September Spotlight: Naijeria Toweett
Naijeria Toweett is passionate about equality and empowerment especially among minority and vulnerable populations.
She is a drama graduate from Newcastle College, UK. She has worked in the arts having held the position of an administrative assistant to Dance City, Newcastle. On returning to her native Kenya in 1997, she together with other young female artists formed Women in Participatory Educational Theatre (WEPET), Kenya’s first all women theatre company. She has held various positions in several dance and theatre organizations in Kenya among them, Institute of Performing Arts (IPAL), The Theatre Company (TTC) and Dance Into Space (DIS) where she now sits on the board.
Naijeria has also worked as a program officer for Most At Risk Populations in Liverpool VCT Care and Treatment and the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya – GALCK.
Naijeria loves digital media and for the past three years she has been the social media manager of Love Matters Africa, a project that targets young people with sexual reproductive health information. The Love Matters Facebook page is ranked in the top 25 among the most engaging Kenyan-based pages.
Naijeria has recently scripted and directed a web soap series on Love Sex and Relationships for a Love Matters mobile platform.
She has been an ICWP member since 2009.
Welcome New Members
Marjorie Conn, USA
Actor and Producer
3 plays are published in Lost Lesbian Lives
THEATER/INTERESTS: Theater has been a life-long interest, from enjoying community to Broadway performances, nurturing and supporting an actor son, providing financial support to local art centers, being a crowd-funder to fledgling producers, and writing one act and full length scripts, drama and comedy. Lives, plays, works and writes in beautiful Southwest Colorado where she resides with her husband and three dogs.
23 Skidoo. Performed at the Durango Arts Center 10 Minute Play Contest, Durango CO, September, 2013
Trail Meetups, Performed at the Manhattan Short Play Lab, New York City, October, 2014
Satellite Buddha. Performed at the Secret Theater One-Act Play Contest. Queens, New York City, September 2015
Exhibitions at a Picture, Finalist, reading at Festival 56 New Works Play Writing Competition, Princeton IL July 2016
Jane Prendergast, USA
Jane has had many productions of short plays, such as "NOLA Goodbye", "The Diers" "May 10" and "After the Fire" and readings by NYU's hotINK festival, Genesius Guild and other organizations of full-length plays including "Memories are Made of This", "Act of Peace" and "Echoes: 1938"
Most of my work is connected with human rights issues such as abuses perpetrated by peacekeeping forces, prosecutorial misconduct and the convictions of the innocent.
Christine Emmert's play, SAY NO MORE, a re-thinking of Strindberg's THE STRONGER, will be part of the Philadelphia Fringe 2016, presented on September 15,16,17 at 7:30 in Jed Williams Gallery, 315 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia. Tickets are $10. Call 610-917-1336 for information.
The Athena Cats present the World Premiere of Blueprint for Paradise, by Laurel Weztork. Set in Los Angeles just before the US declares war on Japan in 1941. The play explores wealth, racial tensions, Nazis, the Mothers of America, and other pre-war political groups.
PLAYING AT: Hudson Theatre Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038
July 30 – September 4: Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00 pm, Sundays @ 3:00 pm
Check Goldstar for last-minute and discounts.
MODEL BEHAVIOR, a ten-minute play by Amy Drake, will be performed in the Little Black Dress INK's Women Playwrights ONSTAGE theater festival, Oct 6-8, 2016, at the Prescott Center for the Arts, Prescott, AZ. More information may be obtain on the website: http://www.littleblackdressink.org/ and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LittleBlackDressINK
Articles of Interest
Project Ariadne is planning a pan-African festival of women’s theatre in Rwanda. The company was founded to tell the stories of women in conflict zones around the world whose work is changing the society they live in.
African women are making history in 2016! Read about some extraordinary women artists and their groundbreaking projects at okayafrica.
South Africa’s Olive Tree Theatre will be hosting it’s 5th The Women's Theatre Festival from 21- 30 October 2016. The festival gives women directors a platform to showcase their work.
