Women Playwrights Demand Equality

by Melissa Silverstein on October 27, 2008

in Theatre

Big props to playwrights Julia Jordan and Sarah Schulman for organizing women playwrights in NY to discuss sexism in the NY theatre. This evening 150 women will be holding a discussion (which I will be attending) with some of the artistic directors of the NY off-Broadway theatres to discuss how to get more women’s voices on the marquees.

Contending that their male counterparts in the 2008-9 season are being produced at 14 of the largest Off Broadway institutions at four times the rate that women are (40 plays by men; 10 by women)

And bigger props to my bud playwright Theresa Rebeck for having the guts to go on the record about the sexism:

I personally don’t think playwriting is a gene on a Y chromosome,…Many of our male peers find the debate intolerable. Men in the community seem to think that everything is fine.”…Ms. Rebeck said that male friends “in the system say to me I have to keep my mouth shut; don’t be part of the problem, don’t be a whiner.”

They clearly count on women being too afraid to speak out. It takes people who have clout (like Rebeck) to take a stand. And no, that’s not easy. Other women need to stand with her and support her.

Some of the genius artistic directors really showed the glass houses they live in especially Lincoln Center’s Andre Bishop who made the genius statement:

Most artistic directors are men, and they don’t relate to or connect with women as much as men,” “I try to think about these things all the time, but I don’t, because I’m a pathetic mortal.

I think he is just plain pathetic and condescending.

Carole Rothman, artistic director and founder of Second Stage, who in the past was known as a stalwart supporter of female artists said:

“Is there a cultural bias against women? I don’t know,” she said, but either way, “People don’t care.”

People. Don’t. Care. Wow. I believe that people don’t know and that they do care once they learn about the issues. Do we really want a theatre world dominates by males voices and visions? I’m shocked at the narrowmindedness of these so-called culture leaders. These people have influence over what we see in the theatre all across the country. If they produce a show at their theatre it has a much greater chance of being produced somewhere else.

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo also went on the record:

She had been told that her characters were unlikable. “I wonder if Neil LaBute hears this,” she said of a playwright known for his corrosive depictions of human nature. She also suggested that women’s plays often do not resolve as conclusively as those by men, and that they do not follow the Aristotelian model of drama, which makes directors uncomfortable.

I find this fascinating. Women filmmakers have some of the same issues. Women and men write differently because we are different and have different experiences. Is it maybe that all the models that we think work are male models? It’s not rocket science. If we want a culture to reflect ALL the participants we need to figure out a way to have ALL women’s voices (not just white women) heard.

Charging Bias by Theaters, Female Playwrights to Hold Meeting (NY Times)


{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Deaf Brown Trash Punk October 27, 2008 at 7:59 AM

I was going to e-mail you that article and to my delight, you blogged about it. I am so SICK of the male bias in the playwriting world! in fact, just a few days ago, there was a debate on a yahoo group that I belong to, for screenwriters. Some guys were *offended* that there are screenwriting groups for female screenwriters, by female screenwriters.

They cried and bitched and moaned about how it’s so sexist and unfair that guy screenwriters aren’t welcomed.

Those guys just DON’T f-ing get it.

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whitney October 27, 2008 at 11:02 PM

well you should treat people how you want to be treated and you dont want to be excluded so you shouldnt exclude them.

As a female filmmaker I want to be the best of the best. I dont think it should be equal, I think it should be about who is the best and who thought of the best and who did the best. If that means there are more male written plays cool, more female written plays cool. It’s not about seeing a gender, it’s about seeing no gender.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk October 28, 2008 at 9:29 AM

It’s not about seeing a gender, it’s about seeing no gender.

nicely said, whitney

jhonthego November 1, 2008 at 4:32 PM

Sorry to say Carole Rothman’s statement “people don’t care” is somewhat sad and true. She’s being courageous by telling the truth, even though it’s a truth we don’t want to hear.

There definitely is cultural bias BIG TIME! and I myself, in my grassroots way, am forever espousing this to anyone who’ll listen. Once in a while I’ll get a woman who agrees, most of the time I get men and women in denial. Going beyond saying “there’s no gender or ageist problem”, by condeming women who vocalize these issues as complainers, negative, angry and bitter. Sound familiar?

I continue my lone quest anyway. Even though many people (men and women alike) resist the truth, I’m hoping to plant the seeds in the back of their minds. With more public acknowledgement, maybe people might come to terms with the truth, that there indeed are equality, ageist, and gender issues, and become willing to also step forward and try to help change it.

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