No One Likes a Bitter Playwright

Kevin Sloan Artwork
Kevin Sloan Artwork











HowlRound recently published their notice for a Jubilee in 2020:

“We plan to celebrate this vision with a Jubilee year in 2020, in which every theatre in the United States of America produces only works by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive ability, and/or LGBTQA artists.” (See more at: HowlRound Jubilee)

Then the comments started. Oh the comments.  Let’s just say there were lots of…objections to this idea. I won’t list them, but you can find them at the bottom of the article.

And the follow up articles started appearing:

“As someone for whom the Jubilee proposal might (might) open a door or two, I read it with great interest and a gleam of hope. For those who might see a door or two temporarily closing, I heard some trepidation and some outright fury. Who will Jubilee close doors for, albeit at just some theatres for just one season? Straight white non-disabled cisgendered men. The biggest constituency on American stages today and yesterday and the day before that and many tomorrows.”

Howlround: You Don’t Have To Be An Ally But Don’t Be An Enemy

But a couple of the comments in this response really resonated with me:

“I’ve never read a call for submissions that openly stated “there will be one slot held for a female playwright, unless we just don’t feel like it this year.” But look through enough festival histories and the four-guys-one-woman pattern is a well-established thing. The mainstage is even worse. That’s the reality. When I go for an opportunity, I’m really competing for a much smaller, much more limited slice of the pie than advertised. It’s the same (and worse) for artists of color. Apparently, nobody means to do this, but it’s done. And really, don’t bother denying it. Since The Count, no one with any sense is buying that argument”

“OK, you’re still mad that Jubilee is not for you. I get it. I’m an American playwright and the American theatre has been telling me it’s not for me all my life. So throwing a tantrum is not a crazy response, but consider: when women and POCs speak up about systemic sexism and racism, we are risking our careers. We get labeled as bitches and whiners (see recent yellowface Mikado flap or any online forum on any topic in which any woman dared voice an opinion ever). Check out the nasty backlash and consider: do you want this?”

And then, my favorite comment:  “Because as much as I like a bitter drink or a bitter green, no one likes a bitter playwright.”

I saw this some of this reaction to the OSF Announcement to translate/adapt the Shakespeare plays  (OSF Facebook Page).

And I marvel that opportunities can bring out the worst in us, when we feel excluded.