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Published March 9, 2016

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Melbourne’s Playback Theatre has assembled a team of special guests for The F Word, an evening of storytelling, music, and theatre. We spoke to Melbourne Playback Theatre’s Creative Director Rachael Dyson-McGregor about feminism, diversity, and placing women centre stage. 

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Melbourne Playback’s new show, The F Word, is coming out on International Women’s Day and is made up entirely of women. Why did you feel it was so important to do this, and how did you go about assembling such a fantastic group of women?

Because it’s International Women’s Day! We wanted to really celebrate women in this event so it seemed natural and bold to assemble an evening of all women panellists.

Not only are our panellists women, but for the first time in Melbourne Playback Theatre Company’s history, our entire performing team (actors, musicians, facilitator, MC) are also all women. It’s going to be one big celebration of women, from many walks of life.

When I was assembling the panel I aimed to engage women from diverse backgrounds so we could hear personal stories of feminism from different perspectives. Of course we can’t cover all the diverse aspects of feminism in four people but we have included a lot of diversity in this panel. I made my wish list, decide to start at the top and was so lucky that so many of them said yes!

The guests on the panel – Clem Ford, Melba Marginson, Jane Gilmore, and Tammy Anderson – come from a wide range of backgrounds and each have a unique approach to feminism. Was this diversity something you had in mind when assembling the panel? What importance do you place on the role of diversity in feminism? 

Absolutely. It’s important to remember that feminism itself holds a lot of diversity.

With over 50% of the world’s population being women, and feminism being something that men and women identify with and advocate for, it’s important for us to hear from as many perspectives as possible. Women from different backgrounds experience vastly different challenges when it comes to equality and by sharing and understanding these we can expand our awareness and work to advocate for all women, not just those who are similar to us.

The format of The F Word is very unique – a panel discussion, followed by an ‘interactive’ performance. What can the audience expect from the night, and how will they be involved? 

Think of the evening as a space to share stories and generate ideas.

We will open the night by hearing from our panel who will share with us their journey as feminists and the current challenges and opportunities they see for feminism. Then we will open to the audience for a Q&A discussion with the panel, to further explore the ideas our panellists have put into the space.

After this more traditional format, we’ll shift the sharing of stories from a thinking, potentially analytical space into a theatrical, artistic space. The audience will be invited to share personal stories and the performers will reflect these stories using improvised music, theatre and lighting.

The audience will be invited to share as much or as little as they want, it’s all completely voluntary. If people get inspired and want to ask a question or share a story, there is welcome space for that. If people want to just listen and enjoy, they are very welcome to do that too.

With such a diverse range of women involved in the evening, what sort of topics will be covered? Is anything off-limits?

I have asked each panellist to reflect on their journey as feminists, on the shifting meaning of feminism over time, and to share with us the current challenges and opportunities they see facing feminism today. As our panellists are from such diverse backgrounds, I look forward to hearing how each woman’s journey has differed and what similarities there are.

Other than that, the topics are really open and will be in response to what arises on the night from both the panel and the audience. It’s important that we maintain a respectful space for everyone at the event, but no particular topic is off limits.

This show is the first in a series of Q&A events Playback will be offering. How will this show be different to previous Playback shows and events? What led you to try this new format?

In the past we’ve held playback performances on their own, usually with a theme but without a panel discussion.

One of our ensemble members, Danny Diesendorf experimented with this form last year with a Climate Change show and we found it to be very successful. Our audience reflected that by having both a panel discussion and playback performance, instead of coming away depressed by the fate of the world when it comes to climate change, they came away feeling more united, more connected and more empowered to take action.

When we find ways to really share stories with each other, we find that our stories have so much in common. We can relate to others through our stories, we can learn from each other, we can be inspired by the strength and resilience of others.  Playback Theatre creates a fantastic space for this exchange to happen.

The panel will be covering the evolution of feminism, and what the words means to each of the participants. What does feminism mean to you? 

EQUALITY. The same opportunities, pay, safety, education, health care, human rights, respect and support for women as men.

Why should I earn less than my male counterpart for doing the same job? Why should girls be denied education when boys are sent to school? Why should women and girls fear for their safety on the streets or in their homes?

Gender should not be a factor in determining our quality of life. I want to see a world where women are consistently given the same opportunities and respect as men.

What’s on the horizon for the Playback Theatre Co? 

We have a series of panel and playback shows lined up for this year; International Women’s Day, Australia’s National Day of Healing, Refugee Week, National Science Week, and Mental Health Week.

This is the first of five and we’re already planning more for next year. We’re really excited about working with individuals and organisations as we put these events together.

 

The F Word is a one-off show at Brunwick’s Howler on Thursday the 10th of March at 7pm.

Tickets are $20 Full/$15 Concession. Bookings through www.melbourneplayback.com.au/whats-on

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