The International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) 50/50 Applause Awards was founded in 2012 to increase awareness and applaud theatres that produced a season with an equal or greater number of plays written by female playwrights.
In recent years, discussions within the global theatre community and the media have prompted both academic research and discussions to explain why the work of women playwrights is underrepresented in staged theatrical productions. In 2009, Emily
Glassberg Sands released a study called “Opening the Curtain on Playwright Gender” which showed that only 18% of the productions done in the United States in 2008 were by female playwrights. She also found that “only 11% of shows on Broadway over the past decade [1999-2009] were written exclusively by women”.
Other research from countries with developed economies has demonstrated similar imbalances. In 2011, Lyn Gardner of the UK’s stated “...of the 57 productions on in the West End and the fringe that might be considered plays (rather than musicals or physical work), only six are written by women”.
The Australian Council for Arts 2012 “Women in Theatre” report cited that 21% of the productions between 2001-2011 were written by women. In 2014, there were no new plays or musicals written by women produced on Broadway or the West End although the League of Professional Women in Theater reported that 28% of off-Broadway playwrights were women in the same year.
When ICWP decided to create the 50/50 Applause Award, it was out of the sincere desire to recognize and thank the mainstream theater companies that were making an equal place for the work of women playwrights on their stages.
We have been pleased with the growth this award has enjoyed in just a few short years. In our first year, there were only five recipients, all based in the United States. Our second year, there were twenty-nine recipients in five countries. In 2014, we opened the nominations to the public and had sixty seven recipients in nine countries.