Last week The New York Times did a piece on “Creating a Supply Chain of Women Playwrights.” This subversive group, The Kilroys, asked 127 theatres to help create a list of plays written by women that had one or no productions but “were among the best they had seen or read this year.”
OK. Great. Here’s a list, Mr. Artistic Director.
Unfortunately just a list ain’t gonna fix what I would call a root cause. Um. Sexism.
And there’s another problem with the list. A good friend of mine runs a small theatre in Rhode Island. He is dedicated to having a diverse lineup every season. However, the minute he calls Samuel French or Dramatists Play Service to ask about producing a new play by a woman, this is what he gets;
“We are holding this play for an equity theatre.” Or, “we aren’t letting smaller theatres produce this one.”
This conversation constantly happens. In fact, he recently got into a screaming match with a publisher at Samuel French. He said “don’t you think the playwright would be thrilled to have her work produced?”
So here’s the dilemma. Women writing and publishing plays. Publishers who get to decide where these plays are produced, with little to no input from the actual playwright. What’s a good artistic director to do?
Then there’s just the whole trying to find a play to read piece. So, this same artistic director sends me a list of plays to read. I go to the library website at work. Searching for a single play is like looking for a needle in a haystack, excuse the old metaphor. Most plays are published in collections. One must find the collection it was published in, say the 2010 Humana Festival of New Plays. You would actually have to know that the specific play you were looking for was first produced at the Humana Festival.
Plays are not like books that get published and are easy to find. People might actually read more plays if they were more accessible to the non theatre producing reader or audience member.