Parity Productions is a new theatre company dedicated to equality for women and transgender theatre artists. Besides producing and promoting new work, they host a database of women and transgender writers, directors, and designers, and also commission two new plays a year.
Will writers ever be replaced by artificial intelligence? Take a look at this short film written by an AI, and judge for yourself!
August Spotlight: Naomi Westerman
Begun as group of women who were frustrated by being a women in the theatre industry and united by a shared passion for theatre, Shakespeare, and feminism, Naomi and a small group of women started Little But Fierce in 2013. Rather than doing straight Shakespeare productions, they have created a mixture of Shakespeare adaptations and Shakespeare-inspired new work.
In 2013 I set up the all-female theatre company, Little but Fierce. This is how.
My theatre company started, like many of my successes, by accident. I was frustrated with the challenges of being a woman in the theatre industry, and knew many women who shared these frustrations. I started to arrange regular get-togethers where we could talk, debate, workshop, learn, play and develop work in a no-stress women-only environment. Through these sessions, a core group developed, bonded by a shared passion for theatre, Shakespeare, and feminism. I was, at the same time, doing regular improv with several of my female friends, and we had been debating setting up some kind of more formal all-female theatre group. In summer 2013, I officially co-founded and became artistic director of a new all-female theatre company. I knew I wanted a Shakespearean name, and “Little but Fierce” seemed the obvious choice. Being rather short myself (and definitely fierce), I have always felt a kinship with Hermia!
Our goal was to create female-led theatre to not only create work for women, but to prove that female theatre can be funny and mainstream and commercially successful. Our policy is to cast roles race-blind and ability status-blind, and we try to be as diverse as possible. We work not just with female actors, but also with female directors, producers, and other backstage crew, as it is women in the latter category who are the most marginalized, even in the current debate about gender equality in theatre.
We decided that, rather than doing straight Shakespeare productions, we would create an mixture of Shakespeare adaptations and Shakespeare-inspired new work (though as thecompany evolved we have gone on to stage more new writing).
Our first production was in December of that year, an adaptation of A Christmas Carol with Shakespearean characters (Juliet, Lady Macbeth, and a skull-toting Hamlet) taking the place of the ghosts; this was staged at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Christmas Stage Festival. The RSC's support and having their name on our CV opened many doors and was a wonderful debut.
Our next project, a series of dialogues between Shakespearean characters and contemporary new characters, was shortlisted at the Bush Theatre. Since then, we have produced work at the New Wolsey Theatre, Richmond, the Cockpit Theatre, Theatre N16, and even a showcase in the West End!
We are currently planning productions of Much Ado About Nothing (set in a faded regional theatre company in the 1950s) and Measure for Measure (set in the American Bible Belt), alongside more new writing, and an interactive theatre-in-education project aimed at secondary school students called: Choose Your Own Adventure Shakespeare.
The only advice I could give women thinking of setting up their own companies is: Do it. Don't worry about what might go wrong, because things will go wrong. Make mistakes. Learn. Fail better. And make sure you've got really good friends to support you.
Leah Joki, Made in Montana Press, USA
Sharon Lamb, UK
Psychologist, Psychology Professor, Playwright
I am a psychologist and psychology professor who has begun to write plays. I studied playwriting in London and I have a feminist dystopian play ready to go with really solid parts for 4 women! YAY.
Jodie Leidecker, USA
Everyone has a story. I love finding that story and telling it.
In fourth grade, I started writing poems and by sixth grade, I'd moved on to soap operas and a school play.
I've done technical writing for industry, newsletter and press release writing for colleges and nonprofits, blogging, and essay and humor writing for the web. I've written for various humor sites and self-published a series of funny essays. I've most recently begun writing plays, several of which have been performed in theater festivals in New York City. Everyone has a story. I love finding that story and telling it.
