26 leading ladies offer their advice on International Women's Day

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ”’Make It Happen”’. So we spoke to some of theatre’s finest to find out what advice they would give to women looking to ”make it happen” in theatre

Katie BraybenBeautiful, King Charles III, American Psycho

"The industry won't change until we change it. We need to support and promote our female writers and performers and in doing so show how vital the female voice is in theatre.

Carole King said she never encountered any barriers, she never felt like there was anything she couldn't do, and although she admits she's perhaps an exception to the rule, we should celebrate that."

Cynthia ErivoMidsummer Night's Dream, Henry IV, I Can't Sing, The Color Purple

"It is important to know what it is you are working towards, to have a goal and to believe that anything and everything is possible. One of the most overstated quotes comes to mind, simply because it's true and that is 'practice makes perfect' – the more you practice, the better and stronger you become. Allow yourself to shine because in the end, the person you are and present publicly is a thing that's remembered so be comfortable in your own skin… Love and luck to all you gorgeous women out there."

Haydn GwynneWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Audience, Billy Elliot

"Yes it's tricky with kids – no doubt about it – but so are a lot of jobs, and there's all that lovely unemployment to make up for it. Make your decisions on a case by case basis, and don't beat yourself up whichever way you go. Other than that, the main advice I would give to anyone in our business is simply work hard and be nice."

Rachelle Ann GoMiss Saigon

"I believe that anyone regardless of gender has to believe in his or her talent, work hard, never give up and constantly find ways to improve himself or herself. With faith and hard work, you can achieve your dreams! Everything is possible."

Laura Jane Matthewson – Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award-winner – Dogfight

"Learn to celebrate your individuality! Embrace who you are and the things that set you apart as a performer and a person. The last couple of years have shown me that some aspects of myself which I once considered weaknesses (like being slightly unconventional) were actually my strength."

Tamsin GreigWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Olivier Award-winner for Much Ado About Nothing

"Hang on to your vision. Don't let anyone change it. If you don't have a vision, find brilliant people who do and get close to them."

Tanya MoodieFences, Intimate Apparel

"See as much theatre as you can. Mix it up! This will develop your critical faculties, inspire you and keep you in the know of who is working where, on what, and with whom.

Exercise to develop your stamina, flexibility and a connection between your mind and your body. Working in the theatre is very physically demanding. This isn't about being thin! Don't fall prey to the warped notion that actresses have to be thin… It's about being ready to create your best work by developing the connection between your thoughts, your instincts and your body."

Savannah StevensonWicked, Gone With the Wind, Mary Poppins

"Find strength in each other. Talk to other women, share experiences, watch how other successful women work and emulate them, whilst holding strong to what makes you unique… I hope that we continue to make and encourage more stories on stage that champion incredible women who break stereotypes and change the world."

Rosalie CraigCity of Angels, The Light Princess, London Road

"Be yourself and whatever that is don't shy away from it or your opinion. This is not a passive industry or career so don't be a passive person in it. If you strongly believe in something then go for it. You don't need to shout to make your voice heard – you just need to stay strong and stick to your beliefs. "

Emma HattonWicked, Dreamboats and Petticoats, We Will Rock You

"Know your worth! There is no one out there like you so be proud of what makes you, you. Be gracious, always. Work hard and be nice!"

Sharon D. Clarke – Olivier Award-winner for The Amen Corner. We Will Rock You, Ghost, The Lion King

"It's about self belief. Also tenacity, and who you surround yourself with. Finding people who inspire you, encourage and support your talent and respect your value.

I recently had a young actor ask me with wide eyed incredulity how I'd managed to have my career without going to drama school. Before I could answer, my wife chipped in with 'Talent'! I added 'and people who are willing to give you a chance on the merit of your talent, not just which drama school you went to.'

I grew up in Tottenham, drama school wasn't an option, but I knew what I wanted to do and pursued that dream with vigour."

Danielle Tarento – WhatsOnStage Award-winning producer – Titanic, Dogfight, Parade

"Don't be a 'woman' in theatre – do the job you know you are capable of regardless of gender and make people take notice because of the work not the gender."

Willemijn VerkaikWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Wicked

"Never be afraid to learn. Have a good amount of resilience and enjoy the journey."

Harriet JonesThe Phantom of The Opera

"There has never been a better time for aspiring actresses. Equality between men and women in the work place is in the headlines and my advice to all you ladies out there wanting to tell your version of the story is to take this opportunity and fly with it.

