‘Waking the Feminists’ movement wins landmark US theatre award

25 May 2016

The ‘Waking the Feminists’ movement originated at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, via Wikimedia Commons

What spawned from a 2016 ‘Waking the Nation’ programme at the Abbey Theatre, creating a global feminist movement demanding female representation in the arts, has now received recognition with a prestigious US theatre award.

Waking the Feminists has gone from November outrage, to national lobby, theatre diversity monitor and, now, international award-winner in just six months.

Presented with a special Lilly Award in New York earlier this week – the first time this particular accolade has been awarded to someone, or some group, from outside the US – Waking the Feminists is now officially mainstream.

The Lilly Awards celebrate female participation and achievement in US theatre, so landing such a prize is a huge boon to a group that started out in such an erratic, reactionary fashion last winter.

The movement was described as “a visceral explosion” by the award judges, with Julia Jordan – who founded the Lilly Awards – saying it “mirrored our own struggle in the US to have women’s stories told and heard”.

Waking the Feminists came about when the Abbey’s 1916 centenary programme featured 10 plays, nine of which were written by men – this was despite the crucial role played by women both during the Easter Rising and as some of Ireland’s most highly-regarded playwrights.

What started with Twitter-hosted outrage spread incredibly fast, culminating in a summit meeting with the director of the Abbey, and a swift change of heart.

Waking the Feminists didn’t die over Christmas, either, with its March theatre tracker – again spread through Twitter – allowing people to ‘track gender balance in our theatres’.

Now, this award shows just how important the movement was to the theatre industry as a whole.

“Waking the Feminists has always been about each of us taking personal responsibility to call out sexism when we see it, and supporting each other to do so,” said Lian Bell, one of the movement’s founders, and a speaker at this year’s Inspirefest.

“This award is a huge honour for all who continue to made their voices heard through the Waking the Feminists movement, and a testament to how far the message travels when we shout together.

“It’s wonderful to have this moment to recognise the powerful solidarity that each of us feels with our feminist theatre colleagues around the world. Onwards!”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Join us again from 30 June to 2 July 2016 for fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity. Book your tickets now.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic