All posts by TiffanyAntone

The Empty Triangle (or, Why American Theatre is Falling Apart)

By Tiffany Antone

I’m wrapping up my week here with an excerpt from my article on why American Theatre is falling apart. It’s a long read (grab your beverage of choice and find a comfy spot to sit for a little while) but I think it’s a useful perspective and it contains actionable steps, so like, it’s not just an “idea” paper, you dig? And then, after you’ve had time to digest, let me know what you think! I’m all about the conversation because nothing survives in a vacuum.



Listen, theatre is not inherently a public good. Yes, we say we welcome everyone, but we don’t. There are gatekeepers all over the fucking place, companies get tribal, artists get catty and resentful, ticket prices go up and up and up (not to mention the cost of parking!)… none of this is actually welcoming. What theatre is, (not due to a philosophy, but rather due to its very operation) is collaborative. It takes oodles of people to make a play. And that does mean it has the potential to bring people together. But we have to stop assuming that community is a given. Community is an action.

And that’s why your theatre space, should you own one, needs to be MORE than just a theatre space. It needs to be a third space. It needs to have a coffee shop or wine bar, or sandwich shop… it needs to have reading nooks and community art space, and live music and OPEN FUCKING DOORS. It needs to be integrated into the community — not just plopped down somewhere and offered as a culture stop “because culture is good for you!” Like we’re some kind of soul vitamin.

Theatre can be a soul vitamin, if it wants to, and if it is looked at as an act of service. And I don’t mean it has to be volunteer — service organizations can still pay their personnel. But the inherent philosophy and its actions/engagement need to shore up. If you just want to make plays for people, you ain’t a vitamin; you’re popcorn.

And I like popcorn! I really do! But I don’t need popcorn, you know what I’m saying?

Anyway, what follows is basically a manifesto of sorts, with diagrams, asides, and a lot of research (as much as I could get done, anyway… no one is paying me to write this) And I’m going to be honest: I started working on this before the pandemic, but then the world went sideways and the whole goddamn theatre system screeched to a halt. I almost had a (much more academic version) of what you’re about to read published during year one of the pandemic, but the book fell through, so now I’m publishing here (with a fair bit of swearing) because fuck it. Maybe it will be useful.


I’m going to start things off with an anecdote. The story is not my own, rather it was told to me years ago and stuck. I’ve employed it in various lesson plans and teaching moments over the years, but it feels especially apropos here.

The story goes like this: A mother is making ham dinner for Easter. She gets out the ham, cuts it in half, places each half into a different baking pan, and puts both in the oven. Her daughter watches all this and asks “Mom, why do you always cut the ham in half?” The mother brushes the question off with “Because that’s how you bake a ham.” Her daughter presses her “I’ve never seen anyone else bake ham that way.” Her mother laughs, “Well, that’s how I’ve always done it.” Her daughter isn’t satisfied though: “Are you trying to cut down the cook time or something?” The mother pauses, annoyed, but realizes in her irritation, that she doesn’t know why she cuts the ham in half. It’s how her mother had taught her to bake ham, and that’s that. She tells her daughter that the reduced cook time is probably the answer, now can they get back to preparing Easter dinner, please?

But the question sticks with the mother, because she doesn’t like not knowing the answer. So that night she calls her mother long distance and after the usual “How do you do’s” and “Happy Easter” chit chat, she asks her why you need to cut a ham in half in order to bake it. Her mother laughs, and says “You don’t.” The woman insists: “But, that’s how you always made ham. And how you taught me to make it!” Her mother thinks a moment… then answers “Are you talking about when you were growing up? In our old house? I had to cut things in half because the oven was so short. Are you still cutting things in half? Lord, that’s funny!” The woman, red cheeked, thanks her mother and never cuts the Easter ham in half again.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The prevailing theatre model in the US is one that’s been handed down to us. Its design, and the circumstances under which this system was codified, belong to generations past. And yet, we continue to recreate this model again, and again, because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

And oh lord, are we paying for it now, or what?

Theatres across the country are shuttering their doors, hitting “pause”, and laying off staff in a desperate bid to diagnose the problem so that it can try drafting a cure. But the very system pausing itself, excising its extremities and furloughing its life-blood in the hopes of rebranding, rebooting, and resurrecting itself, IS the problem.

Maybe we should just let it burn?

Because then, like the phoenix rising from its ashes, theatremakers will be able to repurpose the “Theatre That Was” (beautiful, yes, but also transactional, classist, patriarchal, and racist) into the thing that theatre might become: ubiquitous, transformational, inclusive, and sustainable.

And it begins by admitting we’re not all working with the same oven.


So, non-profit Theatre in America — which is a big goddamn country, huge even! — looks pretty homogeneous. Whether it’s a LORT theatre, a community theatre, or something in-between, if it’s a non-profit theatre, chances are good that the organization follows a predictably hierarchal order of operations. Which means it’s probably got a number of administrators working an insane number of hours to keep the theatre operational via ticket sales, grants, and donations. At every level these administrators make choices with the best of intentions: To stay open! So that we can make more theatre! But this top-down model comes with a host of problems — chief among them being that it grants administrators power over the artists they employ while also rewarding themselves with greater financial security.

Which, in brev-speak, boils down to this:

  • Theatre’s administrators, the granting organizations/big donors they must suck-up to, and the critics/tastemakers who whisper-shout about it all, are Theatre’s Gatekeepers. They have the Power.
  • The artists and audience are the only truly necessary part of the Theatre puzzle, but they only get to play if/when the Gatekeepers say so. They make the Magic.

It’s easy to get stuck inside a system of power, know that it’s fucked up, but not be able to pinpoint WHY. Well, here you go, eyeballs — do your thing:

Yes — this is a visual map of the American Theatre Industrial Complex. Ain’t it pretty? Here’s what you’re looking at:

The map diagrams what each of the primary “players” in American Theatre bring to the proverbial party. The cast includes Funders, Theatre Administrators, The Critical Eye, Creators, and Observers. All five of these entities work in service of bringing plays to life in what I have dubbed The Shared Space of Ephemeral Magic (which is just a really fun way to talk about the physical place where Art and Audience meet).

The whole system relies on ideas, prestige, and money to operate. In tracking each entity’s “Power Lines”, you can see what everyone brings into, and takes away from, the Shared Space.

And, as you look at the diagram, you can probably SEE why everything feels broken right now: inequity is literally baked into our prevailing model, making it nearly impossible for any of us to create with equity at the center of our work.

So yeah, it’s pretty clear why we’re all so fucking frustrated.

And yes, there are very real financial reasons theatre currently works the way it does, but the diagram shows us that there are under-valued nexus points already in play in the predominant operating model which we can refocus our energies into mobilizing.

So, if you’re still with me, I’m going to spend a little time breaking the model down for you and address the obvious questions (Why are you calling it the Empty Triangle? What the heck is the Invisible Triangle? Power lines? What? Do you honestly think you can do better?)

To the last point: Yes, and this whole thing ends with a push for us to invest in an Abundant Circle model of practice instead. So hang with me a bit, and then ya’ll can chew things over and decide for yourselves what — if anything — you want to do about it.


Playwrights Taking Action

An Invitation

By Tiffany Antone

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

Who’s feeling good about the election? You? Your mom? Aunt Sal? Anyone?

No, I didn’t think so. This moment SUCKS. And we’re exhausted. But we’re also artists. And making art (whether we think of it this way or not) is never NOT a political act. This election is going to suck the life out of many of us if we aren’t careful. But also, we gotta engage hardcore if we don’t want to wake up in a 2025 hellscape.

In 2016 I started Protest Plays Project, which established a really great network of theatremakers who were invested in theatre for social change projects. We created catalogs of protest plays that received readings around the country, and we also created a “Get out the Vote” play initiative. It was a really satisfying way of engaging and activating audiences – but I don’t have the bandwidth to operate the same way I did in my early Protest Plays Project days (kids, amiright?). So I’d like to propose we write our little activist hearts out, post them to New Play Exchange, and push our little protest play babies out into the world from there.

Who’s with me?

THE PROPOSAL: Playwrights write short action oriented plays and upload to NPX using “Get Out the Vote” or “Protest Plays” as the tag. Specify in your synopsis whether or not the play is free to use. I’ve got one up now – it’s totally free for anyone to produce/do a reading of, but not everyone is going to want to make that concession. Just be upfront about it in your description.


  • GET OUT THE VOTE” plays are non-partisan and seriously just dedicated to inspiring people to vote. These plays are quick, easy to do, and encourage civic responsibility. The best “Get out the Vote” play is funny and memorable, and gets people excited about the voter registration cards available at the door/in the program/on the bar/etc.
  • PROTEST PLAYS” are plays that aim inspire audiences to take action on social issues. They have clear political perspectives and aim to change hearts/minds on specific social issues.

And then we promote the hell out of these plays, we find ways to bring them to our communities, and we encourage our communities to put our plays to work. We refuse to let our institutions sing and dance their way through the election without doing their best to ensure democracy survives. And with two distinct tags, non-profits can shop around for non-partisan “Get Out the Vote” fare without alienating audiences, while activists can search “Protest Plays” to find the hard-core issue plays of their dreams.

Think of the potential impact of every theatre putting on a “Get Out the Vote” play before shows this fall! I mean, come on, a 2 minute pre-show melodrama about the merits of voting costs them NOTHING and could inspire audience members to pick up a voter registration card on their way out the door!

And think about how much righteous indignation the right theatre troupe will bring to your 3-minute “Abortion IS Healthcare!” at pop-up #TheatreActions at farmers markets across the nation!

Listen, I know there’s a lot for us to get through in the next few months. We should write all the postcards, do all the text-banking, and go work the polls! But we can also take steps to get our words working out there in the world as well. This is your official invitation to participate in a collective #TheatreAction event.

And it’s sure as hell better than getting stuck between doom-scrolling and existential paralysis.

Ideas are Dangerous

By Tiffany Antone

Last night there was a tomato growing in my body. I guess a missed nibble had fallen on my thigh and I had (apparently?) never removed it, so of course – because it’s almost always “of course” in Dreamland – it had lain there, ignored so long that it was able to take root in my flesh.

I tried to figure out how extensive the root system was:

“Can I just pull these little roots out by myself, or is this a medical emergency that I’m going to have to go to the doctor for, hatch new medical bills, try to explain (without sounding like a slob) how I DID NOT NOTICE a tomato taking root in my thigh…”

But when I plucked at a little leaf, it sent a twinge into my side, and so I knew it was serious.

“This is going to require medical intervention,” I thought. But then I wondered, could I go on a little weekend vacation first?

Fortunately I woke up at that point, but what the actual f*ck?

We’re moving in a few weeks. (New/bigger house in the same town) and so I’m in the thick of the purge. We moved into this house in a hot panicky leap from a terrible city/awful jobs – which means our last packing job was frantic AF. There were also only three of us at that point, and the third was just 2 years old. Now we are a family of four (plus four cats… does that make us eight?) and there is a lot more STUFF, and there are still boxes from the last move that need going through to see if there is anything useful inside.

There have been some delightful discoveries:

“Here are the refrigerator magnets! I KNEW we didn’t throw them away!”

“Now we have even more binder clips! More than we might ever actually use…”

“Look! Look! ALL of my old glasses! Let’s try them on and revel in the fashion trends of my youth!”

And then there are the floor to ceiling bookshelves bursting at the seams…

Packing books is a tedious job. It’s a little bit Nostalgia Lane meets Tetris. You meet your past selves in the process. “Look, here are the books that made me” (whilst also trying to ascertain if you’ll ever actually read them again) and then you study your box of beloved literary rectangles and try to fit them all together in a feat of spatial wizardry.

The books that made me… I guess ideas are dangerous.

I live in Iowa now, and there are a lot of things about this state that I love, but it is deep in the throes of a political reckoning that scares me. Remember the book banning scene in Field of Dreams? That’s still happening, but with less dramatic irony.

But here I am, looking at the books that stretched and shaped my perspective, and I understand their fear. If you want your children to have the exact same perspective as you, then books are the enemy. Because they are antidotes to ignorance and bigotry. They are a gateway drug to empathy. Books help you see the world through different eyes, and sometimes those eyes don’t see the world the same way once the book ends.

I like to think plays can do the same thing. If a Big Idea plays get produced that is. Sometimes it’s hard to see the Big Idea plays get realized because something-something-short-sighted-gatekeepers/risk-averse-money-men… It’s a mystery.

I dreamt about the tomato after boxing the bookshelf. There I was, seeing my collection of feminist sci-fi, J.R.R. Tolkien masterpieces, multiple philosophical escapades through a future space-time, sitting next to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and White Oleander and Jurassic Park and Female Chauvenist Pigs and The Night Watchman and The End of Mr. Y and Raw Shark Texts and The Mists of Avalon and We Play Ourselves and The Sentence and The Actual Star and…

And I knew I wanted to say something about the books that made me.

A Four Lettered Feathered Thing

It drives my mother crazy that I did not inherit her optimism. When a rough spot appears on the horizon, she will confidently declare that “Everything happens for a reason,” and I’ll reply, “Or maybe we ascribe meaning to things in order to avoid the terrifying reality that the universe is a chaotic force outside our control or comprehension.”

She ascribes this to cynicism. I call it being pragmatic. I’m not, after all, some kind of Eyore, unable to smile and forever seeing doom and gloom wherever I look. I just can’t pretend NOT to see the infinite myriad fractures in our unpredictable existence. In fact, seeing the world this way helps me feel prepared for the rough spots—I’ve got a pocket full of “Just in case” with me at all times. (And yes, some people might call this generalize anxiety disorder, but whatever.)

The point is, when you’re a perennial pragmatist, good news feels… weird. It might even try to plant a seed of hope within your fortified heart, setting off a chain reaction that leads you to some very weird places.

That’s what happened to me last month when I found out I was a finalist for one of those “Big Deal!” awards we playwrights like to chase. I got excited! I felt hopeful! And then that hope completely disrupted my carefully balanced system.

I mean, yes, hope lifts your spirits and allows you to imagine adventure and glow and warm fuzzy feelings of the extraordinary sort! But hope also allows brings a heightened awareness of how precarious and fragile having hope actually is. To know that hope can be shattered? Leaving you right where you were, but now blisteringly aware of your own life’s newly unmet potential? YIKES!

I began to worry that I would not handle the (likely) disappointment very well. That I would sink into one of my “Who the f*** am I to think I have anything worth saying to the world?” slumps, and bum everyone out around me, and just generally be, like, really really sad, for a good long while. So then I asked, “Is this good news really just bad news in disguise? Is it actually better to have hope for a few weeks, than to not have had any at all?” Hope is a four letter word, after all…

So, yeah, I was a lot of fun, lol.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure the lack of an “Even better news!” email means that I’ve NOT gotten “The Big Thing” I was so tickled to be an actual contender for. And I’m… ok? I mean, I know I’ll be sad when the official TBNT email arrives, but the existential panic of “HOPE SO SCARY!” is gone. Which is a relief, because I was pretty sure I was going to be CRUSHED.

The whole experience just reminds me that getting close to a Big Deal Opportunity can be exciting and fun in and of itself. Who knows if I’ll ever be the playwright theatres are lining up to produce… at least I know someone is kicking my work up the ladder, right?

Spoken like a true pragmatist.

By Tiffany Antone

Safely. And at a distance.

By Tiffany Antone

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Whoa, hey, what is even happening right now?



And it feels like SO MUCH has been happening for SO LONG that I am SHORT-CIRCUITING. I don’t know if I know how to do this anymore. But what has changed? Hasn’t the world always been in peril in some capacity? Or, maybe it’s more accurate to ask “Hasn’t mankind always been in peril in some capacity?” Why does this moment in time feel so hopelessly perilous?

The 2016 election hit me hard, but I rebounded with radical empathy! I was going to create opportunities for connection! I founded Protest Plays Project for playwrights writing for social change. At the same time, I began working with colleges to create opportunities for playwrights to draft plays rooted in their communities – we would then exchange the plays and read them on our myriad campuses. Radical empathy would save us!

It did not save us.

So I wrote an outlandish feminist sci-fi play that made me laugh even while I held my breath about absolutely everything else. We moved. I had a second child. I wrote postcards to voters. I experienced the Iowa caucuses. I held my breath. Maybe, if we could just get that gaudy, greedy, mistake out of the white house… I’d be able to breathe a little easier.

Then the pandemic.

The fucking pandemic.

I wrote more postcards. I started Plaguewrites, collaboratively writing “pandemic-proof” (aka, outdoor and long-distance) plays with other playwrights trying to DO SOMETHING. My instinct to keep fucking going, innovate, pivot! LEAN IN!, was in full force.

But now, everything from that time period is a swirly knotted mess. George Floyd, Jan 6th, Giuliani’s drip-drip-drippy dye job, online teaching, closed day care, zoom zoom zoooooooom and double-washing my tomatoes…

I turned a play into a short film with our students.
I got diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
I got my tits chopped off, did radiation, completely revised my syllabus for online teaching, then hybrid teaching, then once more for back-to-the-DON’T-YOU-DARE-SAY-“NORMAL”-classroom. All of my students fractured, thin…
Myself fractured.
(Well, thin in spirit at least. In person, I become thick with emotional eating. Sucking what pleasure I can from every goddam donut, brownie, and buttery potato I can find…)

I wrote more postcards to even more voters.

I finished a too-long-in-the-crock-pot play that no one seems to be too excited about.

What year is it? What even is “time” anymore?

And now there’s another fucking election coming down the pike, with the same candidates as last time, and it’s like, do we really have to?

I’ve got a new play finished. I’m sending it out. I really love it. But… like…does it matter?
Does any of this matter?

I don’t rebound so well anymore. I’m tired. I’m so, so, so, so, tired. And I’m just a middle-aged, de-breasted, middle-class, white lady with kids. How the fuck are YOU?

What are you writing about?

Is it helping you breathe?

Maybe that’s why I keep hitting these keys… writing is order. Scenes move forward. Characters in impossible situations make choices, which have consequences, and I can see it all safely.

And from a distance.

I’m working on some new stuff. Maybe it will help me deal with the unbearable weight of this impossible world.

In the meantime…
I’m still holding my breath.

Putting Words to Work in 2020

Why not use my blog week to shout out about a new writing opp?

Plays Project is launching a new #GetOutTheVote initiative and invites playwrights to draft short (1-10 minute) plays/monologues/musicals on the theme HINDSIGHT IS 2020.  We would like interested writers to consider the following:

This is a forward-looking project = Speculative fiction! 

Imagine the world AFTER the 2020 election and what it might look like without a change in leadership.  We are looking for thoughtful pieces that demonstrate consideration into the myriad different ways four more years of current GOP leadership might manifest.

We invite interested playwrights to consider the following:

  • Voter turnout is vital to a thriving democracy, and yet only 54.7% of eligible voters participated in the 2016 election.
  • There are several pressing issues at stake in the 2020 election—which issues should we be most concerned with?  What do our lives look like post-2020 election, if these issues continue to go unchecked/unaided?
  • What do reticent voters need to hear in order feel motivated to vote – especially if their ideal candidate isn’t the nominee?
  • What regrets will people have if they abstain from voting in the 2020 election?  How might abstaining effect their day-to-day lives/kid’s lives/etc.?
  • Humor is an excellent delivery mechanism – don’t be afraid to make us laugh!
  • We love a good expletive, but for this project are hoping to have broad audience appeal – if you are an F-bomb expert, please provide alternative options for public spaces J

Selected plays will be featured on a special Protest Plays Project podcast Our goal is to also make these plays available to theatremakers across the nation in the hopes that they will put them to work as motivational theatre aimed at rallying voters!

Scripts will be accepted through March 10th – Please use the Google upload form on this page (which will become available Feb 1st)

Questions? You can email us at [email protected]

Collaborative Playwriting

by Tiffany Antone

If you read my first post this week, you know I’ve been asking some questions about playwriting. One of the things I promised I’d talk about was a project called 45’s 24—a collection of monologues written by thirty female playwrights inspired by the twenty four (at the time) sexual misconduct allegations against the president.

The project itself is interesting and the collection of monologues super powerful and moving—and I encourage anyone who wants to read the script to register for a copy on the Protest Plays Project site. I’m also working on a collaborative writing project with seven other AMAZING female playwrights right now, and although it’s less centered on a specific topic, it’s been a really cool process of sharing the “mic” so to speak.

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

So, for my last post of the week, I’m going to talk a little about those processes of collaborative writing, and how it’s been a really exciting and rewarding experience. And—full disclosure—I’m writing this on cold medicine and very little sleep… so buckle up, it could get bumpy.

45’s 24

45’s 24 was inspired by a FB friend posting an article about all twenty four of Trump’s accusers and tagging me in it with a note that “You should turn this into a play or something in order to amplify these women’s stories” He was right, and I was immediately like “I’m ON IT!” Because of my work through Little Black Dress INK, I know some pretty cool female playwrights I thought might be interested. I’ve also initiated a number of theatre actions with some awesome writers through Protest Plays Project. So I sent out an email invite to people I thought might be interested… and then I posted the invite to Twitter too, because maybe there would be more people wanting to get involved. There were!

The nice thing about this project is that I had a very clear roadmap for the process. Essentially, I created a Google sign up sheet where writers could select a woman to write about, then linked to the article about the accusers. Each writer then had a few weeks to research and write a 1-3 minute monologue inspired by each woman’s story. Because we had thirty writers working on the project, each piece took on it’s own voice – this is exactly why I wanted this to be a collaborative project. Who am I to try to write 24 monologues about/inspired by these real women? But together, the collection sounds like a group of individuals—and that’s awesome.

Another great thing about writing this piece collaboratively? We got it all written and assembled in just a little over six weeks! And, honestly, the hardest part was me finding the time to write the stitching—that’s what I call the interstitial bits that create the frame around the monologues—and formatting the dang thing! I write in Final Draft, but for this, everything had to come in Word… and nobody formats the exact same way, soooo = AAAGH! I’m NOT an editor at heart. If I was, the whole thing would have been done a lot sooner.

Anyway, the process of working on this piece with such a large cadre of passionate playwrights was inspiring, motivating, and empowering. I am so incredibly proud of the final collection – and it’s set for at least three readings in the coming months, which feels incredible because nobody ever writes a play just to have it sit in a drawer somewhere. Especially when the play is, at its heart, a protest piece.

Untitled Collaborative Writing Project

The other collaborative writing project I’m working on involves seven other female playwrights. It’s essentially the thing I’m devoting time to this year instead of doing another ONSTAGE fest. That decision, while difficult, was a really good move personally as I was starting to feel like ONSTAGE was sucking me dry. I worked work on that festival all year long for nine years, and although I love producing, it took a lot of energy and focus from my own creative projects.

However, as I said before, I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve become very action-focused and playwriting feels kind of passive. This project, on the other hand, is itself a sort of theatre action because I am working with others to create a collaborative script that isn’t just all about me, my vision, or my perspective. instead, it is intentionally designed to allow for a multitude of voices.

We’re still in the “Seeding” phase of the work, and I have no idea of this experiment will result in a final script, or if it will instead result in some sort of collaborative folio of scripts. But I can tell you how we’ve been working in case anyone else wants to do something similar.

We started off by sharing questions we were interested in exploring, articles we found inspiring, and themes we were curious about. Then (almost) every week I send out an email with a new writing prompt, found artwork, and musical inspiration. We also spend some time doing a sort of chain-email kind of writing project where we each write a page, then send just that page to the next person to add a page, and so on. The results have been a lot of really cool, weird, interesting monologues and scenes that we will then look at building on. We may decide to write a play around one of these scenes, or to stitch several of these pieces together, or we may do something else entirely. And as someone who is usually very much in charge of projects, this new place of discovery and shared responsibility is a very cool place to be!


That’s it. I made it to the end of my blogging week with three articles written, plus the children and cats are all still alive and fed. Three of us have colds however, and everyone in my house is exhausted because when the kiddos have colds, none of us sleeps, but I’m happy I was able to check in and share some thoughts with all of you. And if you’re interested in writing socially aware short plays, we’ll be launching two new #TheatreActions from Protest Plays Project soon. Follow us on Twitter and FB to be notified when they launch. All it takes to collaborate with us is a collaborative spirit and desire to effect change!

A HERoic Season: Female Playwrights Onstage in Iowa

by Tiffany Antone

Last year I started working at Iowa State University, and kind of can’t believe how amazing my colleagues are. The theatre department has begun focusing on citizen artistry, which has anchored our season selection planning process in a much more socially aware methodology. I was thrilled when I came on board and found out that the department was committed to gender parity moving forward, and to celebrate that fact, they were going to do a whole season of works by female playwrights.


I know.


What was interesting, as we set about reading and researching plays, was just how few other organizations seemed to be making the same choice. We are fast approaching 2020, after all, and according to the Dramatists Guild’s most recent Count, we’re a far cry from that 50/50 gender parity goal set so long ago. (*Do you even remember where you were when the 50/50 in 2020 initiative was launched way back in 2010?)

Since we’re a university, we knew we had to serve our students first and foremost, but it also felt imperative that we begin to “Walk the Walk” of the citizen artist. Addressing gender parity for playwrights turned into just the start of our ambitious sea-change. We also decided to hire female guest artists as designers and directors, and to create a year-long symposium on gender parity.

The outreach to other departments on campus yielded a number of exciting partnerships – we aren’t the only field with a parity gap! – and this collaboration led to a very busy and thrilling season of work across many mediums and fields of study.

The result is our (very busy and very awesome) HERoic season! All it took to make it happen was a desire and willingness to DO THE WORK.

Now, we’re still in the middle of our first semester – two shows into our season, and four more productions to go—but the thrill of the work is contagious!

Something I’ve found very interesting during our process is that although gender parity onstage is a very important issue for us as artists and theatremakers, audiences aren’t nearly as concerned or aware of this gap. And why would they be? How many audiences are really that tuned in to the world of theatre to begin with? Aren’t most just kind of renting space with us for an evening or matinee and then going back to their normal routines?

So what we considered a very proactive and exciting selling point to our season—all works by female playwrights—has seemingly been less important to our audiences than we thought it would be.

Again and again, in discussions around gender parity and our season, we’ve heard audiences claim they don’t give a hoot who wrote the play. All they’re looking for is a “Good” story. Now, these are discussions have been held with theatre majors, minors, and non-theatre students alike – but I’d wager that the same holds true for most non-student audience members too. What people are looking for is TITLE recognition. Is the show a big enough deal to have pierced the non-theatre-maker’s bubble? Have they heard good things about the title from friends who “saw it on Broadway”? And have our theatremakers heard good things from reviews/fellow theatremakers who were involved a production of the show somewhere else?

In general, playwright names and gender identity haven’t been anywhere on their radar. Now, I don’t know about you, but as a playwright, I felt a little more than bummed that we’re so unimportant to audiences, lol. But again and again, this discussion point has led us to mine a number of follow-up questions with our students about who the Gatekeepers are who get to decide which plays make it “Big” and how do we decide what a “Good” story is.

And that’s a great discussion to have with students and non-students alike.

We’re going to keep the conversation going with audiences and students, and I’m sure we have a ton more to learn from this ambitious year, but I know one thing for sure: Nothing changes without first taking a leap. ISU Theatre is taking some big leaps, and it’s a very exciting place to work and create. I hope other universities and theatre companies take up the 50/50 challenge because it is totally doable, it does make a difference, and it’s important if we want to get more stories heard.

“If you’re only telling one story, it’s not a story, it’s propaganda.” – Michael Goeble, Assistant Teaching Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies, ISU

I haven’t been writing lately…

by Tiffany Antone

Let me fill you in on a little secret: I haven’t been writing lately.

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

I’m just not into it. 

I could blame the new baby (who is a precious bundle of awesomeness) because, come on, he takes up a LOT of time and he wakes up at least once a night to demand I feed him with my body (being a human is weird). But blaming him would be kind of disingenuous because I have found plenty of time to create a number of dumb and ugly doodles that I share on Instagram, so obviously that’s time I could have been putting into my craft…

I could blame my teaching load, but that wouldn’t be fair either because—although time-consuming—being a college professor gives me way more time to be creative than my old freelancing and adjuncting life did, and I managed to get a LOT of writing done then.

I could blame the world…

Oh, yeah.

Actually, that’s it.

Because, well, the world is kind of a hot flaming mess right now, isn’t it? And, well, if I’m honest, I’m just not sure words are capable of putting the fire out.

I love writing plays.  I love telling stories.  And I think I do it pretty well (let’s not talk about how much I suck at the whole “Getting my work in front of people” part though).  Almost all of my works center on messy humans dealing with the complexities of being alive today, but—even if they were getting produced on stages around the world (Dear Universe, I wouldn’t mind it!)— would they DO anything to help the world?

I don’t know.

Maybe I’m having a bit of a mid-life crises about the purpose of theatre, and about the value of toiling away at scripts intended to land a production so that I can talk to people through characters and metaphor about things I think are important.

What would happen if I just talked to people instead?

A few weeks ago I did just that. 

I went to a local library board meeting at the behest of a FB post notifying us that a republican group was planning on storming the meeting to demand the library stop hosting an All Ages Drag Show.  I got so fired up about it that I wrote, essentially, a spoken word piece that I then read when my name was called to speak.  The issue wasn’t even up for a vote that night – it’s a popular event that already happens! – but there were a number of us there that night whose aim was to prevent the speakers of intolerance from winning the mic.

It felt great.

Not only was I able to take speaking time away from indignant and ill-informed haters that night, but I felt a sense of community amongst the rest of the drag show supporters that was incredibly uplifting. 

(I should clarify here, I have been to the All Ages Drag Show and found it to be very fun, but I am not a part of that community—just a fan.  The community I felt in the board room was of the kind created by a group of people standing together against intolerance.)

And this feeling of community got me thinking: Does theatre create community?  I mean, outside its walls… We say it does.  Hell, there are theatres all over the country who call themselves community theatres.  And I believe fervently that the theatrical community to be found within those walls is a wondrous, loving, crazy, and invaluable sort—but it’s a rare thing to see a theatre create community beyond the theatremakers/volunteers who make the “product” that those theatres “sell”.

Rather, it seems like most theatres have a primarily transactional relationship with their communities: More of a “We think you’ll like this show, so please buy a ticket! And while you’re here, maybe you want to buy a season pass/some theatre merch/a season program as well?” type of relationship. Theatres offer talk-backs and talk-forwards, and try to select seasons of work that will get more people to buy more tickets… but what are they doing to build community beyond the theatremaker kind?

And aren’t most audience members tjust here to see the show, have a glass of wine, and leave anyway?  Maybe they’ll talk about the show with their friends, recommend it to their co-workers, but they sure do like to bristle at the neighbor who unwraps a cough-drop mid-show. They growl at the young couple who dares to bring their children along. They glare at the student who arrives late. They chastise the women who laugh too loud… 

That’s not community.

And I really think, now more than ever, that we need to cultivate a greater sense of connection and community within AND without our theatrical structures.

But that’s a hard thing to do when you’re just a playwright.

Fortunately, I’m not “Just” a playwright…

I’ve been really fortunate to get hired at Iowa State University where we have dedicated our 2019-2020 season to work by female playwrights.  Not only that, but we’ve hired female guest designers and directors, and we’ve created an entire symposium to look at/discuss gender equity.  We’re also dedicated to gender parity in our season selection moving forward, and are participating in Jubilee next year. We’re doing the work, and we’re asking some big questions about theatre and citizen artistry along the way.  I’ll talk about more about our work in my next post. But it’s an exciting place to be teaching, working, and building community.

I’ve also organized a series of initiatives through Protest Plays Project and Little Black Dress INK (I’m the crazy person behind both orgs) that address social issues.  I’ll talk more about our latest project later this week. But both of these parts of my life allow me to do more than just scribble words… they help me connect and build community with other playwrights and theatremakers, and the kinds of work we are doing invites audiences to take action with us. It’s exciting.

There are more ways I’m working on taking action as an artist and a human, but I honestly don’t have enough time to write about all of it—what with the new baby and all 😉 

But I encourage you to hang in there with me this week and to think about how you can do more with your words, your voice, and your actions, dear playwrights.  I promise I’ll ask some good questions for you to ponder.

