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Why I Will Never Produce Another All-Female Outdoor Show Again

This summer, my company Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company produced an all-female version of The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare. The production was free to all and produced in a local city park. And after that experience I know one thing for sure: I am never producing another outdoor all-female show again. Ever. And neither should you.

Let me explain.

We performed in a local park in Somerville, Massachusetts. It had to be free and open to the public in accordance with our permit from the city. The show was cast with a group of ten young women. The director, most of the designers, the stage manager, and our full administrative staff were female.

Some men would try to move or touch the set, talk to the actors while they were backstage during the show, or just park it right behind the backstage area and sit there for hours—one of them eight hours straight one day—watching us.

And that was great—our mission is to give opportunity to female theatre artists. But what that meant was: there were no men. None. It was young ladies as far as the eye could see in that park without any male company.

Vaguely, I must have known that a few homeless people would populate a public park in summer every now and then. But I really didn’t think much of it. I would be there every day anyway if there were any problems, so it would be fine….

It was not fine.

The men who frequented the park (and I say “men” not to point fingers but because every single one of them was, in fact, a man) were often homeless and almost always drunk or high. We are in the middle of an opioid crisis in Massachusetts, after all. So there we were, fifteen or so young women in a park going about our theatre business. It wasn’t long before the men began to approach us. Some would try to move or touch the set, talk to the actors while they were backstage during the show, or just park it right behind the backstage area and sit there for hours—one of them eight hours straight one day—watching us.

I talked to the local police about the issue, and was told there was nothing legally I could do. It was a public park and as long as these men were not physically doing anything wrong, they were allowed to stay. Simply making us all uncomfortable was not a reason to ask the police to remove them. Having to deal with men, under the influence, by myself, in a park was not something, as Artistic Director, I was prepared for.

a group of actors on stage
(Left to right) Allison Gilman, Mara Elisa Palma, Juliet Bowler, Cassandra Meyer, Leilani Ricardo, and Gail Shalan in The Winter’s Tale.

I had some very unhappy actors on my hands. Actors who were being leered at and approached by strange, often intoxicated, men. The few times I approached these men to ask them to move, not touch the set, or sit with the rest of the audience while the show was going on, I was met with a level of aggression I was not prepared for.

These gentlemen did not appreciate a freckle-faced little lady telling them what to do in anything resembling an authoritative voice. They would yell back at my request and I would immediately back down. I learned to quickly change to the safest possible tactic: flirting. And it was awful. It felt gross. It still makes me angry even thinking about the fact that the only workable tool at my disposal to diffuse that situation was to put on a smile, apologize profusely, and gently manipulate them in my girliest, highest-pitched voice.

The more we stand up in front of the world, do the work, and speak the speech, the faster things will change. I will not be silenced. I may not do another outdoor all-female show, but I’m not through fighting yet to make women’s stories more visible.

Having to lower yourself to flirting and smiling at a man who you find frightening in order to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you is humiliating. And though no one made me do it, I don’t really think I had any other choice in that moment. Engaging them at their level of aggression would not end well. For however strong, and smart, and capable I feel on the inside, I was still 5’6” and 120 lbs on the outside up against a man twice my size who was getting angry and already in an altered state of mind.

As much as I hated doing it, and as much as I hate admitting it, it was the only safe way to deal with that particular breed of Angry Male. Because even men whose lives are in shambles, who have nowhere to go but a public park, and nothing to kill the pain but these substances still believe that as a woman I must interact with them in a certain way that maintains gender roles. And that they have the right to leer at young women any time they please, especially if there are no other men around to stop them.

By the end of the run, I had asked my boyfriend to come to the shows to sit backstage and discourage these men from approaching the actors. It worked. They were gone. As he sat up there one day, my female usher and I sat at the Front of House Table when a man approached: drunk, scary, and carrying a giant handle of whiskey. He began to regale us with tales of his drinking, of men he had suddenly decided to beat up, and of how no one messed with him. He stayed there at the table talking at us for a good fifteen minutes, and all of our quiet smiling and gentle encouragement for him to leave was not working. I suppose I could have asked him to leave, but my thought was, “This man is clearly unstable and drunk—what might he do if I upset him?” I texted my boyfriend to come down to us. And the second he appeared, the guy scampered off in a hurry.

And that just proved to me these men know what they’re doing. They know that this behavior is not acceptable, but they believe they have a right to my attention, to my time, and to look at my body as much as they want, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

The bottom line is, it’s sad, but it is not safe to do an all-female show in a public park. In 2015, it is still not safe—even in broad daylight—to be female in public…unless your boyfriend is there.

Finally, so I don’t leave this all wallowing in victimhood, let me say that it was still a great show. We brought art to a community that lacked it. We showed women in strong, dynamic leading roles to people that were not usual theatregoers. That is how I fight this system. There will always be people at your work, in your town, in your government who do not see women, minorities, or people with disabilities as beings with thoughts and feelings as acute and complex as their own. But the more we stand up in front of the world, do the work, and speak the speech, the faster things will change. I will not be silenced. I may not do another outdoor all-female show, but I’m not through fighting yet to make women’s stories more visible. I’ve barely even started.

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I find it odd that - as a woman working in theater - I'm finding it easier to identify with the "unstable and drunk," "frightening" homeless people depicted in this story than with the author herself. There are artists around the world who truly are in danger, just by virtue of their art, but I think it's too easy for the rest of us to fall into the comfortable arms of victimhood. Were you and your company uncomfortable? Absolutely. It sounds like a really awful experience, and nobody likes feeling threatened.

But please don't forget that you were bringing theater to the living room of addicts. THEATER - which by definition asks that your audience pay attention to you, makes demands on both your and their time, and suggests that they look at you, your actors, and your art. It seems a little disingenuous to find those very things threatening just because your audience isn't acting the way you'd expect patrons of privilege to behave in a more traditional setting.

Some artists spend countless hours trying to find ways to make their audience uncomfortable, because from that discomfort comes growth. I just don't see how any of us can grow if we view interacting with our audience as an experience in "lowering" ourselves. Maybe the way forward is through that feeling, rather than flouncing away from it. Either way, I do hope you continue to tell your stories, and share your art, in whatever way works for you.

This sort of disappointment is common among those who have bought into the delusions that society tries to sell. The truth is that government, money, ownership, religion... even words... do not actually exist. They are just mental concepts we often choose to agree upon. We do this for a reason and it is functional and overall a good thing. However, it can be dangerous to see it as anything but something that doesn't actually exist. The safeties and securities that have their foundation on this illusion are equally non-existent. I feel bad about breaking this news but it is the truth. No amount of using the word "should" or "shouldn't" will change reality.

If you are 120 lbs and a 250 lb man tries to attack you... he MAY go to jail. That is real. However there is no real security there as you may already be dead, disfigured, raped, etc. Sex offenders have limits to their terms. I had two good friends raped, stabbed, then burned alive by a man who served his sentence limit after previously raping someone. There is no effective treatment and they will get back out of prison to make room for pot smokers because they will work harder in backroom deals set up through the prison labor system by people who think money is real.

Anyways, the truth is that you can also have safety at 120 lbs. There are martial arts classes you can take. Guns are legal everywhere. I personally do not like guns, but there are also great non-lethal options available to you. There is also the bodyguard method you allude to in your article. What is NOT an option is relying on social norms, government, or any sort of illusion for safety.

As an aside, "being creepy" is subjective and is not illegal (I doubt this will change). You encountered people with clear problems and it seems this translated to you and others feeling uncomfortable. Another route to safety is to take care of even what you view as the least of humans. These people that creeped you out may or may not have been those sex offenders I allude to above. The odds are that they were not... and instead were lonely people excited to get a chance to communicate with people that would otherwise do their best to avoid them... People who came into what was essentially their home to do something wonderful. You may have seen what they did as a violation of boundaries, but visa versa may have been true. They may have even preferred you not be there and been creepy intentionally so they could have their home back.

Food for thought. <3

This sounds like a play in itself. Not sure of the theme, but it's probably something about the triumph of determined women over testosterone induced stupidity.
Reminds me of once, while suffering from what now appears to be total insanity. I was compelled to save TEN amphitheaters in state parks. Unused and in need of repair, they were set for demolition when I somehow convinced state officials that they could be saved by establishing them as venues for historical musicals that I falsely assured them were ready for production.
Traveling 150 miles between venues, I frantically dictated scripts and music over unreliable cell connections. Scripts were faxed to the sites and music was arranged, recorded and CD's were Fed-exed. We somehow got great performers from surrounding areas and audiences grew.
We endured several terrifying and hilarious wildlife encounters and survived every climate condition known to man, but after a season of 110 degree days and 100 nights, we were literally burned out.
However, we did save the amphitheaters. We met some wonderful people, established enduring friendships and created some wonderful memories.
Outdoor theater is God's theater for sure. It inspires both performers and audiences. I will probably never do it again, but it is absolutely magic and every playwright/director should do it at least once.

Hi guys. Thank you all for your feedback- I am the writer of this piece. Here is my response to some of the general criticism I have been hearing:

A major criticism seems to be that I should have known this would be an issue and should have had better security. My response to that is: I don't think its clear in the article that we are a very small company. This was only our second show and our first outdoor show. I have also done shows outdoors before and none of them ever once had a security guard onsite, so perhaps I was naive about it, but I don't know too many fringe company's that hire out security. The budget for the piece was only 5000 dollars. In hindsight I definitely should have hired security, I was given the option to hire an officer, but the cost of that officer, to work nights and weekends for 3 weeks would have been almost as much as the budget of the entire production. And it is an expense that I would not have to incur if I simply had men in the cast and crew. That, I think, speaks to the extra costs that women generally incur to keep themselves safe in public spaces (taking a taxi home instead of public transit for instance) And that is something we need to keep bringing attention to and working on. I could also have had my male friends volunteer to be our security- but it comes to the same conclusion- that the only way to be safe as a woman in public is to have men around.

Some have responded that the article is defeatist and I am a quitter- I disagree- we did another all-female show right after this and it was perfectly fine. I will continue to do this work- but not outdoors- unless someone feels like donating an extra 5000 bucks to my non-profit company. And if I did have an extra 5000 to add to the budget I would much rather do the show indoors and use that to pay my actors and designers more as opposed to hiring one professional security guard.

Other comments have been critical of what it seems to say about homelessness, drug addiction, and the police. To be clear, the piece is not intended to criticize law inforcement in any way- I really don't think there was much they could do, had I called them to remove someone there would be nothing stopping that person from coming back later. It could have escalated the situation. I wish there had been a stronger general police presence but you know- I'm sure they do their best.

And as for homelessness and drug addiction. I do not blame people for their circumstances, only for their behavior. We had no right to remove people from the park AND WE NEVER DID it is a public space and part of our contract with the city was that it had to be open to the public. These two problems are incredibly complex and I do not seek to solve them in this article- I merely want people to be aware of what our experience was.

If nothing else, what I HOPE people get from the piece is more awareness about the issues women face on a daily basis. I truly believe that the only way to change something is to shine a light on it, speak about it, make people aware of it- then slowly work toward a solution.

But honestly if people have suggestions and input I am open to that. We are a very young company and have a lot to learn. Thanks for reading ~Erin

Well said. Although actually, IMO, none of that needed to be said. I understood your piece just fine. I believe people were coming up with these arguments to sound intelligent, and instead showed a lack of reading comprehension. We've rather become a society of folks who cannot read pieces for content plus meaning, but rather criticize wording and ideas in a compartmentalized way.

Please keep writing about your experiences. As a fellow producer of tiny budget productions, I think your voice is important. Keep using it.

I know this is long after the post date of this writing, but just stumbled on this when googling the play so I could tell someone else about it. Just wanted to say that I was at one of the performances last year and it was just wonderful. I'm so sad to realize that it probably won't be happening again. The whole thing was delightful and I know I wasn't alone in my enjoyment. I'm really sorry you guys had to go through all of that bullshit to put on a free show. Thank you for putting up with that garbage and creating a magical evening in the park for me and everyone else who saw it last yr.

So, if a woman in the park feels uncomfortable: first call law enforcement.  If the police tell you that they won't infringe on the rights of the homeless on your behalf, then call your boyfriend to intimidate the homeless guys for you.  Finally, write about it, and claim yourself as a victim of societal oppression toward women and unfair gender roles.  The author's story is one-sided, and packed full of her own bigotry, don't look past all of that and agree with her weak one-sided premise.  Equality does not mean strip others of their rights until you feel comfortable.  Good for them for eventually being able to do the show, but it is a bit pretentious and whiny to complain about the homeless people in the fashion she did, while trying to tie it into an overarching gender issue.

