Morgan Barbour co-founder of the Blazing Change Players theatre company was kind enough to answer our questions for #feministfringe. You can find out more about their show By the Bi below the responses:
What makes a show feminist for you?For example, does it need to be explicit in saying that the content or performers are feminist? Is a performance feminist, as long as there are female performers/writers/directors and not actively sexist?
A show is feminist if it gives voice to women. That’s it, in my opinion. I don’t think it has to be fully created and produced by women, nor do I think the people involved need to all self-identify as feminists. One of my current favorite books at the moment was written by a woman and features a fierce female narrative. The author swears she’s not a feminist but damned if it isn’t one of the most feminist works I’ve read in a long time.
Would you call yourself feminist? Would you call your show feminist, if so how/why?
Absolutely, to both accounts. I believe in the equality of all peoples regardless of gender, race, age, creed, or sexual orientation. I hope that my work is a reflection of that. By the Bi is in a very unique position to not only give a voice to the marginalized bisexual community but to also give a voice to the women of that community without alienating the men.
Can you describe any feminist moments you’ve experienced at the festival?
The first few shows I say at the Fringe, while brilliant, were either entirely devoid of female voices or included women more as props than as compelling characters in a story. While unsurprising, it did leave me a bit discouraged. But then I went and saw Titus Andronicus at Spotlites and was very pleasantly surprised to be greeted by women playing both Titus and Aaron. Not only were their performances phenomenal, but there was no commentary on these traditionally male roles being played by women, which gave even more power to this casting. It wasn’t there for spectacle; the cast simply expected you to accept that these women were capable of these roles, and boy oh boy were they. Go see it. Do it. You won’t regret it.
Can you tell us about your experiences with harassment during the festival or elsewhere during your career?
Early on in my training I was told that if I succeeded it was because I had a pretty face and a great ass. And let’s face it, both are true, but neither are the reason why I’m still working. It’s more difficult to be taken seriously as a woman in this industry. More often than not when I’ve told people that I co-own a theatre company and that I’m supporting myself entirely as a performer and writer I either get laughed at or receive some comment about how surprising it is that I’ve managed to accomplish that “at such a young age”, or that I’m incredibly lucky. But I’m almost 23 and I know plenty of men as successful and ambitious as I am who are taken seriously. They aren’t young; their success isn’t surprising; they’re just driven. I’m fortunate to be doing what I love but it isn’t the result of luck.
Then there’s the objectification. This can be a superficial industry and I’m not foolish enough to think I won’t be judged on my looks and my body, but it’s also disheartening to know that to someone out there I will always be too fat, or too thin, sometimes on the same day. There’s always that chance that interviews will be keener to discuss my love interests than my craft. I’m working because I’m too willing to take off my clothes. I’m not working more because I’m too much of a prude. No, no, you’re right, it’s fine to proposition sex at this callback because “everyone does it in this town” and I’m just the bitter bitch who said no.
Any advice for people who have experienced similar forms of harassment?
Some people are assholes. Some of those assholes are incredibly sexist. It’s a very unfortunate reality. That said, to be a woman in this industry – to be a woman in this world – you need a thick skin. You need to learn to stand up for yourself, but you also need to learn to pick your battles. Shatter that glass ceiling, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are not capable. Your choices are yours alone, your body is yours alone. Bust your ass, put your nose to the grindstone, follow your dreams, check those who try to heckle you when you can but remember that your emotional and mental health is more important than trying to educate every person who crosses your path.
By the Bi is “…told through a series of fifteen vignettes utilizing a mixture of dance, music, and spoken word, BY THE BI addresses how society’s views and isolation of bisexual culture contributes to perpetuating harmful bisexual stereotypes of greediness, promiscuity, and confusion. It also brings to light the alarmingly high statistic rates of suicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape that too often become a reality for many bisexual young adults due to society’s perception of their sexuality.”
[Description take from here]
[Buy your tickets here!]