Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How far have we really come?

I’m a big fan of the show MAD MEN.  

When we first moved to Pittsburgh, we watched the first season back to back (thank you, Netflix), and are now working through the end of the second season.  

We're fascinated by how things have changed.  Back in the early 60s, people drank and smoked like there was no tomorrow, littered in the parks without a care in the world for the environment, treated minorities like garbage, and women (being one of those minorities) were left to pick up the messes of the badly behaving men.  If women worked, they were secretaries, but usually they were moms and trophy wives.  So in the offices on Madison Avenue, its fascinating to watch Peggy try to survive and thrive as a copywriter, a women in a man’s world. 

The sad thing is that I don’t know that we’ve come all that far when it comes to the theatre world.  

Granted, I’ve got a limited perspective seeing as I am the wrong gender here.  I really can’t complain.  I look around in rehearsals and in the theatres and I see replicas of myself—middle-aged white men.  If women are in the theater they are mostly education directors (women can always be teachers, right?), literary managers, dramaturgs, or stage managers.  

I’m generalizing, of course.  There are women directors and even a few women Artistic Directors, but not a large percentage.  Women are present, but not as influential as they should be.

But I’m digressing.  

My beef today is with the Wasserstein Prize committee.  They have do a do-over because evidently they had nominees for women playwrights to win the prize and narrowed it down to 19 women and then decided that not ONE of them deserved to win the prize.

Excuse me?

Not one?


Did we not just have a discussion about the recent Sands study of the large bias against women playwrights?  I mean, just from a PR standpoint, that’s embarrassing, but I also have a hard time believing there is not one worthy female playwright.

This is part of the problem.  This is why we need to keep talking about how there are more male playwrights being produced and studied in school then women.

This is a fun game I like to play in my playwriting classes.

Name 10 male playwrights.

Easty, right?  You got maybe Shakespeare, Moliere, Mamet, Albee, Simon, Shepard, Beckett, Chekhov, O’Neill, Odetts, Wilder, and on and on…

Now name 10 female playwrights.

Most can name three or five, tops.  But then they struggle.

But why?

They’re out there.  Go find them.  Read their plays. Put the plays on your syllabi and talk about them in your classes. Do scenes from them.  They’re good and they deserve awards.

Okay, so now I’m off my soapbox.

By the way, here’s a few women playwrights:  

Wendy Wasserstein (of course), Paula Vogel, Maria Irene Fornes, Lillian Hellman, Aphra Behn, Caryl Churchill, Teresa Rebeck, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, Sara Ruhl, Beth Henley, Jenny Schwartz, Kia Corthron, Suzan Lori Parks, Liz Duffy Adams, Carson Kreitzer, Ellen McLaughlin, Young Jean Lee, Brooke Berman, Neena Beber, Julie Jensen, Sheilagh Callaghan, Tammy Ryan, Stephanie Timm, Joy McCullough-Carranza, Ruth Margraff, Cynthia Hopkins, Erin Courtney…and that’s just a small sampling…

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