Come back when a stinking drunk person encrusted with dirt comes up behind YOU and strokes your hair and whispers in your ear that he wants to lick your you-know-what and then let's talk. Of course I have empathy for homeless people as a group, and recognize that their problems are systemic societal issues, not character flaws. Similarly, I know that it's not fair to make judgements about a group as they pertain to individuals--most homeless people are perfectly harmless. But I'm a woman living in a urban environment, and I have had many interactions with homeless men that are, in a word, disgusting, including the one above. Free from the societal net that keeps their compatriots who have more to lose at least somewhat in line (although plenty of THOSE men also cross it regularly) and burdened by substances or mental illness or what have you, it's appalling what some men will say and do. And the fact is, it DOES bespeak the deep roots of male privilege and patriarchy that a man who has literally nothing--no privileges of any sort, really--still has and uses his power to make women uncomfortable. Sure, you may have failed at life by every imaginable standard, but you can still call a strange woman a bitch and make her feel just as small as you for a minute.

And yes, yes, #NotAllHomelessPeople. #NotAllMen. We know. Not ALL of you have to do something in order for women to have a valid problem with the members of that group who DO do things like that.

DID someone in this story come up behind one of these women and stroke their hair and whisper lewd things in her ear? I didn't see that.

If that did happen, then the police absolutely could have and should have intervened. Unwanted touching, in itself, warrants an assault charge and the law does apply!

But what I read here (without going back to re-read) was that this group staged a show in an area frequented by drunks and druggies and were frightened because they were looked at ("leered"), approached, and spoken to. The worst offense she cites was that someone became verbally upset when she asked him to go away.

I'm sorry these actors had that experience. Truly, I am. But they CHOSE to stage a show in that environment.

Build a cabin in the swamp and you're bound to have a gator on your porch now and then.

And for the record, I don't see this as a gender issue. I know men who couldn't intimidate a puppy, and I know women who I'd want beside me in combat. (From her description of how the drunks were intimidated by him, I'm guessing that the writer's boyfriend wasn't some little guy.)

If you're going to hold an event in a space like that, prepare to handle the challenges. Or, if you fail to, don't whine about how it's all because you're just a helpless little girl.
You're really not helping feminism here.

I was responding specifically to the commenter above, not to the original article. Which, if you read it, was a pretty textbook example of a dude not believing a woman's experience of sexual harassment. You are also part of the problem. I mean, she CHOSE to stage a play in the park. Just like some girl CHOSE to wear that short skirt, right? Some girl CHOSE to go to a party and get drunk and kiss that frat boy? So obviously whatever disgusting thing a man chose to do next is actually *her* fault.

It's my belief that women should be able to exist in public spaces without men being disgusting in their general direction. If that's anti-feminist, feel free to explain how. GTFO with your victim-blaming nonsense. You can choose not to see this as a gender issue, but that doesn't make it not a gender issue. Similarly, you can choose to describe women as helpless for not wanting to be sexually harassed--I certainly didn't and wouldn't.

People not helping feminism: mainly, you.

Don't be a victim. I believe the story. Life sucks. The victim is also never at fault. However... If a capable person, is only a victim of their own feelings, it does not mean they can infringe on the rights of others. The author is obviously upset, but can't look past her own bias to see the oppression she sought and endorsed. She trys to be a victim of 2015 gender inequality because she had to flirt. Most people reading this aren't buying it. I'm sorry about your experiences, but don't project your horrible experience into this story, because it lends credence to an otherwise unremarkable interaction with a homeless group in a park. Erin Butcher, time to come down off that high horse.

"There will always be people at your work, in your town, in your government who do not see women, minorities, or people with disabilities as beings with thoughts and feelings as acute and complex as their own." -Erin Butcher

Many women would disagree with you that being a woman is an Ill existence... I would quite like to experience being a woman for a few days. Maybe you can ask your hypothetical genie to schedule me for three days of child labor.

I would quite like to experience being a woman for a few days.

It's not the full experience, but you could totally get some feel for it. Just put on a dress and makeup and heels and go walk around downtown. Maybe go to a board meeting dressed up like that.

Would people not take you seriously? Would you get threatened? Maybe beaten up or worse?

Guess what. That's what it's like to be a woman.

Harassment or assault was not in question. If she felt harrased, felt threatened, felt oppressed by society and gender inequality, then just say so. Gender equality will never be achieved if you "feel" inferior to men. If a man is a pig, so be it. This piece seeks to define an altercation with drunk homeless men, who were leering, as a stain on gender equality in 2015. SUCK IT UP. Some people are pigs. Some people will do disgusting things, but your choice to be offended at leering is not symptomatic of male to female gender oppression. It's just how you dealt with a drunk homeless person. Your discomfort with, and how you deal with it is a choice. An attempt to deprive another human, the same freedom in a public place that you are enjoying, because of your discomfort with them is bigotry. Period dot.

