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All-Female Cast and Production Team Explore Gender Inequity in Collaboraction's 'Gender Breakdown'

Wednesday Feb 15, 2017

According to a recent study, only 25 percent of the plays produced in Chicago's 2015-16 theater season had female authors. Only 36 percent were directed by women. A deeper dive into the numbers suggests larger theaters cast fewer ratios of women than smaller non-equity companies, a sobering reality for female actors thinking about job advancement.

Disappointing stats like these and how the recent presidential election put misogyny and gender equity squarely in the media spotlight spurred 10 female-identified performers and an all-female identified production and design team to devise "Gender Breakdown."

"Female identified artists continue to fight for equal representation, equal pay, three-dimensional characters and rehearsal environments that are free from micro-aggressions and commodification," said creator Dani Bryant. "'Gender Breakdown' harnesses the same artistic vision and raw electricity of 'Spanx You Very Much' to explore how, even in an oftentimes liberal-leaning business, inequities based on gender pervade the theater."

"Gender Breakdown" is created by Dani Bryant and directed by Erica Vannon, the lead artists behind "Spanx You Very Much," an exploration of female body empowerment. They do it through a 45-woman dance explosion, and the break-out hit from Collaboraction's 15th and Final SKETCHBOOK Festival in 2016. 

Bryant is a devised method playwright and process facilitator who specializes in using social practice as an artistic entry point, letting collaborative discussion shape each project. In addition to creating over 20 pieces of devised theater, she holds great passion for leading facilitated community conversations about gender parity, mental health, arts education and food and body politics.

Vannon (director) is a director, producer and collaborative artist. She is the founder of Lost Geneva Project, a project-based theater company committed to telling women's stories, and a co-founder for Knife & Fork, a food and social practice theater company. For the past three years, Vannon has directed for Shimer College. She served as a co-artistic director for Blank Line Collective, a collaborative, movement-based theater company from 2007-2010.

A compilation of true, absurd, uncomfortable and gut-punching stories culled from more than 200 Chicago theater artists, Collaboraction Theatre Company's first world premiere of 2017 is a response to the lack of gender equity on and offstage. 

Vivid tales of violence, miseducation, segregation, and the ongoing disrespect and marginalization of women -- even in Chicago's acclaimed theater industry -- pull back the curtain on real issues of misogyny, gender politics and racism within the theater industry and beyond. 

Ultimately, via deeply personal stories from training, auditions, and the rehearsal room, "Gender Breakdown" theatricalizes the question "How is this possible, that in 2017, females are still marginalized in our community?"

Industry Town Halls are Monday, February 27 and March 13 at 7:30 p.m. On February 27, researcher Kay Kron will lead a post-show panel discussion with Deb Clapp, Executive Director, League of Chicago Theatres; Lori Myers, Not in Our House; Laura T. Fischer, Not in Our House; and Kimberly Senior, Collaboraction Founder and Director. The March 13 post-show panel features Kay Kron, Willa Taylor of the Goodman Theatre and more guests TBA.

With "Gender Breakdown," Collaboraction, Chicago's social contemporary theater, continues its tradition of provocative and powerful world premieres taking on Chicago's most pressing social issues.

Gender Breakdown runs from Feb. 24-Mar. 19 at The Vault at Collaboraction Studios Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Wicker Park.


Friday, February 24
Music with MICHA
Poetry with Kay Kron 

Saturday, February 25
Womanscape pre-show reception at 7 p.m. featuring poetry by Arica Hilton 
Saints & Sinners at 9:30 p.m. 
Curated by Sandra Delgado, featuring Sandra Delgado, Minita Gandhi, Sadieh Rifai, DeAnna Brooks, Ilana Faust, Nancy Garcia, Rose McInerney and Theo Allyn

Thursday, March 3
"The Things We Were Learned" 
Featuring Michelle Leatherby, Paige Maney and Olivia Perry

Friday, March 4
"Beautifully Broken" by Ashley J. Hicks
Spoken word with Khloe Janel

Saturday, March 5
"Any of my Enemies" by Molly Brennan

Thursday, March 9
"Token" by Kaye Winks
"Phone Calls with John Kasich" by Eileen Tull

Friday, March 10
"Hair Crownicles" by Medina Perine
Stand-up with Edith Lule

Saturday, March 11
Music with Layla Frankel

Thursday, March 16
Music with Soft Ledges
Dance with Ms. Miscellanea

Friday, March 17
Baby Crow Productions presents "13 & Not Pregnant" by Joy Donze, directed by Mia Capotorto Sommese

Saturday, March 18
Baby Crow Productions presents "13 & Not Pregnant" by Joy Donze, directed by Mia Capotorto Sommese

For tickets and information, call 312-226-9633 or visit collaboraction.org 


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