to queens onscreen and matrons onstage
Happy International Women’s Month to all thespians, professional and amateur. There’s no better time to thank the women around you for how they enrich your lives, maybe throw in a home-cooked meal or some financial restitution if you want to go the extra mile. Special shoutout to Mother’s Day: call your mom if you’re able!
To celebrate the women in our lives and in the industry this month, we at Akta sat down with a few recently joined members to talk to them about their experience in the field today. We wanted to offer more than empty praises and platitudes in the style of Goneril and Regan, and rather to capture the thoughts of working actors as they navigate the field.
Our subjects today are Meg Forgan, Darcy Dixon, and Imogen Kelly: a series of emerging artists in the industry, but with already a hugely impressive catalogue of work between them and enough potential for the future to make this writer very nervous about his future prospects for finding work.
Theatre and acting may be an inclusive space mentally for the practising of one’s art, but having to contend with the industry is a different beast entirely. Meg, the mother of two sons, tells me that women who wish to be both performers and providers face unequal obstacles.
‘The lack of childcare, and the horrendous cost of it, means women are being priced out of work’. The industry must do more to support working parents, she says. ‘Having more inclusive workspaces where there’s either childcare on site, or support to pay for some is something that needs to be addressed within the industry and society as a whole’.
Keeping a roof over one’s head, finding roles, and raising children form a complicated balance to contend with, but Meg does not simply want to be typecast into single mom or parental parts. Having recently taken a role as a French resistance fighter in the film ‘Fortunes of War’, set to be released in summer 2023, she is determined to continue to push herself as a woman and an actor first.
One thing all our subjects agreed upon was the necessity to continue to expand inclusivity within the industry. For the system to be fairer for all, Darcy believes fundamental, ground-level change must be affected. In the meantime, those on the ground should continue supporting groups and individuals being stymied and underrepresented in the industry.
Growing up in Southeast London in an African-Caribbean household and already having more credits and qualifications than is reasonable for someone who’s the same age as me, she describes herself as an: ‘Actor, Singer, and Mover’. Recounting how her singing used to gather crowds on beaches in Jamaica as a child, it’s immediately clear she’s an expert at using her skills to get people to move to the music she sets.
Her energy and desire to create meaningful art is infectious. “Making it” is misguided. To "make it" is really just to make the art, not to be at the top’. That, of the many interesting things she had to say, struck me by being both brutally truthful and endearingly hopeful.
As someone with an already impressive body of work under her belt, Darcy hopes to continue to represent and empower her respective communities - despite the increasing pressure in doing so. She holds that "though it shouldn't have to be the inherent responsibility of prominent Global Majority creatives to propel change, their work and impact still does make all the difference".
To conclude my talks for this article, I sat down with Imogen, a recent graduate from the University of Kent. Like many of us, she was not classically trained and did not attend a conservatory, but nevertheless dreams the dream of acting full-time, untethered from earthly concerns like day jobs and the uncertainty of working semi-professionally.
For the time being, Imogen works in theatre management, giving her a uniquely focused window into our industry. As a trans woman, she recognizes the new frontier of acting’s acceptance and recognition of artists in her community while still yearning to go further.
‘It’s a powerful time to be a trans actor, she states, we have a lot more representation.’ This is certainly true in a literal sense for herself, as she was able to find agency representation very quickly post-graduation, after a lifetime of acting both in and out of school.
Still though, there is plenty of struggle left to overcome. In her own words, Imogen called being trans ‘a wonderful paradox’, in that while she is very proud and confident of her own identity, she is sometimes uncomfortable with how she is perceived onstage.
‘Sometimes you get the worst of the worst. When I’m seen as a woman I feel the effects of sexism, when I’m not seen as a woman, I get marginalized.’ Through this however, she sees the potential to live as her most unbound self: ‘It’s the perfect opportunity to live my own personal womanhood.’
Happy Women’s Month y’all, keep fighting the good fight.
written by Henry Nossiter