Gender Bias and the Varsity Theatre Societies
College is not just about getting a degree, but also working on your passions and hobbies at a more professional level. Collegiate extracurricular groups give a foundation for actors and dancers to grow and see what the professional world looks like. However, it is not all rosy; there is struggle and competition where people are continuously working hard to make their mark. What is more disturbing is how a person’s gender determines their exposure and opportunities.
The theatre circle in the colleges of Delhi is booming again; more and more people are trying out theatre at this level. Unfortunately, there is a disparity among those involved in theatre. Most of the companies are led by men, occupying the roles of directors and deciding on the casts for most of the productions.
Female actors have a different criterion for selection as compared to the male actors. Their looks for the role and their voice modulations are taken into consideration as compared to the muscle strength and the integrity of the male actors.
Yamini Sharma, a graduate from Lady Shri Ram college says, “One does not face a bias at a personal level. It is in the system as a whole and you can’t blame one single person for that. The theatre was initially for entertainment where the women were supposed to stay in the private sphere. Female actors were seen as transgressors and that mentality has penetrated through generations.”
Scripts are often tweaked and changed to suit the cast. The directors choose scripts and plots that are easier to work with. Plays with a strong male protagonist seem to do better with an audience as compared to a woman-centric play. The texts are skewed are to highlight the femininity and masculinity of the characters with which the actors are bound to work and in turn reinstating the ideal type.
Roles are changed because a male actor does more justice to a role that exudes power as compared to a female actor. Actresses often face criticisms when they alter their role for the betterment. On the other hand, male actors are encouraged to bring their character to life by changing its features.
Plays directed by women are not the opening plays for many theatre festivals. The lack of depth and brevity is the justification used.
Plays by female directors are generalised as weak, loose, and unnecessarily emotional. During rehearsals, many female directors complain about not being taken seriously, with actors coming late and delayed production work.
According to Aparna Aggarwal, a theatre artist says, “female actors are taken in the lead only in female-centric plays and unfortunately these are original scripts by female directors.”
Apart from acting and directing, theatre has underlying stereotypes. Lights and props are often headed by men because they seem to have a better sense of stage dynamics. Set design and costumes are left to the women. Lights plan designed by women are questioned twice and each mistake comes with a more serious reprimand for a woman.
“It’s great to have female power in the theatre sphere, but that does not stop the discriminatory systems of it. We are aware and oblivious of them at the same time. We all want to change that, but no wants disruptions and chaos,” says Aashna Sethi, a first year student from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University.
Such features come out as contradictions in a time when most of the plays are women oriented, focussed at their empowerment. Yet many are unaware of this disparity. Those who are trying to fight this are unable to bring about much of a change because they get the power to influence only in their last year and it is a very short span of time to alter the pre-existing systems.
Pic Credit: DU Beat
Jagriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV