Bro Theatre

A Dangerous Dynamic

Is it just me, or are the same phenomena that have led men the country over to valorize Donald Trump’s overcompensating and toxic masculinity—by which I mean the decline of the patriarchy and increased competition from women for jobs and authority—leading to the birth of a new theatre movement?

At first I thought it was just my institution, where a very bro vibe has taken firm root in the most unlikely of departments: the theatre. But as I began to share concerns about this with colleagues across the country, I discovered that the phenomenon is not unique to upstate New York. Because this “bro theatre,” the theatrical equivalence of “fratire,” violates the very values our department tries to inculcate in our students, and because it is so popular that no criticism of it accepted, I find myself wondering how to find the teaching moments after productions that subscribe to the bro ethos have closed.

At first I thought it was just my institution, where a very bro vibe has taken firm root in the most unlikely of departments: the theatre. But as I began to share concerns about this with colleagues across the country, I discovered that the phenomenon is not unique to upstate New York.

I am a director who also teaches directing, and I recently recognized that an overemphasis on devised work and decontructions is leading some young directors to believe that they have no responsibility to play texts. Therefore, I have been consciously building the idea of serving the play back into my curriculum. My department is a pre-professional program that usually teaches students to follow Equity rules. And our students, like those everywhere, are very concerned about the existence of “unsafe spaces.”

But Bro Theatre devalues the play and the playwright, does not operate according to standard rehearsal rules, and is decidedly unsafe. At the same time, the same students concerned with unsafe spaces in other conversations relish the danger of being in the room with a bro director. They find that their instinct to ignore the play in favor of developing their own aesthetic is validated by him, and they argue on behalf of the bro that following professional protocols limits creativity.

The following characteristics define the bro theatre I’ve seen in the last several years. If you recognize any of this from the work happening around you, or have any additions to make, I’d love to hear about it. In particular, how do you constructively address this dynamic when you see it?

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Will Ferrell bros out in Old School. 

Bro Theatre is…

Auteur*ish

  • Bro theatre is created through a process that makes the actors think they are involved in making their own choices even though the end product is entirely controlled by the director.

Violent

  • War plays are popular choices, particularly deconstructions of the Greeks, but with the violence happening onstage instead of off.
  • Rather than using fight choreography, bro directors like to have actors actually slap, grab, shove, and kick one another. For the naturalism.

Overly Sexualized

  • Why should the actors be fully clothed when they can be half naked?
  • Hey, there are two women on stage! They should probably make out and feel each other up.

“Rule Breaking”

  • While bro directors promote the idea that they are breaking artistic rules, the only rules they really break are the ones Equity created to keep actors safe and healthy, such as regular breaks, fight calls, and safe use of the set.

Overwrought

  • Performances are characterized by actors screaming, crying, and slamming themselves into walls.
  • Rehearsals are characterized by the director screaming and slamming things into the walls while the actors try not to cry.

Obsessed with Bodies

  • This obsession connects to the over-sexualization of the actors, but extends to include a focus on drinking and drunkenness, tangles and piles of bodies on the ground, actors smearing substances on their bodies, and the use of ropes and other ties to bind and manipulate bodies.

Uses Spectacle to Distract from Problems

  • The visual style of bro theatre is often so arresting that audience members don’t realize that there’s no reason for the women to be topless or for the white people to be wearing ethnic clothing.

Dangerous for Actors

  • Despite the presence at the institution of voice teachers and certified fight choreographers, bro directors would prefer that actors scream themselves a set of vocal nodes and actually hit each other than have to acknowledge anyone else’s expertise.
  • Bro directors find that “honesty” in a performance is best engendered by using the actors’ personal experiences—or, alternately, “dream work”—against them and yelling them into tears before performances.

Devalues Plays and Playwrights

  • A bro director uses other people’s ideas and intellectual property only as vehicles for his self-expression.
  • A bro director will often say, “I’m glad [insert playwright’s name] won’t be seeing this!” Or, “I wasn’t as interested in the play as I was in the feelings it creates.”

Coopts Feminist and Anti-Racist Language

  • A bro director will publicize his show as “exploring race and sex” or “expressing the actors’ feelings about race and sex” when all it does is fetishize race and sex for visual effect.
  • But you can’t criticize bro theatre for being sexist and racist because the bro already said he was exploring race and sex! And you can’t say it’s unsafe because he already said it’s the actors themselves whose feelings matter!

Generates a Cult Following Among Student Actors

  • Bro directors convince their actors that his way is the only way to create “real” performances.
  • Fellow bros respond enthusiastically to bro directors and relish being pushed, even when that pushing is literal.
  • Some young women, sensing that the guys they like like the bro director, will quash any feelings of discomfort in hopes of attaining favor from the bros.
  • Women and men who express their discomfort and even offense are brosplained away, with such statements as, “It’s good that you were offended! And here’s why!”
  • A bro director rarely acknowledges his predecessors or inspirations and deliberately leads actors to believe that he figured out how to make theatre all by himself, primarily by refusing to follow anybody’s lead and, you guessed it, breaking all the rules (even the ones that he later claims he only didn’t follow because “nobody told me about that”).

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Have you seen anything like this at your institution? If so, have you found any productive ways to counter its unraveling of progress? When students love something that faculty know is hurting them physically, emotionally, and professionally, how can we educate them out of their fandom and into a way of thinking critically about it?

***

Update: May 6, 2016

As I enjoy the comments pouring in on Bro Theatre, I have been challenged to clarify my thoughts and define some of my terms, and am happy to do so.

Let me begin by saying that Bro Theatre is not necessarily devised, nor did I intend to devalue devised work or blame it for Bro Theatre. The popularity of devised work is what has led me to reintroduce a focus on plays and playwriting in my teaching, but this is not an effort to convince students not to do devised work—in fact in many classes and in our student production program we teach them how to do it quite successfully. My curricular goal is merely to ensure that we are training directors to make things from scratch; to make things that borrow from others; to work on a published, copyrighted play; and to collaborate with playwrights.

Secondly, I’d like to clarify that bros are not necessarily students, nor would they exist without their female counterparts. As I’m using it, bro defines a subculture of people with a shared identity and values, including the “chill” attitude of surfers and lacrosse players, the partying habits of Greek life, and the aesthetic of violent video games and blockbuster action films. Brogrammers are in their 20s and 30s. George Ouzounian and Tucker Max, the writers of what has been termed “fratire,” are 38 and 40 respectively. The character of How I Met Your Mother’s Barnabus Stinson was identified as being only a few years younger than the actor who played him, and in the final year of that show, Neil Patrick Harris was 40. Finally, some women chill, party, love video games and violent movies, and are most comfortable in environments where men are manly. In fact bro subculture could not exist without the participation of women.

Thirdly, the physically and emotionally dangerous rehearsal process I describe is in no way new. Until actors formed a union, it was common for them to be asked to work long hours without breaks and to engage in dangerous physical activities. In the mid-20th century directors like Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, who directed A Streetcar Named Desire by poking actors with a rapier during scene work, popularized the notion that the director’s job is to push actors to the breaking point. Thirty years later, while working on Chekov, Nikos Psacharapolous once got an actor to deal with a cup of tea being spilled on her as if the water were hot by actually putting boiling water in the cup without telling her.

In other words, the danger I’m attempting to name by creating the term Bro Theatre is not the result of the popularity of devised theatre. Though some Bro Theatre uses the excuse of devising to avoid acknowledging influence by anyone else’s ideas, devised theatre can be quite well made and intellectually honest.

The danger of Bro Theatre is also not because some theatre people are bros. If there is any other subculture that values a good party as much as bros, it’s the theatre. In fact, none of the characteristics that define the bro subculture are inherently bad, nor are the people who participate in it.