She did say so. In this blog post. Which for some reason you thought it was important to completely invalidate by saying something really insightful like "SUCK IT UP." The fact that you insist there is nothing gendered in men leering at women is just...so dumb on its face that I don't think I have to actually address any of your other non-points. So thanks for your contribution. Period dot.

Leering, looking, laughing, breathing, talking, sitting, walking, drinking, existing. Take your pick. If it offends you, SUCK IT UP. It is not your right to exist unoffended. It is not a societal problem that can be FIXED by actually oppressing your offending group of choice. Do you feel helpless? I can't help it if a homeless guys feels like being a pig. I can't help you feel unoffended. Do you feel uncomfortable drinking from the same water fountains as other groups of people? Many saw fit to limit freedom of others to serve their own bigotry. Are you endorsing her actions and behavior? I know it's a hard world out there, and she felt uncomfortable. But, look past your own bias, and read the story again.

Although it almost pointless to reply to you, Mike, on the off-chance you have any intelligence at all, here goes: leering, looking, getting into a woman's personal space--these are TESTS. We "suck it up" Every. Single. Day. just to get to work on time. But make no mistake: these are tests. A man who does these things is looking for weakness--can I isolate this woman? can I corner her? can I frighten her? CAN I CONTROL HER? Leering and looking are not illegal. But is it harmless? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. And no means getting raped and/or murdered. Like today. Now. In the park. So you never drop your guard. You don't walk around like "Yo, guy has a right to leer, doesn't he?" Because if you're not paying attention, you are dead. That's reality. It's not about being offended. It's about living another day. Most interactions do not rise to that level of threat, of course. But some do. And many could. And you cannot, cannot be casual about that. "It's a hard world out there, and she felt uncomfortable." In this context, "uncomfortable" means on alert for serious physical harm to self or others. Is it so impossible for you to feel that? If so, I've wasted far too many words on you. But if yes: think.

I'm sorry I take her words so literally then. Your inference is much more powerful than what she actually wrote. The inference you make from the story outweighs what the author wrote? The scourge of society was there? Just testing? Waiting to pounce on this defenseless woman? I didn't read that. Neither did you. What you describe is a predator. Were you there? Do you have actual insight to this story, or just projecting? I'm not trying to analyze how she felt. What I'm saying is that *feeling it* does not make it true. Furthermore, feeling it, does not justify the bigotry exibited by the author.

What you describe is a predator. Were you there? Do you have actual insight to this story, or just projecting?

There's the gender dynamic that's so harmful, though.

If a woman isn't harmed by someone, men tell her that she was mean to him -- why shouldn't she trust him? He may be annoying, but he's harmless.

And if he does attack her, then why didn't she trust her instincts? He was emitting terrible vibes, wasn't he? Why didn't she run or call the cops?

In short, women can't win.

Dear Mike. Women are not your masturbatory aid. You seem to be under the impression that men have the right to force other ***people*** into their sexual fantasies without requiring consent -- well, that is, IF you thought women were "people".

You wouldn't have said, "Well of course a man has the right to force other men to participate in his sexual fantasy without their consent! Men should suck it up when other men leer at them and grab their ass!" You wouldn't say that about MEN and you wouldn't say it about PEOPLE -- so why would you say that to a woman? Well, in your world, women aren't people, are they? In your world, men don't exist merely to be anyone's masturbatory aid. But in your world, that is all women are FOR, which explains why women should "just suck it up" when men treat them as sexual objects.

No. I did not say that harrasment is fine. Gender equality does not mean comfortable. It means equal rights. Comfort is not a right. Being leered at is not something you have control over in a free society (in public). It is bigoted to seek oppression of someone else's freedoms, to fit your own definition of acceptable conduct and comfort.

A lot of the comments here are saying that this troupe should have anticipated this problem and hired security. Question: if an all-female group is required to budget for hiring security (because they're getting harassed all the time), but an all-male or mixed-gender group doesn't need to hire security (because people are keeping their distance and not harassing them) isn't that still a feminist issue? It means that the all-female group has to spend more money in order to make their art.

Also, as someone who has produced--frankly, making every mistake in the book is par for the course, is it not? The shaming "you should have known better" tone is a little much. I wouldn't have made any of my mistakes had I known better--but I didn't! And that's not a failing unique to women. Don't we all do that?

