There has been some controversy in the world of women’s playwriting when the Wasserstein Prize recently announced that it had no worthy winner.
How could that be? How could there be no worthy winner? We must support female writers even when they suck. A petition was signed by over 1400 souls. There were items in the New York Times. Women’s playwriting hasn’t been this fun since the last New York Times article.
The Prize Committee back-peddled and announced that it would refine its selection process. Eligible playwrights will be asked to resubmit multiple plays. There will be a winner even if they have to invent one.
At this point, I should disclose that I am ineligible for the Wasserstein Prize. Even though I fulfill the no major production requirement, I am not thirty-two years old or younger. A true lady does not reveal her age, but I am most definitely not thirty-two. I was alive when Star Wars (the real Star Wars in which Han shot first) came out.
Am I jealous of my younger, more eligible fellow writers? Of course I am. Who wouldn’t want twenty –five grand in the current economy?
I wish to give my opinion of the whole affair not only as a playwright rolling around in the mud but also as a contest reader who has waded through play submissions with more muck than a death star trash compactor.
It’s okay to not give an award. You don’t have to. Wasserstein Prize Committee, stand by your decision. Stand by the work you did. If there’s no winner, there’s no winner. Don’t ask for additional plays. Part of being a playwright in the world is understanding when a play is ready to show to friends, to put up for criticism, to submit to contests. What will additional plays show you? False starts, rambling or disconnected ideas, first drafts (shivers)?
Now I know there are at least 1400 people out there who disagree with me. That’s fine. But ask yourself, why is a winner so important? Also, if someone had won the Wasserstein, would you remember her name next week?
A contest is a contest. It’s not a social obligation. It’s not something that will save the arts. All this outcry reminds me of dogs fighting for scraps. Besides, now that we’ve established that girls in their twenties can’t write plays, maybe the contest could be opened up to women.
Or maybe, if the Wasserstein Prize wants to support the future women playwrights, they could put the money toward high school performing arts programs. I was in high school when I started writing scripts. In a culture where sports are boosted and arts are cut, the next generation needs all the help it can get.