The danger also does not lie solely in the rehearsal methods it employs, though manipulation, improvised violence, and staging of sexual content without engaging in the discussions and practices necessary to securing real consent are quite dangerous. The danger in bro theatre is actually in the combination of these things. Bro Theatre uses the most abusive aspects of the Method in service of an aesthetic that glorifies debauchery and sexualizes violence, all the while claiming that it’s actually a statement against those things.

The truth is that when directors create art by making their collaborators suffer under their power and that art depicts worlds in which people suffer the abuse of people in power, they aren’t examining the phenomenon, they are reifying it. They are not commenting on or satirizing the idea that the patriarchy is sexy, they are making it concrete and literal in space and time and in the audience’s and artists’ minds. That is the danger.

Bro Theatre uses the most abusive aspects of the Method in service of an aesthetic that glorifies debauchery and sexualizes violence, all the while claiming that it’s actually a statement against those things.

Now that that’s cleared up, what to do?

Through engaging with readers in the comments, on twitter, and via facebook, I’ve heard some useful suggestions and been challenged to think away from blanket statements and towards solutions myself. Here are some of the things I’m going to try next semester:

  1. Teach more psychological directing techniques. Less abusive versions of Method directing have long been employed to yield rich emotional performances that do not harm the actor, so giving students something other than manipulation as a tool to create those kinds of performances may help them steer clear of tactics that might create a big emotional experience for the actor but could also cause harm.

  2. Create a production code that specifies policies for working with violence, sexual content, and/or nudity.

  3. In the comments, Corey Fischer helpfully recalled his teacher’s evocation of the idea that a contract exists between the director and actors. In addition to sharing this idea with students as a way encouraging them to treat one another ethically, I might have directors and actors enter into a written contract that requires the director to state up front any need to use stage violence, sexual content, and/or nudity, and allows the actor the opportunity to give consent and set boundaries.

  4. Require that the programs for devised pieces credit any source material that is directly lifted from another artist’s work.

  5. Require that if a student director wants to change a play, they have to get permission to do an adaptation, and then they have to call it an adaptation.

  6. Emma Squire suggested further curricular revisions. Instead of trying to teach separate classes on devising and directing plays, I might create one class that consists of three consecutive and distinct projects: making a devised piece, doing an adaptation, and doing a true-to-text piece. This way we could discuss the distinctions, possibilities, and limitations of the three in comparison to one another, all while stressing that none of those ways of working are excuses for unethical behavior.

  7. Become an actor combatant and eventually a certified fight choreographer.

  8. Teach a class on the real meaning of satire.

Of course, I can’t change what happens in anyone’s classroom but my own, nor can I keep directors from making Bro Theatre if that’s what they really want to do. I run the risk of making myself the department buzzkill by cracking down, a label that will affect my standing with students and faculty alike. But I can at least demonstrate, in my directing and in my teaching, that making work ethically doesn’t have to keep anyone from making work creatively.

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This is what can happen when this theatre making approach is not serious addressed. If nothing else - no one should want a student or peer set up to be hung out to dry like this. Cox's actions are reprehensible, and he should have been held accountable by his peers before the press. http://m.chicagoreader.com/...

I have to say, after living and working with Judith Malina for 10 years before her death last year...this kind of language about young men is simply unacceptable. It is not what feminists fought hard for, the devaluing and over generalizing of young men. It is in fact counter productive and reductive to the abuses and struggles women still face, and that men struggle with as they grow into themselves.

As many commenters have stated, young people are young people, and in need of guidance. For a professor to lump young male students into categories like this is morally reprehensible as far as I am concerned. And to state you mean also faculty and guest artists...your job as a teacher should be to do everything you can to separate the students from generalizations that include the worst behaved people that come through whether male or female.

For one example of how your stated problems simply cannot be generalized...There are many instances in which violence and sex work well on stage, there are many instances of actors in ensembles being willing to experience genuine pain, see The Living Theatre's Seven Meditation on Political Sado Masochism where actual anal penetration happens to simulate electroshock to the genitals...see The Brig, where the physical punishment on the actors playing the Marines is devastating...it may not be for everyone, but to categorize it as bad and then also intrinsically male...its frankly disgusting and such a simple minded view of our art form that I worry for your students.

