We interviewed our ICWP members on current topics of Inclusion, Writing, and their Reason Why.
The most common theme from any question was that there still aren’t enough deliberate actions taken by theaters and artistic directions to give writing opportunities to playwrights that identify as female, are of color, or are LGBTQ.
We have quoted the best excerpts from our questions here.
What do female playwrights bring to the theatre? Why are female playwrights important?
Elana Gartner: Female playwrights bring unique voices and perspectives to the stage…It is important that female playwrights serve as role models for those younger women behind us.
Lisa Grunberger: I think female playwrights like Carol Churchill, Susan Lori-Parks, Margaret Edson (Wit), Marsha Norman, Wendy Wasserstein can tell stories that place women at the center of the story. We need a diversity of stories that tell us about how women negotiate the world.
Sandra de Helen: It is important to have a diversity of voices in the theatre. Women’s voices are heard far less than 50% of the time, and consequently, the established canon of plays resulted in the belief that the male point of view is the “correct” and universal point of view.
Karen Howes: We need the female playwright who can not only show us women characters who are individuals, and who not only tell us narratives sprung from female experiences, but we also need female playwrights who can help us broaden our understanding and acceptance of dramatic structure. I look to playwrights like Susan Glaspell and Ntozake Shange to see how plays can work very successfully while not adhering to male structure.
Why do you write plays?
Christine Emmert: I started as an actress, and then I realized I had more to say than just what others wrote.
Elana Gartner: It is part of the fabric of who I am. I have also gotten very depressed when I am not writing plays.
Elin Hampton: My imagination can be triggered from a prompt, a photograph, a commercial or a conversation.
Julia Pascal: To see the work that nobody else is writing. To tell women’s histories as they will otherwise vanish. To explore the world’s action from a woman’s view point.
Lisa Grunberger: I write plays and poems and stories because I have to…it’s a compelling, ineffable force inside you that you hear and sometimes, if you are fortunate, you get the opportunity to tell these stories and to share them, on the page or the stage with other people.
Aphra Behn: To push out a woman’s narrative. All of my plays are stories of women.
If you could talk to your 13-year-old self about playwriting, what would you say?
Emily Adler: “It’s really easy to make this about ego and proving how wonderful you are and constantly needing to hear it…and that temptation will always be there…but when you fall in love with the process, you’ll feel it on a whole other level. And that is where the good stuff really happens.”
Cynthia Wands: It is okay to take risks and talk like you’re the only one who knows what you’re talking about.
Julia Pascal: Listen to old people. Capture their stories. This is your source material. Get older women to talk to you about their lives in great detail.
What can the theatre world do to be more affirming to female playwrights?
Judith Pratt: Teach young women how to navigate the politics of theatre; how to manage their careers.
Penny Jackson: They need to commit to including at least two or three female playwrights in their season. They need to commit to an outreach program for female playwrights. Above all, they need to reach all female playwrights of every nationality, race and age…Ageism is an unspoken issue with theaters chasing playwrights.
Cynthia Joyce Clay: From reading business articles about how some corporations work ….. it seems the task is multidimensional, that problems arise from layers of discriminatory ideas that have to be peeled back and dealt with.
Ibadete Abazi: America [must] give more space to female playwrights because I think even here in many cases …. we are not treated equally.
Debbie Ann Tan: I hope that productions will be open to diverse voices, experimental writings by women…I hope that they can be open to supporting current and living female playwrights by choosing our plays and paying the proper fees so that we can somehow earn from our writings.
Cynthia Wands: Make more female directors and artistic directors available at the theatres. All male staffed theatres don’t seem to be able to incorporate women’s voices as much as when there are women on board.
Laurel Wetzork: Blind submissions. Read more plays by women. Schedule at least half of a [season] with female playwrights.
Aphra Behn: Produce plays by women. Hire women directors. Involve their audiences in the progress.
Farzana Moon: …It still lags behind in lending opportunities to indigenous voices, in US especially, Native Americans.
Karen Howes: The change has come from within. It’s been through the slow movement of women into the entrenched male dominion of theatre management, education and criticism that women artists have been allowed entrance.…. The momentum that has sprung up to support women could easily slip away. It is not entrenched. It is fueled by anger and resentment which are fleeting emotions.
The International Centre for Women Playwrights seeks to support women playwrights around the world by bringing international attention to their achievements and encouraging production of their plays. As an organization, they provide an affirming community of female-identifying playwrights that support one another to advance their craft. Their hope is to achieve parity by empowering women playwrights across the world.
For more information on statistics on women playwrights, please see the League of Professional Theatre Women Women Count report published in February of 2018 or the Dramatists Guild the Count 2.0 - on who is getting produced in the United States, encompassing seasons from 2011-2017.
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