Representative Plays: John; Dr. Hoxley; There Are No Straight Lines in Nature; Stockpile; Apocalypse Fatigue
Playwright, children’s book author, professor of writing.
Laura Toffler is a playwright, children’s book author and professor of writing. Her most recent play, ‘The Latin Beat,’ was a semi finalist in Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s 2016 one act play competition. Laura’s play for children, ‘A Boy Named Nars,’ was published in Story Works Magazine (Scholastic), and she’s had a variety of work produced in and around New York. In addition, Laura is the author of the young adult novels, The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz and My Totally Awkward Supernatural Crush, published by MacMillan. Having earned an MFA in dramatic writing from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, she teaches ‘Writing for Children and Teens’ at Pace University and Westchester Community College.
Now Playing and Coming Soon
In response to your comments on the survey, as of September our newsletter will have a new column, NOW PLAYING & COMING SOON to promote our members’ productions worldwide. If you have a play that will be in production anywhere between September 1 – September 30, please respond to Amy Drake (email@example.com) before August 15 and it will be featured in the NOW PLAYING column of the September newsletter. If you have a play that will b
e produced anytime between October 1 and October 31, likewise email Amy and it will appear in the COMING SOON column.
Articles of Interest
The Kilroys are a group of LA playwrights and producers who are taking action to achieve gender parity in theater. Every year, they survey the industry and publish a list of excellent unproduced new plays by female and trans playwrights.
Chicago’s Gift Theatre debuts a season of new work by women playwrights, featuring plays by Mona Mansour, Claire Kiechel and Janine Nabers.
LAFPI is taking a stand against sexism in Los Angeles theatre. If you’re a woman playwright in the LA area, LAFPI wants to promote your work and help you connect with other artists.
Women will make their voices heard in the Stratford Festival’s 2017 season. Women will direct eight out of the festival’s 14 productions, and the Studio Theatre will present work by three generation of female playwrights.
A study by the British Theatre Consortium and the Society of London Theatre shows female playwrights struggle to break through a “glass ceiling.” Plays by women were staged in smaller theaters, had shorter runs, and lower ticket prices.
Barbara Lhota is a playwright and screenwriter from Detroit, MI. Currently living and working in Chicago, Barbara received her degree from Wayne State University studying acting and then going on to study at Brandeis to pursue Dramatic Writing. She was a winner of Babes With Blades' 2nd annual playwriting competition Joining Sword and Pen for her play Los Desaparecidos (The Vanished). Among many other accolades, her play Echo was a semi-finalist for the 2013 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, as well as for the American Firehouse Theatre, and The Athena Project in Denver. Her latest show, 180 Degrees, was co-written with Margaret (M.E.H.) Lewis and finished its run in Chicago this past May. Today, she continues to write for stage and screen, and is an Associate Member Artist at the Babes with Blades Theatre Company in Chicago.
When did you start playwriting?
When I was at Wayne State University in Detroit, I was an acting major. I had a dream to be an actress but found that I lived too much in my head. I wasn’t yet out as a lesbian, and so I was a bit uncomfortable physically too. I believe when you have secrets about yourself or are holding back, I think that makes you less open as an actress or artist in general. Story writing and telling is generally revealing, so you have to be free to be yourself, with flaws showing.
I remember thinking in undergrad that the actresses were always short-changed on roles. In classics there are about three times as many male vs. female roles, and almost all the plays we were doing were written by men. Meanwhile, there were about twice as many actresses in the theater department vs actors. One of my best friends and roommate at the time, Barbara Kanady, encouraged me to write a play. That year, 1987, I started writing my first play in a coffee shop between classes. It had three women and one man. We produced it that year in one of Wayne State’s black box. My roommate directed it and my professors were quite impressed.
I did get into University Resident Theatre Auditions (URTAs) and ended up having a scholarship to be an acting major for grad school but decided not to go. Instead I ended up with a scholarship to Brandeis for dramatic writing the year after graduation. Longer story but Theresa Rebeck, who was in Brandeis’ PhD program at the time, played a large part in my deciding to go to Brandeis.
