“Back in 1918 before women had the right to vote, the percentage of new plays in New York, written by women, was higher. It was higher before we had the vote.”
In June 2009, Emily Glassberg Sands released her now famous report, “Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender (pdf)”, and the long simmering debate about gender equity in play selection boiled over. In her recent Laura Pels keynote address at A.R.T/New York, playwright Theresa Rebeck kept the heat on, saying “I really do believe that if enough people stand up and say this cannot go on, it will not go on.”
Well, people are starting to stand up. Marsha Norman’s impassioned take in our November 2009 issue of American Theatre outlined potential steps and prompted a flurry of comments and discussion. Her ideas ranged from a gender blind play submission process to an increased focus on gender equity from funders.
And now, others are taking direct action. 50/50 in 2020 is a group of New York City theatre artists advocating for equal representation in season selection by 2020. Using their thriving Facebook fanpage, 50/50 in 2020 is coordinating meet-ups of audiences to attend plays written by women. What better way to show producers that plays written by women have strong box office appeal?
Meanwhile in Chicago, the Chicago Storefront Summit created a Gender Equity Taskforce that just released a snapshot report. While the report reveals that only 18.8% of productions in Chicago in 2009 were written by women, it also outlines a number of provocative steps to change the balance. Ideas like a diversity report card and rewriting mission statements to include a focus on equality are a part of the Task Force’s exciting to-do list.
Thanks to nytheatre.com, you don’t need to wait for a report on gender equity – you can see how theatres in New York are doing in real time. Not only do they feature a Plays By Women page on their website, but at the bottom of the page, a real time gender breakdown of listed plays written by women and men.
What other individuals and organizations out there are taking concrete steps to realize gender equity? Please share them in the comments below, and maybe we can celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment by achieving 50/50 in 2020.
By day, Gus is the mild-mannered Circulation and Customer Service Manager at TCG. By night, he transforms into August Schulenburg: playwright, actor, director, and Artistic Director of Flux Theatre Ensemble. His produced plays include Riding the Bull, Carrin Beginning, Other Bodies, Rue, The Lesser Seductions of History, and Jacob’s House.