I could go on.

I find this new wave of feminism to be truly destructive to real conversations about misogyny. I also find it to be destructive to many young men, whose bravado, passion, anger, excitement and engagement, which can all be made into positives in the arts...is stifled by fear of offending someone in an environment where those with authority do not have the skills to let go of their personal feelings about it and be instructive and emotional/spiritual group guides.

It is not the young people's fault that you as a teacher cannot find methods to handle it, and as a man in the theatre, I am genuinely disappointed at how much I see this thinking. Even President Obama has had to come out, and after facing unparalleled racism...state enough with the overuse of safe space terminology and thinking.

I do not generalize about the young women or the young men that come through The Living Theatre. In the spirit of what one poster said (and after watching the joy with which you attacked his word choice, as if having your agenda at the ready hoping to provoke that)...he could have cited "Ho Theatre" as a counter subject line. And he is right, it would be ruinous to someone's career to put that out there. And rightfully so, what a terrible thing to put out into the world.

As is this idea of bro theatre. It is a terrible thing to have put out there and I hope you never use the term again for your students sake. This article can stand only as an example of how not to engage in gender politics on a college campus in the arts.

I'm pretty convinced that when you write the word bro you should just be writing the word bad. I'm not a director, heck I'm not even an actor but I am around many young directing hopefuls in my program, both graduates and undergrads. I can't say that I've seen any of the things you describe in my academic environment but in fairness I'm not in every room watching ever rehearsal of ever piece for every directing or devising class. The things I have seen however are any number of different directing techniques both bad and good, some safe and some not, but nothing where I've ever been concerned for the actors physical and mental well being. Maybe you just are around a bad crop, or maybe I'm surrounded by a relatively good one? I'm taking slight issue with the word bro though because from my experience the pieces that have been the most sexualized on our campus were all directed by women and those only used things like nudity if the script called for it. Perhaps it comes down to the trend not having reached here yet but I truly think that the basic point your trying to make is that many people, in your experience particularly younger males, are directing badly, dangerously even. As to your hope for discussing a solution I don't think it's a simple fix. It has to do with the way devising is being taught and pushed in different programs and I think too it has to do with young white guys feeling frustrated. A lot of young white males (look at me with the sweeping generalizations) feel like they are so frequently painted as the bad guy for a society that they didn't create. Perhaps that causes some of this overly macho trend you've been seeing lately. Whatever it is I sincerely hope that if it is a trend someone far more clever than me has an easy fix. I'm not sure I could handle the eventual bro version of Fun Home.

To be a young director is tough, as has been discussed in several articles on this site in the recent past. Fellowships/internships/first chances are hard to come by for the 20 something director. If there is one thing millennial theatre artists are not given credit for it is their commitment to self-branding and marketability. Looking at contemporary works that get press, extended runs, and nominations I can see why some talented up and comers don't see the value in a true to text production. Re-imaginings, deconstructions, auto-biography, and immersive theatre can not only break down power structures and invite more folks to the Theatre table but are also becoming increasingly note worthy on young and sparse resumes. I wonder if the answer is in a revisit to the curriculum. Courses focusing on adaptation and devising are popping up in programs across the US.

