFeminists debate on Thursday 12 November at 1pm.”

The debate is a public event and everyone is welcome to attend. It will be attended by Fiach Mac Conghail, director of the Abbey Theatre and by members of the board and staff of the theatre.

#WakingTheFeminists welcomed the Abbey’s statement . “The commitment they’ve expressed to addressing gender equality is a new and welcome development ,” the group said in a statement. “It has been an extraordinary week for everyone involved in #WakingThe Feminists, and one that we hope represents a real sea-change in Irish theatre,” the group said.

Mr Mac Conghail released an open letter to everyone taking part in the debate on Friday.

“I regret the gender imbalance in our Waking the Nation programme for the significant year ahead. The fact that I haven’t programmed a new play by a female playwright is not something I can defend,” he wrote.

“Our challenge now is how to address this imbalance both here at the Abbey Theatre and nationally in the arts community and beyond.”