Day Three: Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation – part four?

What will it take to have gender parity in America?  Julia Jordan says lots of local, grassroots groups are springing up – like LAFPI.  Collectively, they hold a lot of power.  But not as much as artistic directors.  They have the power to break the cycle.  Look at the Blackburn Award winners and runners up who’ve never had a production.  AD’s can aggressively go out there and decide to produce work by women and they won’t be hurt artistically or economically.

Sheri Wilner says AD’s are choosing playwrights not plays.  We need to raise their conscience – take it to the streets and ticketbuyers.

Laura Shamas says she spent a year going to nothing but plays by women.  If someone asks her to resubscribe to a theatre season, she says “no” unless they’ll do more shows by women.  Economic information.

What can I do if I live in a tiny town?  Jordan says it’s almost a PR war.  You’d be hard pressed to find an artistic director who doesn’t know the “right” answer when it comes to the question of playwrights of color.  Not so with gender.  Add to the conversation with those artistic directors, this is something people have thought about and there IS a right answer.  The numbers are so glaring, it cannot be ignored.  Write letters, don’t give them your money.  And it’s not just playwriting.  It’s about all the arts, beyond the arts. 

Sheri says there should be a wider net.  A study looked at children’s books: 33% have a lead female character; 100% have lead male characters.  We need to start early.

Laura says we were so inspired in LA by the east coast work, they did their own study, there’s a listing of plays by women on the website, and a blog as well.  Start a festival!  Address it creatively.  There are LAFPI “agents” who reach out to theatres to ask, “how can we get you to consider more plays by female playwrights.  Mixers.  You can do this in your hometown.  You’d be surprised what you can do with some cocktails. 

Marsha Norman says every woman has to help another woman.  There’s an infinite amount of “antelope” out there – we can be in the business of generosity.  Why do the stories of women need to be told?  Not just because they’re stories of women.  We need to hear the stories of all the people here on earth if we’re to live here with any semblance of compassion and understanding.  Every story that’s there to be told has to find its way to the stage.  People in power have to stop telling the same damn story again and again on the American stage.  We also have to get our own body of work done.  And make it possible for people to come after us.

When Primary Stages did a season of plays by women, it was their lowest grossing season…it was also the season after the market crash.  But did women get blamed for bad sales?  Playwrights Horizons did really well with female playwrights.  Last year, nearly 40% of the plays in NYC were by women, and many were hits.

How about cross-discipline boycotts?  Dancers boycotting theatres that don’t do plays by women.  Is there a Dramatists Guild policy on gender parity?  Marsha said if that’s what’s needed, we’ll do it.

Marsha says the “afraid” part is a huge part of it.  Be not afraid.  Because what?  It’s gonna get worse?  Her two Broadway producers kept asking whether she’d seen any Tony nominated shows.  She said no.  “In a season where’s no work by women, I’m not going.”  Our mouths have to open.  Create an organization, be the artists telling stories who go to the White House. 

Parity: Julie says she met with funding organization who told her what they did for writers of color.  No quotas.  Instead said, “we just want to see the numbers…how many did you produce…just for our own information.”  Suddenly more works by writers of color were getting done.  Something similar could be down the line for women.  It starts with data, which is being compiled now and being available for anyone who wants them.

4 Comments

  • By Laura S, June 11, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    Kitty,
    Thank you so much for coming and for these incredible commentaries on the DG conference!!! You are amazing!

  • By Diane Grant, June 13, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    Kitty,

    This is absolutely fascinating and I’m so glad to hear the question of gender parity being addressed in such a vigorous way.

    Diane

  • By Guerrilla Girls On Tour!, June 14, 2011 @ 3:57 am

    A “Girlcott” is a good idea. Check out our Girlcott list of theatres across the US not producing one single play by a woman in 2010/2011 season: http://www.guerrillagirlsontour.com/monkeybusiness.htm. More actions directed at the lack of parity for women and artists of color in theatre would help shed light on these sad statistics.

  • By Nancy Beverly, June 15, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    Thanks for ALL of the great postings this week!!

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