When you write, do you focus on developing characters first, or the plot?
Through the years, I have done both. When I was younger, I frequently focused on a leading character first. I was drawn into quirky characters and those I found challenging from my life. I used to struggle with plot, and now, I often hear that my plots are intricate. Certainly, my play, 180 Degree Rule, which was co-written with M.E.H. Lewis, was plot heavy. But despite that, I felt like we knew every aspect of the characters too. Both are so important and they can help feed each other.
I feel like now I start with ideas rather than characters and plot. For instance, I’m working on a play called 85 Billion Neurons to Forever. I was having dinner with a friend and she asked me how I wanted to be buried. I told her that I wish those who were dead could have their brains uploaded so we could ask their advice. I started to research transhumanism and cyborgs out of fascination. It got me thinking about what it means to be human. I started to develop the play using that idea as a question to explore.
When Margaret (M.E.H. Lewis) and I started to develop 180 Degree Rule, we were talking about how famous women artists were frequently dismissed over time. We started chatting about Dorothy Arzner, a film director from the 20s-40s, who was largely unknown. She invented the boom mic for God’s sake and managed to survive the studio system. In her films, she regularly slipped in feminist themes and lesbian overtones, which I consider pretty forward-thinking and daring. 180 Degree Rule was inspired by her and other forgotten female directors of the 30s because we started to ask questions about the struggles they faced – the life they must have or could have lived. It inspired us to fill in the blanks.
How did you learn about ICWP?
I joined a long, long time ago – in the 90s. I found the Listserv first because I had just graduated and I felt alone as a writer…it’s a lonely craft. I know I wanted to listen to other playwrights’ struggles and successes, particularly female playwrights. It also listed opportunities for women. I believe one of the leading members of ICWP at the time – maybe - Linda Eisenstein, was writing an article or quoted in an article so I went and found the site.
What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals?
My process is different for every play. I don’t want to impose too many rules or rituals. The process is like cooking for me. I don’t tend to strictly follow a recipe. I throw in what I need at the time…I see I need more research in a moment. I do the research. I see I need a bit more understanding of the backstory. I take some time to free write about a character’s backstory. This way I stay open to possibilities. I don’t impose too many rules and obligations. It stays spontaneous and fun.
Some plays flow out pretty easily and others seem to require a lot of outlining, research, wrestling and tears. I don’t know that those that came out easier are better. The couple of things I always try to do now are 1) outline what the main character wants to have happen and what are the major obstacles, (What does the audience want to see happen?/What are we waiting for?) 2) outline first scene, act one ending or mid-way climax, and ending, 3) know in chronological order the full relationship and major events that happened between the main/pivotal characters (even if those events are never shown on stage), 4) What question am I exploring?
I also always mouth all the lines as I’m writing or re-reading my work. I play all the parts. This is why I no longer work in coffee shops. I look a bit nutzo.
Do you often work in tandem with a theatre company, or seek out a theatre after you have written a show?
I work a lot with Babes With Blades Theatre Company (BWBTC) in Chicago, where I am an associate member artist. The mission of BWBTC resonates with me. BWBTC is also a company of highly-collaborative, supportive, responsive, clever, resilient women. I tend to naturally write plays where female characters are active and the primary focus. I’m quite fond of male characters as well and like them to be uniquely placed in roles that tend to be more gentle and supportive. Because I’ve always lived in cities and grew up in Detroit during a highly turbulent time in history, violence has been part of my life experience. I think I am drawn to explore the effects of violence, which is very in-line with Babes’ mission.
I definitely match my plays to appropriate theatres and their mission. I think you have to focus on that as you try to step into the role of marketing your play. For Warped, for instance, I definitely targeted Stage Left Theatre in Chicago. I knew that play would provoke debate because it was inspired by a debate/discussion between friends. When I finish the full-length version of 85 Billion Neurons to Forever, I will definitely seek out OtherWorld Theatre Company since their mission is science fiction.
