Letter to the editor: ‘Best actor’ bias

/ Pete Oshea
/ Pete Oshea

Dear Vue editorial staff and publishers,

I was pleasantly surprised to open Vue Weekly’s ‘Best of Edmonton’ 2017 edition and see a genderless ‘Best Actor’ category. As a local professional actor, I have long thought the exceptional work of the women and non-binary artists in my community ought to be considered alongside that of the men. It was alarming, however, to notice that the list of winners was populated entirely by men. It begs the question: were there any women nominated in the Best Actor category at all? Any non-binary artists? How is it that a genderless category could show such a remarkable imbalance?

I’m sure it probably seems that I’m taking an informal poll a bit too seriously, especially one that cheekily lists Footlocker as the best shoe store in Edmonton and Denny’s as the best place to make out. Yes, Vue Weekly’s ‘Best Of’ nominees are submitted by members of the public. Yes, people are even able to nominate themselves. But at a time when many of us non-male artists are beginning to challenge existing power structures within Canadian theatre, creating a genderless acting category and populating it with only men seems regressive, not to mention ironic. We continue to fight for a place on the local stage but nevertheless there are more parts for men, more challenging roles for men, and a dearth of companies presenting works directed or written by women. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised not to be included in a genderless acting category; we’re not included with any sort of equity within our own industry.

What I know is this: there are extraordinary actors missing from that list and it makes me incredibly sad that members of the voting public forgot that there are women and non-binary artists making theatre in this town. It was pointed out to me this week that maybe voters were unclear that ‘Best Actor’ didn’t just mean male actor, since traditionally we referred to female-identified performers as actresses. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we need to make this clearer for next year. Until then, I’ll be compiling a list of non-male nominees for consideration. Hopefully, everyone else will too.

Kendra Connor

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