I haven't seen this specifically in new work, but I'm not in academic theater, and I have no doubt that your finding exists elsewhere as well. I certainly don't think it's specific to devised theater (which definitely can devalue the playwright, but can also be structured to include and value a playwright), so it's odd to me that you're pinning this "lack of safety" on devised work. The genre certainly does attract and leave room for charlatans, and it can have a masturbatory and amateurish tendency unless it's done really, really well, but I don't think it's the style itself that creates the badness you're describing. It's also nothing close to a new fad. I've experienced it when I was just starting out as an actor, and I'm sure most of us have at least one such story of some director auteur or whatever being profoundly inappropriate. It is true that all my horror stories of total inappropriateness were perpetrated by men, but mostly older men, and all of it with scripted work. And how can we be surprised, when we're still having to fight to get plays by and about women on our stages? As long as white male is the default state of being in our leadership both society-wise and on our stages, there's no reason they will even need to be conscious of anyone else's needs. A couple years ago I chose not to visit a company that had a season filled entirely with plays about obnoxious (and outdatedly so) men but featuring one allegedly "strong female character" who gave up every single thing of value for the sexual attentions of a pathetic man-child. I mean every single show—Mamet, LaBute, Bogosian, Shepard, David Harrower, Lanford Wilson...—and when I asked them whether the next season would have a theme like that season had, they said, "What theme?" Not only was it not a deliberate curatorial choice, but even after having spent 2 months with each of these plays, they didn't notice that they had produced the same play over and over and that the world-view they were spreading was one that denigrated women (as just one of its sins). Their audiences did complain, actually, yet they asked why everyone thought of them as a boys club, and the next year they did more Mamet and more LaBute, creating mini-festivals of each. I think they finally figured it out that year, when audiences complained louder and longer. The same problems you mentioned are also turning up in spades in immersive work, which places the actor's and even the story's importance far after the timing of the audience experience in a way that can deeply harm actors. So... there's certainly a lot of fuckery going on in the theater, and yes, we still need to teach our students not to perpetrate it and not to accept it from others.

Thanks, Erin. I'm sorry I wasn't clear in my reference to devised work. I only meant to bring it up to explain why I have also been consciously trying to teach more about how to direct plays - because my students love devising so much they aren't learning to work on plays. But bro theater isn't necessarily devised, it is sometimes devised and sometimes results from work on a play. In both cases the director devalues the source material in service of an aesthetic that may have nothing at all to do with the original words/images/texts. I actually wish these directors would just go ahead and do Mamet and LaBute, but they are unlikely to be able to invest in someone else's ideas, even when those ideas align with their own. Totally agree that the phenomena is part and parcel of a national theater landscape that values toxically masculine work over all, even when the audience wants something better.

I, too, wish the author had given some specific examples of Bro behavior. For what it's worth, in 50 years of theatre-making, mostly "devised" (albeit outside academia), the two most abusive experiences I had at the hands of a director were both from people (one of each gender) steeped in "method." Both occurred in the early 70s. One was a workshop production of a minor work by a great playwright, the other was at an audition. Both used intimidation, shaming and aggression in an attempt to "break through" my "resistance" Both left me wounded and wondering whether to stay in theatre. Thank God I did, because the other, far more common experience over the years has been one of support, community, and, yes, love.

My examples, as in the article, are yelling students into tears, directing them to hit one another, refusing to take breaks, and using their personal experiences against them. I could add not engaging in reasonable consent-seeking conversations about nudity and sexual content and having actors improvise those things instead, but I thought that was pretty clearly implied. I would also add that abusive and dangerous are two different, if often coinciding things. Some of the danger comes from abuse, but it also comes from the improvisation of violence and the lack of regard for the rules that exist to keep sets and actors safe. Regardless of whether you think those things are abusive they are most certainly dangerous. Finally, the rest of the danger comes from the students' reverence towards the director and the work, which leads them to put themselves in dangerous and possibly abusive situations and to replicate them in later projects.

Good Lord! I definitely think there is a line that can be drawn from the mid-century Method directors to what you experienced to what I'm describing. I'm sure this stuff has been practiced in some form or another ever since the '40s, and not exclusively by men. I think what I'm seeing is the confluence of a resurgence in that kind of directing, a contemporary bro subculture that argues that depicting violence and oppression is actually satirizing or criticizing it when it's not, and a political moment in which aggressive masculinity has achieved new cache.

With respect, Holly, I share your concerns. Thanks for taking on such an under-explored issue. As I said, I have very limited experience in academia, but some of the destructive behavior you describe seems to pre-date the "bro" phenom, though it goes hand in hand with male privilege. But I'm not sure if naming that behavior and defining it in a generalized way, like a set of symptoms, gets to the deeper roots of the problem. I'd like to see a HR essay on Theatre and the Abuse of Power.

