Saira Baksh introduces us to the Women’s Theatre Society at the University of Manchester
Ready to take back the stage, the Women’s Theatre Society (WTS) is aimed at women of all religions and ethnicities. The group aims to be a safe and accessible space for drama enthusiasts of every level. Committee members want to encourage diversity and inclusion in the world of theatre.
Hana Jafar, the founder of WTS talks to The Mancunion about how the society came to be. She said: “I started the women’s theatre society this year because I saw a need and wanted to fill it. As a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, I used to feel like there weren’t spaces I felt were safe, accessible and inclusive enough for me to engage in something as intimate as acting. I haven’t done much drama, but I know how important it can be in letting women find their voices.”
Whilst Margherita Concina, treasurer for WTS, is quick to highlight the inclusive nature of the society saying that it’s for, “every theatre-loving woman, from any religious or cultural background, to have a comfortable space to express and challenge herself. For example, the wide-spread existence of female actors is a genereally accepted phenomenon now, but female directors are much rarer. We would like to inspire women to develop a new passion, be it in performance, writing, directing, tech, lighting, costume designing… In short, all things theatre.”
The overwhelming response this rising society has gained since they started is presented through their diverse and varied membership, and over 100 sign ups just during freshers’ week!
So far, the society have held a meet and greet, and a few workshops surrounding issues such asconfidence building, and theatrical writing. These are usually handled by Eleanor Maxwell, Co-Chair and head of performance at the WTS, who has a theatrical background herself. She says that, “theatre has always been an inclusive space for me, and it makes sense for this inclusion to be extended to everyone.”
Elena Brearley, first year Drama student and member of WTS, tells us about why she joined: “I liked that the society seemed both socially and culturally conscious and had the intention of bringing about some positive social change. Everyone in the group is respectful of each other’s opinions and it’s a diverse group of people which allows for some thought provoking conversations and discussions. It’s relaxed and has a bigger focus on building confidence and learning new skills, whether you’re a beginner or have a lot of experience with theatre.”
Edda Vallen, active member of WTS told us she thought “it was really attractive to have a women’s only theatre society because generally I found other societies to be quite male-dominated and I want to use my creative skills on my own terms. There’s also real opportunities to get involved; I’ll be running our next workshop (on the 20th of November) and hopefully performing in the winter showcase!”
The winter showcase, according to Eleanor, will be a platform and voice for women. Working with their members, they will create a variety-filled showcase full of monologues, short dramas, and poetry. All the profits of the showcase are going straight to a charity, called Independent Choices, which Eleanor tells us is, “a helpline which helps women escape abusive domestic environments. The volunteers have a well-rounded knowledge of issues that might keep people trapped in a toxic situation, like the languagebarrier or immigration bureaucracy. They are based in Manchester but are active across the UK.”
The University of Manchester Women’s Theatre Society is open to all self-defining women, to explore their skills and gain confidence. Whether they want to act, to take up take up technical roles, or even just to watch.
For more information, follow them on Facebook.