In the lead up to International Women’s Day, we sat down with NIDA Open Senior Program Manager, Gillian Lemon, to discuss what the day means to her and how she is helping NIDA students find their artistic voice.
Hometown: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Hobbies: Travelling, eating great food, going to the theatre or cinema, hanging out with friends and my wife, Sam
Favourite play or movie: I’m not sure I have a favourite. I love plays that are rich in language and have a strong (often political/social) message. Similarly, I like films with a strong narrative and truthful performances.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
As I get older, it means more to me. I’m more aware of women around the world who don’t share the freedoms I enjoy and I think it’s important to remember and challenge that. We are capable of getting comfortable – if an issue doesn’t directly affect us, we allow it to slip past us. But women throughout the decades have fought for us to experience the freedoms we have today, so it’s a good reminder for us to 1) acknowledge that and 2) ensure we take care of that legacy and develop it further for the next generation.
As an accomplished theatre director and acting teacher, what advice do you have for the next generation of girls/women trying to get into similar fields? And what were some of the challenges you faced while breaking into the industry?
I think it’s always important to be true to yourself, whatever your gender. I would say don’t compromise your ideals as an artist, be brave and trust your instincts.
I’m not sure that I have directly faced challenges, but I certainly think my male contemporaries have enjoyed more opportunities.
Who’s your most inspiring woman in the arts and why?
There are so many! I admire actors, directors and writers who use their position to make heard the voices of those who don’t have a platform. Whether it’s using their Oscar speech to speak out against injustice, or playing a role that raises awareness and gets us talking about important issues, these women are committed to the true function of art – to civilise us and challenge our narrow view of the world.
What do you think has been the biggest step forward for women in the arts over the past few years?
I think that we are talking more about the role of women in the arts and challenging it to change.
It’s heartening to see more female artistic directors appointed in the U.K. in recent years. I’m also glad that theatres here in Sydney have made a commitment to redress the gender balance in terms of the plays they program, the directors they choose and the casting opportunities they provide for women.
NIDA’s main goal is to help our students find their artistic voice. How do you think you help NIDA achieve this, in your role as Senior Program Manager, NIDA Open?
I think the fact that NIDA provides opportunities for people of all ages and experience to engage with the arts is important. Not everyone may aspire to have a professional career in the arts but NIDA Open exists to allow people to still have an enriching and creative output.
To quote one of my favourite strong women, Susan Sarandon, ‘When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.’
In these challenging times, that feels very relevant.