As I implied above, simple possession of a penis is not enough to ensure a cast's security. I could stage a show with a dozen guys picked from the last few shows I've done, and they couldn't COLLECTIVELY intimidate an angry drunk.
And I know women who, I have complete faith, could have dealt with these individuals head-on.

We have female cops. We have female soldiers. We have female prison guards. And guess what--many of them are even competent!

So, no. This was not a gender issue.

As for a "feminist" issue? I think you're confused by the term. Feminism is about NOT being treated differently because you're a female. If I stage a show there, I'll have to deal with those men. Just like you.

"They couldn't COLLECTIVELY intimidate an angry drunk."

And they wouldn't have to, because there wouldn't be men coming up and harassing them, because they aren't women. And that's what makes it a feminist issue, dingus.

"If I stage a show there, I'll have to deal with those men. Just like you."

No, you won't. It even said in the article, they leave when they see men around.

Thank you Brian. @Early Brown. Brian is right. you said so yourself...there are female cops, female soldiers, and female prison guards. BUT! the fact that this artistic directors "boyfriend" does not have a badge and was able to scare away a drunk simply by his presence indicates a gender bias. It is a gender issue. Why shoudl this theatre company have to hire a badge for something an average Joe could do? To say they should have had competant people? at the end of the article, she states that they were able to bring art and a differnt perspective in female roles, that would otherwise go unseen. If they had to budget security into this, what if they didn't have the money? So a whole community would miss out, beacause a female troupes safety couldn't be enjoyed in broad daylight? really?

All of my female friends encounter street harassment on a daily basis. I never see it, because when I'm with them, it doesn't happen. The mere presence of a man - and I am hardly intimidating - is enough to get these guys to not harass and threaten. It's the same reason the only way for a girl to stop a guy from hitting on her is to say she has a boyfriend. They don't respect women, they do respect men.

I gotta say, being a white, straight, financially secure, neurotypical man is SO GREAT. If I were Christian and right handed, I'd be unstoppable. And unlike some of these idiots, I AM AWARE THAT THE WORLD TREATS ME BETTER BECAUSE OF THESE THINGS. And awareness is only the FIRST step.

This problem is not necessarily inherent to the presentation of an all-female theatre piece. The problems outlined in this story, to say nothing of the problem of homelessness in general, are founded in the complete failure of urban government and the policies practiced thereby. Or should we say "not practiced." If a city gives permission to present a theatre piece in a park, that should not be the end of the transaction! There should be coordination with park security (assuming any such thing exists), police, and fire department. Ideally there would be an arts infrastructure that facilitated such presentations, as opposed to a functionary signing a piece of paper and washing their hands of any responsibility. You did the right thing attempting to claim an artistic use of the park. But it will take a revolution in urban planning and governance, along with a revitalization of the concept of state and federally funded arts support, in order to allow wonderful ideas like all-female theatre in a civic setting to be carried out properly. If you do refrain from repeat performances, at least pour your energy into getting your local municipality to change it's attitudes toward the function of the arts in your community.

I'm currently doing a production of all female Titus, after doing an outdoor production of Macbeth (with males and females). Considering I wouldn't even walk back to my car by myself (and I normal preferred walking with a man) I applaud you for your courage. I really hope you are just saying not outside, because being in an all female cast is something so special I hope more actresses get to experience it. Inside of a theatre you have a little more control over who's going to be backstage and you don't get as many drunks.
Please keep doing what you are doing with bringing not only art to communities short on art but also giving women opportunities that are often limited. Break A Leg in all your future shows

This is kind of heartbreaking to me, though.

I'm nervous walking to (some) places on my own at night. But I've never thought that I'd be less safe with a large group of women than I'd be with one guy.

This is a pretty sobering experience, to be sure. There is a lot of meat on the bones of how men and women interact in public. The most telling part of this tale (to me, at least) was the "solution" to fall back on "feminine whiles" as a way to assert control.

I'm not sure how much this has to do with theatrical production as it does with a ground of females in America gathering in a public space and feeling intruded upon by strangers who are men and who are legally present. I see public performances in parks and where it is needed they have security present (male and female) in nice yellow jackets that say "Security". I don't understand whether it is supposed to be a statement that in addition to all female artists there is no wish to provide security or a reluctance to get one or more males to assist with the drunks.

There is "how we might wish things to be" and there is "how they are." I wish that men addicted to drugs had better community resources. They don't and that's how it is. So which situation do you choose to address? If it is giving them support then theater might not be the solution. If it is maintaining security for your performers, then someone capable of providing security is needed. That does not have to be a man but it does have to be a person able to provide it. The self described 5'6" 120 pound director was not that person.

