“And now?”

Now that we’ve released the results, I’m experiencing feelings of relief and gratitude. 

Relief: that the Study is “done!” 

Gratitude: to all those whose participation and encouragement made it possible. 

The main goal of the LA FPI is to bring people together to support each other, and I really saw that happening with the Study.  I received so many e-mails from people who wanted to participate and were happy we had undertaken this, and so much help from fellow LA FPI badge-holders. 

For my parting words, I’d actually like to point you to the words chosen by participants to describe their experiences.  At the end of the survey, I asked participants to choose one word to describe either their experiences as a female playwright, or the LA theater scene as a whole.

Here’s what they had to say:

What one word would you use to describe the LA theater community?

theater companies:

passionate

Varied.

Saturated

Diverse

Energetic

Disconnected

Elitist

struggling

Struggling

Diverse

awakening

Appreciative

Brimming

mainstream

Growing

underfunded

Male

Vital

tenacious

For female playwrights: what one word comes to mind to describe the experience of being a female playwright in the 21st century?

playwrights:

Courageous

perseverance

Underappreciated

outlier

Difficult

Opportunity

challenging

Perseverance

Frustrating

empowering

wicked

driven

self-actualizing

Difficult

Frustrating

solace

Underestimated

Challenging

outsider

challenging

confusing

Sexist

open

trivialized

Challenging

OPPORTUNITY

dismissed

Undervalued

Challenging

Empowerment

undervalued

HARD

over-looked

exciting

duplicitous

competitive

challenging

challenging

Maddening

Difficult

Frustrated

Tenacity

Challenging

frustrating

innovation

passion

exciting

schizophrenic

Lonely

Condescending

Exciting.

Challenging

dream

exciting

Tough.

Vivid

exciting

challenging

challenging

limiting

collective

no comment

determination

unemployed

frustration

Lonely.

Uphill

discrimination

excellent

Voice

LIMITING

Outsider

potential

destitute

bipassed

Arduous

lonely

marginal

Threshold

Difficult

Challenging

unique

unrelenting

 

Regardless of your gender, being a playwright or a theatermaker is no easy task.  The experience is challenging, frightening, exciting, mercurial… at different times, it probably suits whatever words you can think of.  But perhaps the greatest aspect of theatre is that it reminds us that we are not alone.  Theater is not just about the relationships between performers and audiences, performers and performers, or audiences and audiences, or… any other partial combination of that kind.  Theater is about everyone and everyone… It brings us together.  And for that we can all be thankful.

“The Why Before The What”

November 2009.  I was working on a project with Jennie Webb and Laura Shamas.  Laura had written a delightful play called Trapper Joan that was getting a staged reading at Theatricum Botanicum.  We were rehearsing at Jules Aaron’s house.  Jennie and Laura announced they had “a scheme” and took me into the kitchen.

“You can totally say no,” they began.

They were interested in doing a West Coast response to the controversial Sands Study released earlier that year.  Someone needed to collect data on the LA theatre scene — specifically, data that would reflect how frequently women’s plays were produced (or, we later decided, “nurtured”) in Los Angeles.  This wouldn’t be a money thing, though they did offer a small commission.  It was to be a labor of love.  Or principle.  Or something.

A number of factors influenced my decision.  (Spoiler alert: I said yes.)

For one thing, I have always been a feminist, though at different points of my life so far I have been more or less interested in describing myself using that word.

My great-grandmother was a suffragette.  In high school, a friend and I gave a long presentation on ‘the feminist movement.’  We reenacted various important moments in women’s history and looked into famous women writers of years past, even reading aloud part of a poem by Sappho.

I use the word “feminist” with my own definition, or rather, a definition that came up during a recent conversation with Cáitrín McKiernan – a young soon-to-be-attorney who recently co-produced a play about Martin Luther King with the National Theatre in China.  (Crazy?  Yes.)  She and I were talking about her experiences there, and I asked her if she considers herself to be a feminist.

Me: “Modern feminism”– I don’t pretend to be an expert or really even knowledgeable about the feminist movement…  I’m in favor of strong women.  But, um, would you say that you are a feminist?  Do you self-identify as a feminist, or… How do you feel about the word and do you think it applies to you?

Cáitrín: Oh my, I’ve had this conversation…  I think it’s an excellent question.  I think that so many women of our generation have kind of eschewed that term– tried to distance themselves from it.  But if being a feminist means believing that women should be equal with men, then I’m down.

Women’s rights have always been important to me– and I don’t think it’s just because I’m a woman.  It’s because I was fortunate enough to be raised by a family in an environment that promoted equality.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world– even the rest of the country– has not been so lucky.  This saddens me.  There are a number of traits associated with women.  True, this could be called / is stereotyping.  But until our minds are reconfigured, stereotyping will continue to exist.

What is too bad, though, is when women are lumped together in a group and the stereotyping is used specifically against them — to harm them, or to harm them indirectly by overlooking them.

This past year, a number of things have happened that have reminded me how necessary this kind of work, and this kind of group, is.

While we may be in 2011, and while we may have “come a long way,” in a lot of ways we are still comparatively in the dark ages when you think of where we’d like to be.  I’m not talking about the Equal Rights Amendment…


I’m talking about what Theresa Rebeck experienced.

I’m talking about the Ovation Awards and the LA Weekly Awards.

I’m talking about the Wasserstein Prize.

I’m talking about Chicago.

I’m talking about New York.


I’m talking about 20%.

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