Bechdel Theatre exists to highlight gender and representation on stage, and amplify under-represented voices in theatre.
We bring feminist theatre makers and audiences together, online and in person. We are on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We produce a podcast and write a blog. We organise joyful celebratory events.
We use the Bechdel test as a starting point for a conversation. The Bechdel test* asks: “Are there 2 women on stage? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk about something other than a man?”. Using our wide range of platforms, we encourage theatre makers and audience members to engage with issues of representation on stage through in-depth consideration of intersectionality, and frank, open, and accessible discussions focused on current productions. We champion artists and companies that share our vision and exemplify the changes we want to see on stage. We connect artists and their work with new audiences, industry allies, and fellow feminist in the arts, media, and entertainment industries.
We were recently featured in an article in The Guardian alongside Meera Syal, Sita McIntosh, Lucy Kerbel and Vicky Featherstone as 'change-makers' working for gender equality and representation on stage. We have also been featured in The Stage, and interviewed for Fringe Review at Edinburgh Fringe in 2016.
- Recommending shows to see (from West End musicals to feminist performance art) on our podcast, blog and social media, for anyone in the UK who cares about representation.
- Interviewing a diverse range of artists and audience members on our podcast about how they create and watch theatre from a feminist perspective.
- Printing 'This Show Passes The Bechdel Test stickers to highlight posters of shows that pass the Bechdel test with flying colours at theatre festivals.
- Organising and hosting celebratory events and platforms for artists, from play readings to cabaret nights.
- Running empowering workshops for actors and theatre-makers.
The Bechdel Theatre team is Beth Watson & Pippa Sa. We are a not-for-profit organisation and in the process of registering ourselves as a Community Interest Company. Bechdel Theatre has never received any grants or funding outside of the generous donations we receive from individual supporters, and the proceeds of occasional fundraising events. We both work multiple zero-hour contract jobs to pay our rent on top of organising and producing Bechdel Theatre’s campaigns, events, podcast, blog.
Since 2016 our logo has been seen on posters across Edinburgh Festival Fringe to highlight shows which pass the Bechdel test. Our distinctive stickers are plastered alongside star ratings and simply say: “This show passes the Bechdel test”. The purpose of this Guerrilla Girls-style campaign is to to draw the eyes of interested audience members towards the posters of productions that don’t leave women out completely, but also to highlight how rare a Bechdel test pass actually still is, despite the test having a very basic criteria.
We promote the shows we see passing the Bechdel test with flying colours, and provide impassioned commentary and coverage with a focus on issues of gender and representation via our podcast, blog and social media. We use these platforms, online and offline, to facilitate more in-depth discussion that goes beyond the representation of women, and amplifies the voices of artists who are doing so much more than meeting the low-bar requirements of the test.
This year, we'll be providing even MORE coverage of shows that pass the Bechdel test with flying colours. We've upped our online presence by vlogging and using Instagram stories, we're booked in to stay in Edinburgh for the whole month (in previous years we've only been able to afford a 10-day stay), and we are teaming up with theatre activist group Power Play to help them in their mission to gather data on representation at the Fringe.
It’s a great place and time to reflect on issues of gender and representation across our industry. With a massive concentration of productions happening in one city throughout the month of August, artists from different disciplines and parts of the country/world have the opportunity to gain essential press coverage, and raise their profile, as well as reaching new audiences.
You only have to look at a wall of posters at the Fringe to know that white men still dominate in terms of visibility. Once our pals at Power Play have completed their survey on representation at Edinburgh this year, we will know the extent of this dominance in terms of cold hard stats, but trust us, there is a LOT of room for improvement, and we are here to help make that change happen.
Bums on seats at Edinburgh Fringe can make or break the career prospects of artists and companies. As activists who want what we see on stage to better represent society, this festival gives us a vital chance to raise up currently under-represented voices from amongst the crowd, and empower audiences to make decisions about which shows to see and help spread that essential word-of-mouth buzz.
Solidarity is needed in this competitive and often harsh Fringe environment. Maintaining mental and physical health for artists performing at the Fringe can be a huge struggle. Building a supportive community and solidarity amongst artists, especially for those who are part of under-represented and often marginalised minority groups (at the same time as being over-worked and under-paid), can help everyone stay safe during this especially challenging month.
Bechdel Theatre are a unique presence at Fringe because we’re there as supporters, not artists or critics. We're supportive community builders and champions of representation. We’re showing up purely to big up the best of what we see, not promote our own work. While we do write short reviews on our blog, and invite our feminist friends to share their opinions on our podcast, we are not interested in publicly critiquing work on it's artistic merits, and will only address negative points in our coverage if we see something that we find problematic from a socio-political perspective.
Our campaign is not just about Edinburgh. We continue to amplify and spotlight all year long. The Fringe is a major showcase for all forms of live and performing arts, so not only are we helping feminist companies connect with their audiences during the festival itself, but we’re discovering artists that we can and will keep championing as they take their work beyond the fringe to bigger venues and wider tours.
£750 - Edinburgh rent. We are sharing a room and a bed for the whole of August to keep our costs at a minimum. Our accommodation is booked, deposit paid, and we need to settle the full amount by mid-July, which is why we're on a tight schedule.
£1050 - Living costs. Neither of us will be earning anything from our day jobs for a whole month, so we need to cover our normal monthly outgoings.
£250 - Travel costs. We still need to book our train tickets, and sadly these are not cheap at this time of year.
£100 - Stickers. Our lowest but most important cost. The famous stickers that we use to highlight posters of shows that we known pass the Bechdel test when we’re out and about on the streets of Edinburgh.
Anything more than our target amount will go towards:
New microphone & recording equipment for the podcast. We’ve wanted to upgrade for a long time, and have been podcasting for over a year using very basic borrowed mics. It would make a big difference to our sound and ease of production have some of our own equipment of industry standard quality.
Flyers, posters, badges and branded tote bags. Having the money to plaster our logo everywhere we can would really help spread the word about our work in Edinburgh to the artists and audience members who benefit from our coverage.
*The Bechdel test originated in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip ‘Dykes To Watch Out For’, and is also known as The Bechdel-Wallace Test, after Liz Wallace who first came up with the idea. We are not associated with or approved by Alison Bechdel, but purely inspired by her work. We recommend buying a copy of 'The Essential Dykes To Watch Out' for, as well as her graphic memoir 'Fun Home', which has been adapted for stage and is currently playing at The Young Vic in London.