3 years ago I was hired to direct Brecht's "Good Person..." (Tony Kushner version) at Cal State U, E. Bay. I worked the way I work which is to relate to all involved as co-creators. The students I worked with had rarely been treated as members of a creative ensemble, asked to reflect deeply on the production as a whole as we built it. It was a happy time for all. Even though it wasn't a devised piece, the students certainly made it their own. That's my version of nurturing a safe space. I think that the behaviors and attitudes that a teacher/director models have great impact on the group zeitgeist. One of my acting teachers, Linda Putnam, from Boston, used the idea of a "contract" between the teacher and student. Both had to articulate and negotiate what the goals, expectations, desires and boundaries of their work together would be. Her work was demanding, intense, and was built on trust.

This is great! I have been considering using an actual contract when I direct and asking our students to do the same. Laying out expectations and boundaries clearly would definitely empower the actors to speak up when those boundaries are being violated.

I have also found that many students are surprised when I treat them as collaborators whose ideas matter. It's very exciting when they take that opportunity and run with it to really participate and collaborate in making something!

The implication that the students' behaviors are connected to an "overemphasis on devised work" is a little concerning. Devised theatre, which was pioneered by some incredible women in the field (Anne Bogart, Tina Landau, Mary Overlie), has provided ample opportunities for women, LGBTQ, and students of color to gain creative agency in their work, especially with the cannon being so heavily dominated by straight, white, male playwrights until recently. In the article and in some of the comments, there is an underlying question of devised theatre's relationship to play texts, but I feel that is a separate conversation from what is happening in the given examples. Many of the student behaviors described are blatantly racist and sexist (some, such as the screaming, are just common for young actors). Yes, devising allows them to explore and present their underlying beliefs, including those that are offensive, but it's important to note that the openness of devised work is not to blame for misogyny or racism. It simply reveals what is already present, which may not have become so apparent in a traditional production setting. Instead of criticizing what one commenter described as "the fadish obsession with devised work," these instances can be used as opportunities to have some difficult but necessary conversations with our students.

Agreed about devised work! I have seen some great devised work that is made without the resulting chaos in performance and without the abusive behaviors. The only reason I even mentioned devised theater is that I have recently realized that only doing that doesn't prepare young directors to work on plays and that both should be taught. My frustration with this show as that it was not devised, it was built using a woman's play text without valuing it, which pretty much undid a semester of trying to teach them that when they work on published plays they have to derive their vision from the text. I think perhaps it should have been devised instead. Unfortunately, it was not directed by a student, so I could not use it as a chance to teach that person. Many of the students have, however, been very open to discussing the problematic aspects of both the process and the product.

Ah...thank you for the clarification. Your observation of these students lack of regard for this one specific female playwright is very different than one of the commenter's critique of devised theatre being a form that devalues the playwright. I disagree with the latter, but understand your point much more clearly and empathize with your situation.

Thanks, Maria! I am almost definitely going to write a follow up - especially if I get some helpful teaching strategies - and I'll be sure to clarify that I'm not talking about devised work in general or even adapting/borrowing, but rather work that refuses to recognize the intellectual property of other artists. Nice to connect with you and thanks for your thoughts!

I love your reference to Tina and Anne, both of whom I studied with, and in both cases I loved their emphasis on stealing freely while also crediting their inspirations. I try to teach my students the same, and I myself steal often. The directors I described above are unfortunately not into the give credit part, though, which I find disingenuous.

There are probably three distinct threads here, though they seem to overlap in the experience related in the piece by Ms. Derr: Bro Theater, Devised Theater, and abusive behavior by acting teachers and directors. The latter has been around forever. It's one manifestation peculiar of the method which, in some cases, encourages a kind of brutal, unlicensed, and inappropriate "therapy" intended to force actors to engage their deep emotions. I always encourage actors in training to find their own pathways to "surrender." A good therapist can (in a safe space) help unload layers - and years' worth - of accumulated psychological armor. The rehearsal hall is not the place to do that. I can imagine Bro Theater - and certainly Devised Theater - happening without the abuse.

