Online Playwriting Parity Initiative Turns Four: #52playsbywomen

by Laura Annawyn Shamas

Staying in and need something to read? Want to keep pushing gender parity in theater while theaters are closed? Please participate in #52playsbywomen. It was started on Twitter in 2016, inspired by Women in Film’s #52filmsbywomen.  Since then, over 2,000 plays by women (defined as woman, womxn, woman+) playwrights have been discussed at the hashtag on Twitter. (Note: this is for Twitter only – not on FB or IG.)

Last year, 524 women playwrights were mentioned, and 668 female-authored plays were listed at the hashtag. In 2020, the initiative is facilitated by Vivian Brown (@ve_brown) through June; Dr. Jennifer Goff (@ProfGoff) will take over from July through December. We’re trying to highlight even MORE plays by women this year. And there are two new facilitators already signed on for 2021.

The rules for #52playsbywomen initiative are easy! Basically, it’s just see/hear/read a play (of any length) written by a woman once a week, and post a tweet with a title and playwright’s name. Repeat for a year. But, in truth, you can post as frequently or infrequently as you’d like; if you have a slow week for posting, you can catch back up the week after, etc. You can start at any time, any date. Some participants use their tweets to display a photo of a playbill or book cover; others use the space to write a mini-blogpost. The idea is that if you go to #52playsbywomen, you can learn about lots of plays. This contributes to social media buzz about plays by women.

So where can we find plays online to read during this time of social distancing? There are some good sources for classical plays by women in the public domain. For contemporary plays, there’s always the New Play Exchange! The Los Angeles Public Library has an accessible e-collection. Here are some suggestions to get started:

1) History Matters/Back to the Future Play Library

2) Visit The Gutenberg Project to find numerous historical plays by Aphra Behn, Susanna Centlivre, Mercy Otis Warren, Lady Augusta Gregory, Fanny Burney, and many more.

3) Miss Lulu Bett by Zona Gale (the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama)

4) Trifles by Susan Glaspell

5)  A Sunday Morning in the South by Georgia Douglas Johnson

6) Blackout by Lawenda Jones

7) Rutherford and Son by Githa Sowerby

8) Recent plays by women may be found on Audible, too.

And of course, if you see any online readings or performances that are female-authored, those count for the #52playsbywomen initiative!

See you at the hashtag! Find us on Twitter @52playsbywomen.