Time was, tracking cultural change was a slippery business; but now that the zeitgeist has conveniently taken up residence in the internet,we can trace each footprint on the path. And while it may sometimes feel that our online hubbings lead to little real world bubbings, increasingly what happens on the web manifests in the world.
You might remember the game-on for gender equity caused by the Emily Glassberg Sands bruhaha and ensuing activism we reported on here and here; well, the work is gaining steam. A new Berkeley based theatre company, Symmetry Theatre, has just been founded, with a mission “to redress the imbalance in professional theatrical union contracts given to male versus female performers.” In NYC, HERE Arts Center hosted a think tank on equality; coming out of the 50/50 in 2020 movement, the website Works By Women was created to focus on just that; in LA, the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative was founded, with co-founder playwright Laura Shamas saying “what was happening in New York inspired us”; in the Berkshires, the Women’s Action Project is not only producing women artists, but using the work to fund organizations that support women worldwide; and longtime leader Women’s Project just published an anthology of plays by their Lab playwrights.
You might also remember the groundswell of online excitement caused by Arena Stage’s convening of Black Playwrights; inspired by that event, J Holtham, Jocelyn Price and Keith Josef Adkins have founded The New Black Play Fest, and Arena has formed a task force to keep the conversation moving forward.
And forward it goes, with growing support for playwright Mariah MacCarthy’s Theatergoing Manifesto; playwright/blogger RVCBard’s creation of Ars Marginal, a review website dedicated to countering the prevalence of art for “straight White dudes”; and Carlton Turner posting his brilliant TCG National Conference manifesto.
Increasingly, the web and the world are creating an activist feedback loop, where a forward step in one lends momentum to the other. The online cry raised over playwright compensation in TDF’s Outrageous Fortune may have led theatres like the Public Theater and Roundabout Theater Company to reduce their subsidiary rights; and the artist/institution divide bemoaned in that book is being countered with new paid playwright residencies at theatres like Arena Stage and Roundabout.
The incremental steps of positive change have always been in danger of erasure through the stresses of limited time and resources, often breaking against the shoals of inertia and nostalgia; but now each forward footprint is saved for everyone to see, making our momentum mutual, and our capacity for change, exponential.
What tracks should we be keeping our eyes on that we missed here? Let us know in the comments below.