I definitely think the question of devised theater is a separate one, but what I've been seeing is theater that is not just abusive in it's process, it also has an aesthetic that values aggression, violence, and oversexualization. So it is something that happens not just in the rehearsal room but also on stage.

"Bro" theatre. Really? And that's not sexist? If you are talking about the safety of actors (which is crucial) then the school and administration must answer for this. The violence and sexualization of texts...that is the instructor's job to guide and teach these students. Where are these young directors learning it? The classroom? Then if your ludicrous depiction of "Bro" theatre is correct, call the instructors on it. So if I called women's theatre "Box" theatre, "Chick" theatre, or "Vag" theatre, I would be called a sexist pig who is standing in the way of female artists. And for you to throw this kind of theatre under the "Bro"-brella is equally offensive. And as for those women who may "quash" their feelings because a guy they like might like "Bro" theatre, look to the parents of those women and the values they were taught in the home. My daughter would never "quash" her feelings because a guy might not like her ideas and opinions. If you are really concerned about the safety of actors, say so. If you just don't like "Bro" theatre, don't go. You give no examples of the plays being "Bro"-ized. You give no references to back up your sexist claim. And the still used to illustrate your point is a film still. You say males are afraid of losing a patriarchal society and are flocking to Donald Trump (sexist as well) what is it you are afraid of losing?

Actually the equivalent of Vag Theater would be Dick Theater, which is not what I said. Bro is not a reference to anyone's genitalia, though it's telling you can't define a corollary on the feminine side without invoking women's reproductive organs. In fact people talk about women's plays all the time. They also talk about Chick Lit and Chick Flicks, and often they engage in genuinely useful discourse around the topic.

This article rings quite true from my experience as a teacher in a professional school - except the "bro" was a female, who was a working "professional" hired to teach directing, who mixed amateurs and pros in her extra-curricular productions, adapting "classic" texts, such as Miss Julie. But the majority of symptomatic techniques were similar or identical. Very uncomfortable to work with, and truly "unprofessional" in my experience.

I'm actually not surprised to hear that a female director would use this methodology and make this kind of theater. Certainly many of the women actors who work with these bros love it, and of course anyone can be super-masculine, whether or not she is male. It certainly begs the question of how we define professional if directors like this are considered professional.

What you're describing isn't 'bro theater' it's more what you hint at -- the fadish obsession with 'devised work.' I had a professor at UCLA (from the playwriting department) actually tell me that devised work was the future? Really? A form that devalues the playwright is the future of a playwriting program? Talk to me in three years. The text is nothing. Everyone puts in their two cents, and the playwright becomes a secretary. And after three years of grad school, what does a playwright leave with? Devised texts that don't belong to her? That she can't use to build a career?

Certainly for some people doing devised work is a way of avoiding the strictures of working with a play text, but I have also seen some well constructed devised work that was created without any abuse of the actors and that didn't result in oversexualized, violent performances. That said, it's only one way of working, and it's not playwriting. I'm so sorry to hear about your experience at UCLA. Most of the playwriting professors I know share my concern that directors aren't being trained to be faithful to plays.

The devaluing of playwrights in colleges. Yes. Often. Always. Even by professors who tell their students the opposite (but what will students actually mimic--what they've seen or what they've heard?) otherwise. Who tell ME otherwise. And it carries to professional theater, because that's where it starts. If my teacher did it...

So- I am a 58 year old feminist - director- teacher- who has taught in colleges for over 20 years and have many colleagues in many institutions around the country. I have never seen ANY of what this article is describing is some kind of trend... honestly- this just seems like some kind of personal experience grievance turned into an article for what purposes I have no idea. If this kind of stuff is happening in the school in which the author teaches- I suggest going to the administration and filing a formal complaint- rather than indicating that it is some kind of movement of "bros"... whatever that means.

