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!

Monday, October 10, 2005

O'Neill Playwrights's Conference

October 10, 2005 O'Neill & the working class....
C G wrote: O'Neill would NEVER have been able to qualify for the competition named after him!

GLH-- Let's not over-romanticize O'Neill. His father was a tightwad, but a rich one. Gene went to (prep) boarding schools, Princeton (expelled) , and studied play writing at Harvard. His "modest" Connecticut home had at least 2 live-in servants. He shipped out as a seaman, and hung out in working-class bars, yes. But he had no compunctions about borrowing money and labor-- and not paying back either-- for important things such as his scripts and binges.


I was at Rosanna's for a rehearsal today and saw her dining room table spread over with pages and envelopes and notes and.... stuff. She was trying to prepare an MS package for the O'Neill. She was frustrated about how difficult it was to print out double-sided scripts, and also b/c she couldn't figure out how to copy her play to the required cd.
I struggled with her MSWord and windows, finally figured out how to make it happen-- hope she took good notes!-- while kvetching about the time trouble and money it takes to enter a script in the "open"-- is it really?-- process. Among all the instructions on the guidelines email (we all got one, yes?) was an invitation to call and share our reactions to the process. I said why complain to each other: let's complain to the O'Neill! So we called James White. I left a message on his machine.
Amazingly, he called back! Spoke passionately for more than 1/2 an hour-- I couldn't get him to stop. He swears that 4 or 5 of the 8 last year were chosen from "open" submissions. Pointed out that double-sided copy was an option, not a requirement, and that -- wonder of wonders!-- they don't give a hoot about which format a writer uses as long as the script is readable. Swore that the goal of his life is to get funds so the program is free.
I still don't know if it is worth the time trouble and money it takes to enter a script, but I do feel better about the process now. -- GLH

Times Select $$$-- boo hoo!

October, 2005 Times Select $$$-- boo hoo! -- GLH
I really really miss the Select stuff.
For many years I read the back issues of the NYTimes every couple of weeks in the public library. I was--am-- a Starving Artist, and could not afford to buy it. A few years back I spent a decade as an Adjunct Instructor at a university: I still couldn't afford a subscription, even at Educator rates, but the department had copies delivered and I read the NYTimes 5 days a week for free, with pleasure and in comfort.
I'm now on the only form of support for artists and independent intellectuals available in this country: Social Security retirement.
Ever since the NYTimes went on line I have begun my day by reading the Op Ed section. I am addicted to my weekly dose of Dowd, Rich, Krugman and company, bereft when they go on vacation or book-writing leave.
Starting in September, this long one-way conversation ceased. The Times is restricting its columnists to paid-subscription only.
I'm in mourning.
I can shrug off the NYTimes selling access to sports columns and business info, but the Op Ed section? The Life of the Mind? When I was teaching I repeated the old saw that reading the NYT was as good a means of education as going to college: The NYT was the only paper in America edited for readers with a college graduate's reading level, and by reading it cover to cover a youngster could rise to that level within 4 years, whether or not they attended school.
I'm not the only person who feels that America has lost cultural capital because the Times has cut off the financially inferior members of its readership. Here's a sample of the comments on the political blogs:
"What's going to happen when all the major centers of intellectual insight begin to charge; another widening of the crack between haves and have nots, between rich and poor will surely result. Many more may become members of the great uninformed by virtue of lack of money. The net effect will be a deepening of poverty and we all lose."

"I'm currently leading a rag tag faction of independent minded rebels against this oppressive regime. I'm holding out as long as I can, but need help and direction. The OPED folks at NYT used to provide some assistance for those of us trying to fight the good fight. But they have pushed us out of the loop"

"I believe the NYT is shooting its own foot with this one. I mean, at a moment where its columnists are ranting about how the Bush propaganda is permeating the mayor media outlets and puting a leash on discenting voices, they go and put their most important voices behind a money courtain. Lets face it, The NYT has chosen to make a buck by preaching to the convert and does not care who knows what anymore. Someone should check if the NYT has not been aquired by a neoconservative non-profit group from Texas with money "borrowed" from some soon to be bankrupted trust fund."

"If this issue is that important for all of you, imagine how it is for those who live in the third world. I tell you, it's REALLY HARD to get a different voice from up north here in Argentina. I will miss Dowd, Krugman and Friedman (Yes, even him)."