Monday 16 September 2019

Kelli O’Hara: Me Too made every woman feel like an idiot for a minute

The Broadway star said the theatre industry still has a way to go for gender parity.

Kelli O’Hara said there is still a way to go for gender parity in theatre (Ian West/PA)
Kelli O’Hara said there is still a way to go for gender parity in theatre (Ian West/PA)

By Laura Harding, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The Me Too movement has “probably made every woman feel for a minute like an idiot”, Broadway star Kelli O’Hara has said.

The actress, who recently concluded a run of The King & I in London’s Palladium, said it has made women reflect differently on experiences they have had in their past.

She told the Press Association: “It’s been a heavy year, I think, for all of us.

“I think all of us have probably gone back in our minds and realised things that probably we never really thought about.

“Or thought ‘Oh god I thought that was a friendship…’ or whatever it was, like a professional relationship, especially professional relationships.

“And things like that, I think it probably has made every woman feel for a minute like an idiot.

“That is one of the things that makes a woman stand up, whether she’s been abused or physically or mentally or sexually or whatever it is, I think that’s what makes every woman stand up and have a straighter back all of a sudden.

“I think, going forward, that’s what’s going to change. Maybe we’re going to raise our children differently, to talk about things, to put a stop to things.

“I have a boy and a girl, there’s something important for both of them to learn.

“That’s my hope, that we all start to just think differently, to open our minds, men and women, to how we treat each other, how we’re being treated, how we teach the next generation to treat and be treated.

“It has to be a movement. And the thing is you look back in history and movements, real change, is never seen in a moment. So, we just have to hope that, like I said for the next generation, that things will be different.”

O’Hara said there is still a way to go for gender parity in theatre, adding: “We need more female writers, we need more female directors, more female composers.

“We have the one but we need the ones who are out there to have more shots, to be trusted more. And therefore that you probably need more female producers.

“I have to say that for every woman I want to be in power, I’ve also had examples of really good men trying to do that. I’ve been directed by a lot of men who actually believe in women. And I think in musical theatre it can be a little different, because you have a lot of musicals where the woman is the lead.

“However, there’s still the man that comes in, in the love story, it’s always the innocent little woman and the man kind of the one who has the conflict. There’s probably pay discrepancy that we need to get inside.”

She added: “I can’t say, as a musical theatre actress in theatre, that I’ve been treated unfairly too many times, but I’ve watched it happen.

“We need to put women in powerful positions in every one of them in order to have equal representation and make sure that, across the board, our female creators are getting the same treatment as, say, a leading lady.”

O’Hara said it was important that the production of The King & I, which will screen in UK cinemas on November 29, reflects more modern racial and gender politics.

She said: “In our production it was really important that we spent much less time on the actual musical that’s been done a million times, and much more time on the actual politics and the history of what was happening right then and there during that time.

“I feel like we’re doing all that we can to really focus on the gender inequality, to focus on bridging the gaps between people of different cultures, I think we’re trying to do our best in 2018 to make this story relevant and important, which I think it is.”

The King and I: From The London Palladium will be in UK cinemas on November 29.

PA Media

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