The administration is well aware; the problem is that if the students themselves don't complain then the administration can't do anything, and the students who felt abused don't want to complain because their peers would judge them for it. I'm sorry that it's easier for you to imagine that someone would make this up from whole cloth than it is for you to imagine that a kind of theater exists that you haven't seen. If you could assume for a moment that the stated purpose of the article is what it is - that I would like to hear from people who have experienced this kind of theater and to brainstorm about ways to address it - and not some secret agenda, and that what I describe really happens, could you agree that it is a problem for colleges and for what those students will be bringing into the professional world?

Look- there are so many problems in your essay- that it is hard to know where to begin. If you are experiencing this kind of rampant problem- and we assume that this problem does in fact- exist, which I actually strongly disagree with as a premise, at least to the degree you have made an argument for here: then you also have not made a case for this meaning that "bros" are responsible. Young people in undergraduate programs sometimes come up with some god awful shit- and that is not the purvey of "bros" alone... lots of young women directors treat their actors badly or get excited by all sorts of immature stuff. LOTS of folks- male and female- end up thinking sex or violence is super interesting and LOTS of folks- male and female- ignore the playwright- in fact, there are many major directing programs both at the undergrad and grad level- that teach directors first- how to make "their" cut of the play... as if that is a default part of what they are supposed to do. From reading this chain of responses also- I think you need to really hear and listen to the pushback you are getting on your premise- both on the gender level and the devised theatre premise. I get that we are living in a time when the issues of consent and women's rights and equity across the board are finally being looked at in great depth in colleges across the country- and that is a good thing. The down side of that trend is a sort of PC police- and your article plays right into that by taking occurrences that you - I gather- have experienced to the degree that you are conveying here- and- even if I accept that rather than think you just came up with a sexy title in order to publish in Howlround... then I would argue that your conclusions are insulting to young men, the young women you claim are "afraid" to "complain" and to all the devised theatre crowd out there... and again- lets face it- devised is a very broad term which similar to the term "method" means almost everything and nothing- depending upon your particular definition. Lots of folks use these terms - and even Comedy Improv considers itself - devised theatre- in the college arena... There are just so many issues I have with your argument and it seems from this chain that I am not alone...

It is totally possible that I am wrong about this phenomena being widespread. Perhaps it is specific to my institution. If I may offer a few clarificiations on what I've personally seen happening, - bros are not just young men, they are also adult guest directors and faculty members- bros are not just men; they are members of a subculture with a shared identity and ethos- bro theater is not necessarily devised. I only brought up the existence of devised theater to explain why I have been trying to also teach a respect for and ability to honor a writer's text. Bro theater is sometimes devised and sometimes results from work on a play; in either case the director devalues the source material and uses it as an excuse for his aesthetic- bro theater isn't exploring sex, violence, and drinking, rather it treats sex and violence the same way fratire does, which is to say it replicates it and celebrates under the false premise that it is criticizing/examining- bro theater's methodology most certainly follows in the footsteps of the Method directors of the past, but unlike say Elia Kazan, bro directors are not using that methodology in service of a play but in service of their own desire to see actors suffer and in the creation of an aesthetic of painAll that said, if it's not actually a phenomena and only a trend at a few places, I stand corrected.

Ok- but you are calling them "bros" and that is a term which signifies young men these days- they are the "bros"- and I don't think the average person out there thinks of adult guest directors or faculty members with this terminology. Women certainly might not consider themselves "bros" in general- for example.

I stand up regularly to misogyny of all kinds- all the time, but I also have 2 sons- 16 and 21, and teach so many young men who are the opposite of what you are describing here. There are just as many young women or older women - who use their positions as directors in ways that I find not useful- and sometimes even abusive. That list is LONG, and applies to women, men , young, old, directors, playwrights, producers, casting directors and... yes- actors.

But-what is the point of an article that builds its initial argument by describing Donald Trump and an unhealthy masculinity? I am sorry- but you went there on this- you made a case that connected the dots here on the "bro" theatre theory.

I just respectfully disagree with this argument.