Hmm... as a person who did all female productions in public parks in NYC for many years, quitting is not the answer. Among other things, we never had a "back stage" area. By keeping everyone on stage at all time, we never dealt with these problems bc the public watching the park was also watching the cast.

I'm not saying it's a perfect solution, but it was our solution. And we then retained our 100% female troupe (including SMs).

Safety is ALWAYS a concern in an outdoor free production. And how you handle it needs to be part of every part of the production and not an after-thought. Indoor theatre at least give a measure of control to who is there and let in the building. Outdoor theatre has no such safety, therefore it's part of the process of building the piece from the beginning.

The answer to this situation isn't beefing up security. From your position of privilege, the most important thing in this situation is continue your fight to make women's stories more visible. We'll set aside the fact that The Winter's Tale is hardly a woman's story. And however invisible you might feel women's stories are, they are certainly much more visible than the stories of those drunken addicted men who inhabit the park. Do you think they're there by choice? If your story is to be believed, the men in the park were not drunken, entitled frat boys. They are human beings in crisis. If you really want to address the problem, work with a shelter to help these men to find somewhere else to call home. Believe it or not, the privilege of bastardizing a piece of classic literature and pervert it to a modern political agenda does not trump all others.

You cannot be serious "Housewives."
Erin, it's disgusting what you experienced. And speaks to one of the greater crises our society is facing right now. And I say ONE of them, because yes, there are sadly several terrible ongoing problems - and no one cause is more important than another. It's humiliating what you experienced and I commend your bravery in going forward with the production.

I'm trying to figure out why The Winter's Tale isn't a woman's story, and what "bastardizing a piece of classical literature and pervert it to a modern political agenda" means.

The Winter's Tale--the story of Queen Hermione's ultimate triumph over her husband's unfounded jealousy using love and perseverance, as helped by her BFF Paulina--is a woman's story.

Using women's voices and bodies to tell a story once told only by men isn't bastardizing, unless you like your Shakespeare in OP with men only, and in that case, just about every single Shakespeare play produced since 1660 is a bastardization. Oops.

The use of "pervert it to a modern political agenda" is so pejorative that I can see now what's going on with your post. Nice troll. You have achieved your objective to piss off the ladies and their lady brains this morning.

The only "political agenda" Maiden Phoenix had in presenting an all-female production of The Winter's Tale was employing talented female performers who might be stuck in more marginal roles in a more traditionally cast Shakespeare play. There were certainly some aspects of the production that worked better than others, but if there was any weirdness -- it owed more to the fact that it is one of Shakespeare's weirder plays -- not because of the gender of the performers.

Exactly. The purpose of this production had nothing to do with the edification of the audience in any way. It was about the performers.

But all of that is secondary to the real issue, which is a bunch of entitled, middle class people with nothing to offer but their own egos swept aside other members of the community in order to present themselves as avengers of the sexism in Shakespeare. The author sites her flirting with the men in the park as her only option for dealing with them. Apparently it never occurs to her that the men in the park are doing the same thing as their only means of protesting her co-opting the park for her vanity production. But of course, she's so steeped in the notion that she and all women are victims of systemic sexism that she rejects the notion she could be guilty some far more insidious.

I don't accept that Maiden Phoenix has a greater responsibility than the rest of society to address a systemic structural failure of the economy or in the delivery of mental health. And whatever class prejudices are exhibited in this essay -- the primary concern all through this essay is Butcher's concern for her cast and crew's safety from harassment.

The naïveté is simply not taking into account that outdoor shows require a modicum of security -- which is why I noted in a separate comment how a number of theater companies performing in the same metropolitan area that same summer were able to take precautions -- and yes, part of that naïveté is not realizing that flirting is a bad technique addressing sexual harassment.

But I don't think such naïveté is a moral failing, as you are making it out to be.

I understand what you're saying. I'm a woman and I've been in those situations before. However, I think by trying to dissuade all women from creating public, all-female productions you are doing a disservice to the theater community. In a way, you're backing down from the problem; like you say in the article you are quickly changing to the safest possible tactic. I understand your worry. I understand your fear. I've been there. I've looked into the eyes of men, many of whom have been intoxicated, who think that because you're a woman they get to look at you and talk to you as if you have no autonomy of your own. However, fighting the system is hard. And you can't back down from it. I admire that you are still going to be fighting to make women's stories heard and I truly empathize with your story. But I don't think it's right to say that there is no way to make a safe, public, all-female production happen. By saying that because this happened once there is no way around it is not allowing for other people to think up their own solutions or tackle the problem in their own way. You have found that telling women's stories in this way doesn't work for you. But that does not mean that it will not work for everyone and trying to persuade people that this is the way the world is and that there is no changing it is part of the problem.

