The Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative is an LA-based movement working toward fair representation of women playwrights on stage.
We encourage the involvement of theatermakers and theatergoers who support our goals. We also aim to connect female playwrights living in Los Angeles to other women theater artists, organizations, and the theater community in LA and beyond.
In 2009, the Sands Study on how women playwrights were represented on American stages onstage grabbed the attention of the theatrical community. But it wasn’t because the year-long research project revealed there was gender bias in the theater – the same conclusion that had been previously reported in several notable studies, and addressed in countless articles. It was the depth of the disparity that was the big surprise. The twisting of the results by the media also drew a lot of attention.*
As well as the fact that, despite activities organized to address this over the last 30 years, the discouraging numbers may have gotten even worse.
Enough was enough. A group of playwrights and theater artists in New York led by League of Professional Theatre Women, New Perspectives Theatre Company and Women’s Project organized a panel, 50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists, and out of that grew a NY-based group that has begun to work proactively for professional women theater artists, 50/50 by 2020.** There has also been a groundswell of similar movements across the country; many of them have connected to groups advocating for women artists in Canada and the U.K.
But what about the West Coast? In creating the Los Angeles FPI, playwrights Laura Shamas and Jennie Webb connected with a small group of fellow instigators including Velina Hasu Houston, Paula Cizmar, E.M. Lewis, Katherine James, Mary F. Casey, Diane Grant, and Ella Martin, who was commissioned to complete the LA FPI Study of LA-area theaters, and LA-based women playwrights.
We set about organizing a nexus of support for artists, theaters, and theatergoers. We wanted to raise awareness and at the same time foster accountability within the theatrical community. And we were fortunate enough to find kind and generous designers to establish our website and create a logo that’s an essential part of what we’re about.
We want to see the LA FPI Logo on programs, websites, and promotional materials throughout the Southland as a badge of honor, and a signal of change.
In short, the LA Female Playwrights Initiative exists to promote positive action.
And now the real work begins.
The LA Female Playwrights Initiative is not a producing or fee-based membership organization.
The Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative was created with the following goals:
- To create an awareness of the facts: women playwrights are critically underrepresented on the American stage.
- To advocate for female playwrights based Los Angeles – specifically by creating an active nexus between theaters, companies, organizations and theater artists who want to produce, promote and employ women playwrights.
- To investigate and report the accurate history of producing organizations and plays by women in the Los Angeles area in the 21st century.
- To recognize and support LA-area theaters who produce, promote and employ female theater artists through sharing our logo and advocating for – and attending – their productions.
- To open channels and create opportunities for women playwrights, and by extension all women theater artists, in Los Angeles and beyond.
*To learn more about the Sands study and backlash, read Sheri Wilner and Julia Jordan’s excellent article, Discrimination and the Female Playwright.
**To find out more about the East Coast push behind LA FPI, check out Cindy Cooper’s Select Timeline
LA FPI Spotlight
Time to shift focus to our partners The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project, a homegrown organization designed to create oportunities for women in the performing arts.
The LAWTP, a 501c3 nonprofit, offers a Fiscal Sponsorship Program to support women looking to produce their own shows. The organization also produces “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” an invaluable program guide and resource directory.