In the macro world of the arts, we are seeing a push towards gender equality, both on the ground and in leadership roles. In Ontario, where the creative landscape is nearing gender equality overall, there are still key sectors where women are underrepresented in both the general workforce and in leadership roles. Theatre is one of these sectors, where women are less likely to be found in key artistic leadership roles, compared to their counterparts in other creative disciplines.
At the micro, university level, we are lucky to find examples of women taking on leadership roles within the arts, and theatre specifically, paving the way for those who will come after them and setting the stage for their own futures in the creative sector.
Tara Snider, a fourth year Professional Communications student at Ryerson University is one such woman, and is the current president of the Ryerson Musical Theatre Company (RMTC), overseeing their 2019 production of Newsies.
Snider has been involved in RMTC since her first year at Ryerson, which was coincidentally the first year of RMTC as well.
“I started out working as a front of house assistant, and then the following year I wanted to be a part of the executive team, so I was doing public relations and marketing throughout the show, and the following year I did communications. It was kind of a natural step in my fourth year to apply for president,” she says.
Much of her role consists of overseeing the work of all the teams within RMTC, specifically with the executive team, and providing support to each of these teams. She acts as a liaison between the venue and the company, as well as handling the copyright of the show.
“I want to say the lessons are linked to the challenges,” Snider says of her time as president of RMTC, and what she has taken from her role. “Something that I really wanted to work on within the company this year was communication, and… that there was a sense of open communication.”
Taking on a management role in a creative entity, one of the challenges Snider faced is balancing the ‘overseeing’ role, with the need to step in and assist. “These are all volunteer positions, so you have to have this understanding that people are here because they want to be… you have to figure out which people are prioritizing their role versus not, and figuring out when to jump in.”
RMTC has a history of female leadership, which Snider says tends to take a more empathetic and less ego-based style. RMTC was founded by former Ryerson student Robyn Hoja, and this year, many of the key executive and creative leadership roles are held by women—Isabella Verrilli is directing, with Zoe Choptain as Choreographer and Nicole Kanga as Vocal Director. Snider joins this tradition, with the attitude that, “we are doing this for the love of what we’re doing, versus ‘I’m in this position, because I need to prove that I’m in this position.’”
When asked what advice she has for other young women thinking of taking on a leadership role in the arts, who may not feel like there is a place for them, Snider offers this:
“Just go for it. Nothing should stop you because of who you are. If you think that you, as a person, as a human, are right for it, and think you can do something, there shouldn’t be any hesitation because you’re a woman.”
If you want to see Tara Snider and the RMTC in action, their production of Newsies is showing at the Al Green Theatre March 13-16. You can purchase tickets here.
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