I reviewed this production and found much to recommend in the approach taken by Maiden Phoenix, so I am saddened (for several summers I've been teaching mime and commedia dell'arte to children and teenagers in that very same park with Open Air Circus -- and there was one night of overlap between my classes and Maiden Phoenix' rehearsals) but not surprised by the harassment the cast and production crew experienced.

The security problems faced by Maiden Phoenix were simply unmanageable without support from the city. Nathan Tufts Park is a gorgeous urban park, bordered both by residences and a major roads, with at least four bus routes passing by -- meaning that it received a great deal of foot traffic -- but due to its unique topology -- indeed much of what makes it an inspired location for performance makes it hard to secure: whole sections of the park are invisible to other parts. Of course, I'm well aware when I'm teaching children's theater by the powder house, I'm not only a male with a loud voice, but I also would have a couple of parents close at hand if I ever have concerns about my students' well-being.

These problems in Nathan Tufts Park are even more visible when I consider other outdoor theater events that I attended (mostly as a reviewer) this past summer: Commonwealth Shakespeare's free shows on the Boston Common are done with both Park Rangers and Boston PD close at hand, observing the event and the actors are protected by a clearly demarcated backstage area. Likewise, Apollinaire Theatre's production of Lorca's Blood Wedding in Chelsea's PORT Park was far enough away from the main drag, so that there were few if any people in the park who had not come for the play, and the actors had a shipping container that operated as a secure changing room. Meanwhile, Mattie Mae Theater Project's presentation of Laurence Carr's The Wakeville Stories was in the Somerville Veterans Memorial Cemetery, perhaps because of the nature of cemeteries as sacred spaces, and the fact that it is a small, fenced in area, was a fairly easy to keep secure.

Neither cast nor crew should ever have to worry about security during a performance. But if other theater producers are to learn anything from the awful experience Butcher reports, it's simply that the producers have to think about security the moment they start scouting locations for outdoor shows.

I think, perhaps, the writer misses the real issue in trying to make a point:

"Vaguely, I must have known that a few homeless people would populate a public park in summer every now and then. But I really didn’t think much of it. I would be there every day anyway if there were any problems, so it would be fine….

"It was not fine.

"The men who frequented the park (and I say “men” not to point fingers but because every single one of them was, in fact, a man) were often homeless and almost always drunk or high. We are in the middle of an opiod crisis in Massachusetts, after all."

It is, at best, naivete on Ms. Butcher's part to think there wouldn't be a security concern in a public park frequented by transients in the middle of an drug epidemic. So the artistic director, aware of a security threat, did nothing to prepare for that security threat other than hope for the best. That's what my lawyer friends would call negligence, and if anything had happened, the company/artistic director would have been liable.

I can't remember the last time that I went to a public event that didn't have security of some kind. The real point of this article is that, when the safety of your company or patrons is a plausible concern, you must be proactive in your preparations. Hire female security guards, if it is more in keeping with your mission, but it was foolish for her to think she wouldn't need security of any kind when she was cognizant of security threats.

I have to agree. Part of my point is that I have been using that same park to teach physical theater to children for at least eight summers as part of a youth circus -- and the reason I can work with my students without worrying too much about security is that there are other adults around with whom I have built rapport over the years.

I'm still saddened that Maiden Phoenix did have an awful experience.

Uh no. While the company may have been singled out due to their gender for special attention from miscreants, the underlying problem is insufficient resources assigned to securing the performance venue. It's the city's responsibility to keep up their end of the bargain, and not wash their hands of a situation once the paperwork and fees have been sorted.

I did understand the point of the article. Actors performing in open public spaces are always at increased risk than in enclosed spaces -- and due to the reality of both misogyny as part of the culture, and the matter in which both substance abuse and homelessness are real social-economic problems -- female actresses are at increased risk of harassment in these situations.

I am concerned to note that there are a number of real-world considerations that producers can consider to decrease the danger to performers that I have observed in outdoor productions in the same metropolitan area over the course of the same summer -- and as someone who has been using that park to teach theater to children for eight summers, I have some awareness about how to be safe in that park.

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