And if you’re wondering, here’s the statement I wrote in support of the All Ages Drag Show at our very awesome library:

Fear is a powerful, and primitive, human emotion.

So is love.

Fear alerts us to the presence of danger. 
A safety mechanism, designed to keep us safe from peril.
Fear helps us survive…


Love, a safety mechanism in itself,
Gives us reasons to survive.
And unlike fear,
Love… Well, Love helps us to thrive.

Biochemical or Emotional, both fear and love ride our senses hard, confusing and elating us.
Biochemical responses are universal. 
We all know the feeling of a heart pounding, of sweat dripping, of stomachs dropping…

Is it fear?

Is it love…

How can the two look, feel, taste, so similar?
Emotional responses are individual. 
So what you,
and you,
and you,
and I fear,
What you, and you, and you, and I love…

The pieces of this world that create our biochemical and emotional responses –
Are rarely exactly the same.
It is a universal truth that we are none of us guaranteed to agree.
But we have built a society which allows for this difference,
A democracy built on the notion that there is no ONE right way to BE.
Because it is vital if any of us wishes to thrive,
That we continue to allow individuals to be


A community that celebrates the individual is a community centered on love.
A community that celebrates only one type of individual? The “Right” kind of individual?
Well that’s not love.
That’s not community.
That is fear in action.
That is fear in control.
That is a community in crisis.

Hearts beating
Sweat dripping
We are all of us here tonight sharing biochemical reactions, though the reasons are different.

My heart pounds because I do not want to be party to a community where you are not free to be you, and I am not free to be I. 

Where the deciders of WHO can BE, use religion or politics to outline what is “CORRECT”

My adrenaline surges because to hear how ferociously some are willing to condemn others creates in me a palpable fear…

A fight or flight kind of fear…

That those who want to condemn are unwilling to open their hearts to the love in this room
In this community
In the hearts and souls of those who have been finding and building community through an
All ages drag show.


I will not fly from this issue.
We will not fly from the community that has been built here.

Those of you who are in the room tonight
Afraid of
An all ages drag show:
Have you become fear junkies?

So acclimated
So indoctrinated
By a party that uses fear to separate and alienate and attain power through division-
Do you really think that diversity in your community means you can’t continue to be you?
That by allowing others to celebrate their individuality
You are somehow losing out?

Let me share with you a secret…

You are not losing anything.

But by trying to take this away?
An event born of incredible love and joyfulness and inclusivity?
You are the takers.
Aiming to create absence in the hearts and lives of others.

I’ll share another secret with you:
The adrenaline you feel in pursuit of punitive action-
The adrenaline you feel while attacking that which is different from yourself
Is NOTHING like the adrenaline of love.

That adrenaline…

The adrenaline of putting aside warring labels,
—Democrat vs. Republican, this kind of Christian vs. that kind of whatever—
In order to reclaim the I, the ME, and the US in this room?
The adrenaline of deciding to be a community of love
And to let go of fear…
Of the hate that fear sows
Of the intolerance that fear grows-

That is the biochemical
Of a healthy
And that is what we should all be working towards



Thank you.

I really wanted to write, but…

Photo by Kevin Susanto on Unsplash

My nearly-three-year-old got sick.  He yacked all over the place, and then I felt like I was going to yack all over the place, and he definitely yacked all over my husband, and I definitely almost yacked back, so that took several days to recover from.

We’ve been traveling.  My husband presented at a conference.  The tot finally got better, then we got on a plane, and then we got to spend a day at the beach.  Who wants to hunker down with their laptop when the San Diego beach is in your face?

I have grades to enter.  Students to email.  Lesson plans to make.  It’s Thanksgiving break, and I’m thankful for the time it gives me to get caught up.

My toddler is screaming.  He has a poopy diaper, but he likes it that way (apparently) because he is screaming at anyone who approaches to try and change it. Speaking of poopy diapers…

Donald Trump is president.

I wake up everyday with trepidation… What will happen today? Whose shoe will be the next to drop?  How am I supposed to write when there is all this news to obsess over?

I’m pregnant.  My back hurts.  I’m tired.  I’m making another human, even as I panic about the world going to absolute shit, and I wonder how irresponsible it is to be creating life in the face of so much global disaster.  It’s exhausting.

The cats are meowing.  They want some of my cinnamon roll… well, they want the butter I slathered on top of it.  They’re adorable.  I definitely need to spend the next thirty minutes trying to convince them to sit in my lap and snuggle.

My imagination is tired from imagining how many ways the apocalypse might come, what shape it might take, and what we’ll do when it gets here.

I wanted to write this week.

I was going to write this week…