Posts tagged: Julia Jordan

Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – The Count

Writing the Changing World — The Count

by Robin Byrd

Last night at the Lilly Awards, the Dramatists Guild gave a presentation on The Count (a national survey showing which theaters are producing the work of women and which are not).  Marsha Norman, Julia Jordan, Lisa Kron, and Rebecca Stump went over the data and spoke on why parity matters.

Seasons used for the study were 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14; the Count is an ongoing annual project which means the data will be tracked and reported for each season going forward.  The national percentage of productions for the past three seasons for women playwrights is 22.18%.  The project is managed by Julia Jordan of the Lilly Awards and Rebecca Stump of the Dramatists Guild.

The Count has been six years in the making, Julia Jordan and Marsha Norman began the process in February 2014 with funding from the Lilly Awards and the Dramatists Guild to do a collaborative study to determine how many women playwrights are produced in the US.  The data was reviewed by Lilei Xu, a statistician and economist.

According to this study, between 2011 and 2014 74% of the productions were plays, the rest were musicals; 62% were new work,  the rest were revivals.  12% were written by writers of color, 88% were white.

City Count:

City Productions Female Writers
Portland 66 18%
Los Angeles 74 23%
Minneapolis 82 23%
Seattle 104 23%
New York 234 25%
Berkeley 63 29%
Philadelphia 84 29%
Kansas City 61 30%
Washington 104 30%
Chicago 120 36%

In August 2015, research and data collection begins for the 2014-2015 season.

It was absolutely wonderful to see the presentation at the national conference.  LA FPI was mentioned as one of the groups across the nation discussing parity.  Lisa Kron suggested in her speech that theaters should check the Kilroys List, if having problems locating plays by female playwrights.

We all laughed…

but what is not funny is the fact that we still need to have this conversation.

 

For the complete report containing more thorough data, please check the Lilly Awards (thelillyawards.org and the Dramatists Guild www.dramatistsguild.com) websites.

 

Addendum to Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation

The Dramatists Guild Conference, “Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation” was held in Fairfax, Virginia from 9 – 12 June, 2011.  This was the first conference held by the Dramatists Guild.  To hear some of the speakers: Molly Smith, Arena Stage, and Julia Jordan, 50/50 in 2020, Todd London, New Dramatists, go to http://livestream.com/newplay.  You will have to do a lot of scrolling but it worth hearing.

Kitty Felde did an excellent job of covering the events, please read and reread her coverage at http://lafpi.com/author/kfelde/  or at

Day One

Day One continued through Day Three

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 Addendum for the last day of the conference:

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THE DRAMATISTS GUILD FUND

The DG Fund seminar with Fred Nelson and Tari Stratton covered the many aspects of the Dramatist Guild Fund.  There are two types of grants, individual (Kesselring Grant) and theater.  The estate of Joseph Kesselring provides grants to professional dramatists who are experiencing extreme personal hardships, health or otherwise.  The recipients don’t even have to be members of the Dramatists Guild.  It’s a confidential process.  And grant means you don’t have to pay it back.  This is the only program that I know of that helps a playwright in need.

Regarding the theater grant side, a rep from a theater that has received a general operating grant from the DG Fund was present in the seminar (City Theatre of Miami); she said that their City Theatre Summer Shorts Festival was happening due to a grant from the DG Fund.

The other project that the DG Fund discussed was its Legacy Project.  This project films an interview between an emerging playwright and an established dramatist.  The interviewer is one that has somehow been greatly affected by the interviewee.  The Fund realizes the urgency of creating this interview series and started with the oldest playwrights, lyricists and composers.  Carol Hall “The Best Little Whore House in Texas” playwright and DG Fund vice president discussed the feeling of just being in the room with the interviewees and the moments that were caught on film.  She discussed how Horton Foote was scheduled to be the first interview but passed away before it could be done.  Joe Stein was interviewed by Lin-Manuel Miranda; Edward Albee was interviewed by Will Eno.  Lanford Wilson and Romulus Linney were missed…

I met Romulus Linney at a conference in Nebraska, I really wanted to sit down and talk with him about Appalachia and how it creeps into my work though I am two generations removed.  I wanted to just be close enough to see that glint in his eye and maybe just maybe decipher it.  I liked him.  It was 2007 and that was my first encounter with his work and it was excellent, lively and funny…

It would be great if the Legacy Project could find a way to do the interviews (for the artists that passed) anyway using those closest to the artist.  Not the same as an interview with them but something. 

During the seminar, some of the audience members offered ways to create donors for this project.

Volume One of the Dramatists Guild Fund Legacy Project documentary series is complete and work has begun on Volume Two.  For more information see http://dramatistsguildfund.org/programs/legacy.php

*I just went to the legacy site and found out that Lanford Wilson was not missed!!!  8/11/11*

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MYTH ADAPTATION FOR PLAYWRIGHTS: Archetypes and Inspiration

Myth Adaptation for Playwrights: Archetypes and Inspiration with Laura Shamas was a two-hour seminar squeezed into 45 minutes (due to a change at the conference) and she didn’t miss a beat.  Laura discussed why myth matters.  Myth, she said, represents what is eternally true; it’s a tool and it’s active.  For the playwright, myth can be useful in plot, character and theme.  “You don’t find the myth, the myth finds you.”  There are three archetypal planes, celestial, earthly, and underworld.  If you visualize the archetype it is easier to use it in your writing.  Each archetype has props that stand for something in their picture, i.e., Zeus sits on a throne, with a staff topped by an eagle in one hand, always bearded, etc. – each of those things mean something like the fact that Venus was born an adult.  Laura says, “in order to translate a myth, you have to know the props of the myth and update the props for your story. 

Notes on Myth Adaptation Process:

  1. When researching myths, one should look at 1 to 7 versions of the myths because the stories can vary slightly and you need to find the one that best fits the story you are trying to tell. Document and list chronologically.  Note any important rituals or rites.
  2. Identify: 
    •  central archetypes
    •  symbols (including props),
    •  setting and other metaphors,
    •  plot,
    • transformation,
    •  psychological function (thematic): why does it matter for you personally, and why does it matter for humanity at large.

The above archetypal elements are needed to incorporate into your work to update and keep the elements that will make the story mythic.

Laura gave a list of Myth references books.  Some of the books are “The Power of the Myth” Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, “The Heroine’s Journey” Maureen Murdock.  Even though, Laura got through everything, we still wanted more…

For more information about Laura Shamas visit http://laurashamas.com/.  Laura is also co-founder with Jennie Webb of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative (LAFPI).

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.

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