In 2009 Victoria Myers was in Cusi Cram’s class at Primary Stages when Julia Jordan’s first study came out on gender bias in the American theatre. This study put numbers to something Victoria was dealing with: so few shows that were engaging her, few interesting roles for women her age, and nothing in the advertising and publicity of theatre that seemed to be talking to her. That started things brewing.
In June 2014 , Victoria and Michelle Tse, a multi-disciplinary designer and avid theatre-goer and supporter, met in a café and decided to do something about it. And THE INTERVAL was born – a smart girl’s guide to theatricality—launching in August of that same year.
LPTW sat down with the 2 entrepreneurs/journalists/designers/advocates to find out just how unjust they see the world of theatre, and what they (and we) can do about it.
Why did you choose to call yourselves THE INTERVAL?
Primarily because we like how it sounded. It’s a word we have to say many, many times a day. We like it from a design standpoint, as well. When we were discussing the design aspect, we realized it worked from a branding perspective too, since ‘INT’ can imply interviews and we are mostly interview based. And in the UK, it’s the word for “intermission.” We like that too. It’s the bridge between Act I and II–the bridge to change.
What got you going? What was your impetus for starting something new?
I [Victoria] saw Everyday Rapture by Sherie Rene Scott in 2010 and loved it. If you aren’t familiar with the show, Everyday Rapture was conceived, co-written, and starred Sherie and was a fantastic piece that dealt with so many issues that affect women. And, despite it being on the heels of Julia’s study, our community of women wasn’t rallying around this amazing show about feminist issues saying, “Go support this show right now! If you’re outraged about the numbers, go!” And the media didn’t highlight how brave it was for Sherie Rene Scott to do this show. So that always stayed with me. And then, last season, Michelle and I saw and loved Bridges of Madison of County on Broadway. But we hated the advertising – how they dealt with Kelli O’Hara, how they were speaking to the women in the audience. It just didn’t work. And that was a huge impetus for us to stop complaining and actually do something about it.
“Go support this show right now! If you’re outraged about the numbers, go!”
Secondly, last season I asked Laura Brown, the amazing Executive Editor of Harper’s Bazaar, if I could do some Tony coverage for HarpersBazaar.com that featured Women of Broadway and approached it from a gender equality standpoint. She and her assistant editor, Romy Oltuski, took all of five minutes to say, “Yes” and had no problem with approaching it from that angle. It says something when one of the best and busiest editors in the magazine industry is willing to address gender parity in theatre before theatre publications are—it showed what a chasm there is between where the rest of the media and entertainment world is with these conversations and where the theatre community is.
You have a clear call to action on your website – what a person or group can do to promote work by and about women. How did you come up with this?
We are always thinking about how to improve this. We get a lot of emails from college students and recent grads, like “I love Laura Benanti and read her interview on your website and found out about so many issues.” That leads them to ask for internships, and also to use our call to action points. We then get emails that read, “Now I’m going to my theatre group and bringing plays by women.” We also have a lot of statistics on our site. This was, in part, a response to a “trivia and facts” part of The Tony Award’s website which lists things like “family members who have won Tonys” or “most nominated” but they don’t highlight achievements by women like the first woman to win Best Director or things like Jeanine Tesori being the only female composer in history to be nominated for a Tony more than once. These statistics are important to be aware of.
80-90% of your content is interviews. What’s makes a great interview?
Openness. Especially when people are open about their challenges and difficulties, not just their successes. So many of our interviews are actresses, and we are almost always the first interview they’ve done where they’ve been asked about gender issues. For example, when Kelli O’Hara was part of HarperBazaar.com’s Tony coverage, I believe that was the first time she’d ever been asked about gender equality in theatre. We feel very fortunate that so many of these women have shared their thoughts with us, since so many young women look up to them and are being shaped by their words and actions.
What’s your dream for The Interval?
Audiences are 70% female. We want to engage them more – in dialogue via the website, social media, live talks. The stereotype is that this 70% are all housewives from New Jersey. But that’s not accurate. So how do we reach young New Yorkers? How do we make going to theatre as exciting and social as going to an art opening? The advertising and the noise that surrounds theatre is very dated, even though the content is not. We want to make the media as relevant and current as the show. Television is doing a great job of creating audience engagement with content – that’s one of our goals for the theatre. We’re very interested in using The Interval as a larger creative platform.
And now for a few LPTW fun facts about our guest:
Where do you look for inspiration?
Michelle: Any and every visual art form, books, music and my friends.
Victoria: Lately from revisiting television shows that I watched growing up.
What’s your favorite line from a play?
Michelle: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?” from Our Town and “No. I don’t do it, you see. I don’t do any of it… I do, however, read. And because I can read, I can learn.” from Transit of Venus.
Victoria: “It’s possible dear, for someone to hit you– hit you hard– and it not hurt at all.” from Carousel and “I’m such an unholy mess of a girl.” from The Philadelphia Story
What play or production changed your life?
Michelle: When we did A Chorus Line at my high school, I knew I wanted to be involved in the theatre for the rest of my life in whatever capacity I could be.
Victoria: I was a theatre major in college and completely miserable and hating anything to do with theatre. Then I saw The Apple Tree with Kristin Chenoweth and it made me feel like myself again (although, I still hated the rest of college).
In addition to being co-founder and co-editor of The Interval, Victoria Myers is a playwright, has written for HarpersBazaar.com, and would really like her own TV show.
Michelle Tse is a multi-disciplinarian designer and creative consultant in NYC.
More about The Interval here.