Women have been increasingly playing trouser roles in operas and plays, theatre companies are beginning to have all-female casting in Shakespeare and don't forget our two Wicked leads… Go Stephen Schwartz! The boys are seeing the light and it is our job to step into their shoes and show them how absolutely fabulous we really are."

Susie McKenna – Creative Director at Hackney Empire

"My advice to any woman working in theatre today would be to believe In yourself. Try not second guess or underestimate your abilities. If you have an idea put it forward, if you have a talent use it.

A society's creative culture has to lead the way; feminism can't be allowed to become a dirty word when around the world when the basic human rights of many women and young girls are being ignored and eroded."

Vera ChokThe Hard Problem, Chimerica

"Play the long game: stay open, generous, and keep developing your craft."

Kerry EllisCats, Wicked, We Will Rock You

"Dream big and believe in yourself, it's one of the best jobs in the world. I get to perform Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic song 'Memory' every night at the London Palladium which was one of my dreams that turned into a reality."

Sabrina AlouecheWe Will Rock You, Les Miserables

"Learn to cancel and continue! Be as prepared as you can be for every audition, when it's over cancel and continue. Move on. This industry can knock your confidence quite frequently so it's also important to try and be as self assured as you can be. Love yourself, take pride in every job and never compare yourself to others; every one of us has something unique to offer."

Vicky Graham – Producer at Out of Joint and Vicky Graham Productions

"ASK. Ask for help, ask for advice, ask for meetings, ask for work. And make sure you ask women you admire and respect. I think 80 percent of the asks made of me come from men, and you'll find women will fall over themselves to help other women if they can."

Celinde SchoenmakerLes Miserables

"First of all, don't ever let where you come from hold you back. I never ever thought I would even have the option of auditioning for a West End show, let alone be in it. So if I can do it, you can.

Don't compare yourself to others, be yourself because there is no one who can do yourself as good as you. Embrace what makes you different, be proud of it. Work hard on your craft, be open and positive."

Jill WinternitzOnce, Dirty Dancing

"Keep your eyes on your own paper. Support and encourage those around you, but don't let yourself get anxious over the competition. Compete with yourself to be the best 'you' you can be!"

Lucie-Mae SumnerA Damsel in Distress, Avenue Q

"Be brave and don't conform to what you think the industry standard may be. You'll find far more success in honing your individual skills and finding your unique traits than you will in trying to be the same as anyone else – in voice, appearance or personality."

Dianne PilkingtonMamma Mia!, Les Mis, Wicked

"Know what works for you, and keep working at it. Never stop trying to improve… And the stuff that doesn't quite work? See if there is a way to use it. See if what you perceive as a weakness is, in fact, what makes you unique as both a performer and a person.

Never forget, either, the love for the theatre that made you want to do it in the first place. It's those performers who keep that energy and bring it in to work with them who I see moving from job to job, because not only do they keep perfecting what they do out of love, they are a joy to be around and everyone wants to employ them."

Alice StokoeMamma Mia!

"The most important thing I think you need is self-belief. It's such a classic female thing to think 'I'm not good enough to do this' or 'I'm not worthy of this' – especially in an industry where there's more female performers and less female roles – but if you don't think you're good enough how can you expect anyone else to?"

Josefina GabrielleCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, Merrily We Roll Along, Sweet Charity.

"Like anything else in life you should make sure you're ready by knowing your craft really well. Don't take technique for granted. Keep all your tools sharp. You never know when a big opportunity might be round the corner and you'd hate yourself if you weren't on form.

Be as versatile as possible. Add as many strings to your bow as you can. And when you've got the gig, be a good team player. Play the size of your part. Don't big it up. You're a part of something bigger than you: even if you're the lead.

Be a good listener. Performers are just as fascinating when they are giving focus and attention to others as they are when they have the focus themselves.
Generosity creates good chemistry and that's what what gives a show heart. Then the audience will care."

Laura Pitt-PulfordFollies, Marry Me A Little, The Light Princess

Be bold, make bold choices. The things that seem most scary are the most rewarding. Most importantly, confidence is a wonderful thing but make sure it's a healthy confidence, always keep yourself open to learning. Don't ever assume you're the finished product. Every job I do, I learn something new. Absorb like a sponge.

It's a tough but wonderful industry to be a part of and sometimes you can feel like you're hitting your head against a brick wall but, as I once read; "Patience is not about waiting but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you be believe in."

To further celebrate International Women's Day, this week's Test Your Theatre Knowledge Quiz is on Leading Ladies. Take the quiz here and let us know how you get on!

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