Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Terrific Theatre -- but not for women

October 2005 "'glass ceiling'" -- GLHorton

On the Women Playwrights list we discuss this, and there I would advise a woman writer not to bother querying or sending a script to a theatre where the AD picks the plays and has consistently over time picked a ratio of 5 m to 1f to produce, never produces unsolicited scripts, and has never anointed a woman as writer-in-residence. This kind of a track record is like a big neon sign saying "Not a Chance, Girls". Time and money are in shorter supply for women (as a group) than men (as a group)-- why would a practical person waste resources crashing against that old glass ceiling?
I'm very impressed by your posts about your work, and I imagine that I would find your productions interesting: but believe that I can tell from your self-description and the history of your theatre that you wouldn't find my work very interesting, and therefore wouldn't want to produce any of my 15 full length plays. My stuff would only confirm
your impression that there's nothing out there. Truth is, I'm too outrageous for a lot of people, but no where near outrageous enough for you!
But there are plenty of outrageous females writing these days. Fully half the people writing plays today are female, and if the outrageous ones' scripts don't show up at your theatre it's because the message that they'd be welcome has not been spread across the land. If you announced all up and down the lists that you really longed to produce plays by women and would read and consider any woman-written script provided that it has -- list the characteristics A, B, X, Y, Z, that matter most to you -- I'm sure that authors and their friends and agents and lit mgrs and professors of play writing would shower A, B, X, Y, Z, scripts upon you, filtering out all the tiresome C-V type scripts. Right now, group members and authors and their friends and agents and lit mgrs etc. are probably filtering out women-written scripts from their recommendations to you-- on the basis of what they have observed: so far, you much prefer scripts by men. Announce it's not so, and expect a miracle. You'd find something to your liking: really, you would. And you could do an historical all-female season.
If you can do a cross gender Othello, you can do ANYTHING! Do Centlivre's Bold Stroke for a Wife-- cross-gender it and make the Guardians control a corporate empire rather than an heiress' marriage contract. Or do her Basset Table, stage it on a voyage of the Enterprize. I don't like Treadwell's Machinal, myself: but some directors have done a bang-up job with it, and I bet you could! Think about doing Megan Terry's Vietnam Rock, timely all over again; or one of Tina Howe's absurdist plays; or tackle Naomi Wallace's Slaughter City or a Judith Thompson. ... plus, of course, the World Premieres of the plays by women nobody's heard of who will be inspired to write scripts specifically for you and your company once they hear that
there's an opportunity for their kick-ass talent to bloom there.

On Oct 8, 2005, Hillman wrote:

I know for a fact that I do not care one whit when reading a play whether a man or a woman wrote it-- I'm only looking for certain particular things (parts for our resident actors; a certain tone, quality, and aesthetic that matches the range of things we like to do;

On Oct 12, 2005, B R wrote:

But, I think you make an assumption that is frustrating to me . Just because I actively promote Ruth Margraff, Carson Kreitzer, Aishah Rahman, Julie Marie Myatt, Lisa
D'Amour et al...., doesn't mean I'm not intersted in Aphra Behn or Lilllian Hellman.......

GLH reply--- I was writing to/about Melissa Hillman, AD and the dynamic force behind Impact Theatre, a 7 year old Bay Area company with an exciting history of new play premieres and classics revisited to fit the company's mission to produce plays that are: QUOTE
a. cool-ass (note: we also accept "kick-ass")
b. relevant, interesting, and appropriate for actors and audience members ranging in age from about 16 to 35.
(with mostly unpaid talent and tickets pegged to cost no more than a movie.)
Far from the demographic of the usual LORT production!
Among Melissa's accomplishments are productions of SAY YOU LOVE SATAN, TV SUCKS MY ASS, QUEER THEORY, SCAB, her own version of JOAN OF ARC, and several well-shaken Shakespeares.

Melissa said she'd produce more women writers if sympatico scripts showed up. I believe her, and I think she has the energy and talent to produce them well, and I am trying to suggest how she could attract such scripts.
They won't come from me, alas: nobody has ever accused me of being "cool-ass"!
As for the historic women, that's my personal hobbyhorse. I want to read, see, and promote all the talented women playwrights I've never seen and whom even people with MFAs have never heard of, who were so successfully wiped from theatre history that the professor who taught my college play writing class decades ago could tell me without fear of contradiction that "Women just haven't the sort of intelligence and temperament necessary for being a dramatist. There has never been and never will be a good female playwright." There has been, there are, and if the world doesn't go to hell in a hand basket there Will Be!


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