• The And,

“It’s much harder for women in this industry, but that’s just how it is. Sorry ladies!”

I have to be perfectly honest. Before this moment I only engaged with blogs when there was a recipe at the bottom. Yet, here I am, googling how to write a blog amidst writing it. If this is a bad blog post you can blame wikiHow and their How To Write A Blog Post (with pictures); they taught me all that I know.

My name is Allison Ference and I am the Founder and Director of The And, Stage Company. I was raised on a buffalo farm near Bonnyville, Alberta, and am the daughter of Lawrence and Maureen Ference (the most generous, kind, supportive people to exist). I graduated from Victoria School of the Arts in Edmonton, Alberta and am going into my fourth year in the Music Theatre Performance Program at Sheridan College in the fall - which I still can’t believe. I am writing this post to share my reasoning behind starting this company, and to let you in on what exciting things to expect from our blog!

Although I have not left the safety of my Sheridan cocoon, I have already noticed a lack of opportunity in the arts for people that identify as women, especially in comparison to the number of women active in this career. I know that in order to combat this lack of opportunity we must support female playwrights in their creation of kick-ass female characters, but unfortunately, there is a gap. How are female artists supposed to actively add to the cannon if they are not being hired in jobs that both financially support AND stimulate their developing work? This is why I started The And, Stage Company.

One of the ways I want to support the creation of new theatre is through re-imagining pre-existing works by casting all female productions. People have brought up the point that is doesn’t make sense to cast women in roles written for men, particularly in works that are set in times of female oppression, but my justification is as follows:

1) More women are being recognized and paid for their work - I could just stop the list here.

2) By paying more women for their work, we are supporting the development of new works by female playwrights.

3) Women get to explore characters, archetypes, and storylines that have yet to be written for them.

4) Yes, having women play men may not make sense. But inequality doesn’t make sense.

If we continue to tell certain stories, we should allow women to explore roles that aren’t defined or weighed down by inequality.

5) If we as creators are already asking audiences to use their imagination when entering the theatre, is it too much to ask that they stretch their imagination a little further and not let the sexual organs of the actors define their experience?

Now don’t get me wrong. I know I am not the first person to think of gender-bending and I know there is a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t do it. I am very aware of the danger that comes with having women take on roles written for men; the most prominent threat being that it gives us room to forget the real issue at hand – the lack of complex, diverse, and accurate representation of women onstage. Although by gender-bending we are allowing women to take up more space, the space is still being occupied by male narratives, and we are still having women play characters written from the male perspective. This is the reason why we developed The Stages; a showcase of new Canadian work in various stages of process. We will be casting all female productions alongside these showcases of new Canadian work exploring dance, music, poetry, and various other forms of storytelling.

Now if you have made it this far, you are probably someone who reads blogs for reasons other than the recipes at the bottom, so let me tell you a little bit about what to expect from this one! I am starting this blog with the hopes of connecting more women in the industry to one another. I want this to be a platform where women can get to know the other women they will be working with, share stories, advice, and their thoughts on being a woman in this business. We will be featuring our first guest artist on our blog this week and she will be discussing how she finds balance as a human and as an artist! Make sure to check it out so you can learn a little something and maybe get a Leg Up! Any guesses on who this guest might be? Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for updates!

If I have my way, no actor will ever have to smile through being told, “It’s much harder for women in this industry, but that’s just how it is. Sorry ladies!”

Allison Ference (Founder and Director of The And, Stage Company)

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