Interview – No more paying lip service: “Kill the Tragedy” stands up for women

What goes wrong for women in the theater workplace? What are career killers? Six theater women – Angela Heide, Bérénice Hebenstreit, Aslı Kșlal, Eva Puchner, Lisa Weidenmüller and Barbara Wolfram – joined forces two and a half years ago for the “Kill the Trauerspiel” initiative to initiate a discourse on discriminatory structures within the theater industry. The “Wiener Zeitung” spoke to the cultural manager and performer Eva Puchner and the dramaturge Angela Heide about the goals and concerns of the platform.

“Wiener Zeitung”:What is “Kill the Tragedy” committed to?

Angela Heide: We want to make the not always easy realities of life of women visible on and behind the stage.

Eva Puchner: We also question what is being negotiated on stage: What image of women is being conveyed? How often, or rather how seldom, are female authors played? Do women directors get a train? Artistic directors like to claim: I can’t find any female directors! Whoever believes it! We know from statistics that, especially on the big stages, it is mostly men who stage plays by men – and that for a largely female audience. Something has to change!

Pagan: These are essential aspects, but only a few of the countless ones that systematically interlink. We try to identify disadvantages, starting with the apprenticeship, through to the beginning of the career up to the further career progression, which for many is associated with major existential hurdles and setbacks. We strive for an intersectional approach, because inequalities are always interlinked and structurally justified.

Puchner: We also want to be a network and mouthpiece for women artists. I am convinced that we can achieve more when we team up. “Kill the Tragedy” is an open platform, everyone is welcome.

Are there any demands on politics?

Puchner: We already have and will continue to formulate policies. For example, we have presented our call for a comprehensive, independent study on the subject of gender equality several times to political representatives and are now waiting for the results of the nationwide “Gender Report” that is currently being drawn up on the initiative of the National Council. Overcoming the gender pay gap is particularly important to me. I would like more transparency in terms of fees and salaries as well as the award of cultural funding. The connection between money and power is also obvious in the cultural sector: where do the large amounts of funding go? Who is in charge of the culture tankers, which are also highly regarded internationally? How much of it can women manage? Quotas and regulations can help.

Pagan: Although, in my opinion, a quota, especially with female directors, does not mean the solution to all problems. For example, I am concerned with the various career kink points that women can encounter in the course of their working life at the theater: How does the career start? What happens when you start a family, does a re-entry into the rather family-hostile work structures of the theater work? How precariously do women live who are single or solely responsible for the household income and who do not have a career? In all of these cases, what about security in old age? For me, a central point is therefore also to address age discrimination in artistic professions, which is almost universally silent. Often out of shame. There is much to do.

Puchner: Yes, a lot has to change for theater to arrive in the 21st century!

Has the #Metoo debate set anything in motion?

Puchner:I hope that we have left behind us the notion that it is only about art when it hurts, when one crosses borders.

Pagan: Every director will speak out in public against abuse of power. But does that match the realities of the theater? Does anything really change with just lip service? An awareness of grievances is not yet a change.

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