Pianist and singer Jane Edwards, left, singer Jaime Mollineaux-Herbert and actor Ben Winckle with president of the Theatre Council of Tasmania Peter Sexton at the launch of the Tasmanian Theatre Awards last year. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL
Pianist and singer Jane Edwards, left, singer Jaime Mollineaux-Herbert and actor Ben Winckle with president of the Theatre Council of Tasmania Peter Sexton at the launch of the Tasmanian Theatre Awards last year. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL

Awards night to be gender neutral affair

THE Theatre Council of Tasmania will move to gender neutral awards so local gender-non-conforming artists can be nominated in key performance categories.

Gender specific awards such as "Best Male or Female Actor" will be replaced by the gender neutral title of "Outstanding Performance" at the next Tasmanian Theatre Awards event.

Melbourne's Green Room Awards have had gender neutral designations for more than five years in some categories and, internationally, the Grammys, the MTV Music Awards and the British National Television Awards have gender neutral awards.

Theatre Council of Tasmania president Peter Sexton said the impetus for change was generated by Tasmania Performs' production of Zeb: A Gender Odyssey, starring gender-non-conforming artist Hera Direen at the Theatre Royal Backspace.

"We became aware that while Hera was able to be nominated for a best writing award, which is available to anyone of any gender identification, they could not be nominated in our performance categories, which specified male and female only," Mr Sexton said.

"Accordingly, TCT worked collaboratively with our professional member companies to ensure that the Tasmanian Theatre Awards are more inclusive. It sends a positive message that who we are and what we can achieve isn't defined by or limited by gender."

Associate producer of Tasmania Performs, Julie Waddington, welcomed the change.

"The change for lots of reasons is really positive," she said. "Acting is a job that isn't gender specific. It's the best person on the day.

"The professional industry is so small in Tasmania, in any one year there might be a lot of strong women, and why should [the awards] be divided evenly between men and women?"

Ms Waddington said the push for change came from the industry. "I wrote the letter to the Theatre Council requesting the change after consulting with others," she said.

The change will apply only to the professional theatre category in the awards, to be held on February 22 next year at Wrest Point in Hobart.

TCT will be consulting further with its members about extending the change to its Community Theatre and Musical Theatre categories.



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