Where do you pull most of your inspiration from when creating characters?
My family and friends. I have extremely unique individuals in my life. I draw from those around me.
Do you have a favorite genre you like to write? (Comedy, drama, fantasy, etc.)
Drama mostly with a lot of comedy laced throughout. My experience in life is that somebody always cracks a joke in the middle of the most tragic circumstances. I like drama but if the play has no humor, I find that unreal.
What would you say was your most rewarding moment as a playwright or writer in general?
There are so many rewarding moments and most heart-warming moments are not about awards or fabulous reviews. What I love is that moment alone when I’m working on a particular difficult moment in a play (the part where I’m stuck or unsure) and the answer just presents itself. It’s like God or the story is talking to you. There’s so much reward in that. When I was working with Margaret (M.E.H. Lewis) I loved that because it happened a number of times when we were outlining together and we got to share that kismet moment together.
My other biggest reward in playwriting is when the director and actors get all excited about some moment in the play that was a bit of a struggle to figure out. They not only figure out how to do it, but do it better and with more gusto than I could have imagined. I love the creative process and the collaboration most of all.
What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out as a playwright?
Work on the basics: scene work with conflict and surprise, action, distinguishing character voices. Volunteer to be a script reader for a theater. If you can intern at a bigger theater company, even better, but do it where you can read a lot of scripts. It gives you a lot of insight. Read and workshop your plays, even if that’s in your living room with actors you know. Listen to feedback that is repeated by multiple people and from those you trust. Write a lot – as much as you can. Send plays that are ready out. 100 a year to try to get any response. Treat your fellow artists (directors, actors, designer) with respect and love. When you are discouraged, read the many stories of famous writers’ woes. There are many of them out there on the interwebs…find them. You are not alone.
Welcome New Members
Mayura Baweja has been working in the theatre as an actor, writer and director for more than a decade. Her first full length play Paper Thin was part of a staged reading last year in Singapore. Passionate about finding and making spaces for women's voices in theatre, she is thrilled to be part of this writing community. She currently resides in Bangalore.
How the company began:
I pitched a production of my play "Just Deserts" (the Oresteia from the pov of the Furies) as a co-curricular event to the Seminar program at St Mary's College. I told SMC we were doing a production in Berkeley and could bring it to the College. In fact, we had no plans to do the play at all and no infrastructure. SMC said yes and we scrambled to figure out what the hell we were doing. An anonymous donor emerged out of thin air (so it seemed to me) and I opened a checking account in the name of Those Women Productions. (See Those Women’s website www.thosewomenproductions.com or/and www.facebook.com/CarolSLashofPlaywright/)
Those Women Productions is a professional theater company with deep roots in the Berkeley community. Libby Vega and I met at the Berkeley Public Library and were drawn together by our shared loves of classic literature and feminism. We did not see a local theater company where those passions were integral, so we formed Those Women Productions to shake up the patriarchy while telling great stories with broad appeal. Our inaugural production in 2014 was the world premiere of my play, “Just Deserts”, a darkly comic retelling of the origin myth of the jury system told from the perspective of the avenging furies. It was performed at The Metal Shop Theater, where we began, at Willard Middle School. In 2015, Those Women Productions mounted two full productions. They returned to The Metal Shop Theater to stage “In Plain Sight”. This show offered new takes on old tales from diverse world cultures and featured the work of five Bay Area playwrights, all women. The San Jose Mercury News described it as “…a provocative mix of voices and perspectives.” The Express also named Those Women Productions the “Best Year-Old Theater Company” of 2015. The Dramatist Guild lauded Those Women for joining the fight for gender parity, “turn(ing) patriarchy on its ear.”
Those Women Productions is an adventurous theater company dedicated to exploring hidden truths of gender and power. The company aims to bring marginalized voices to the center of the stage, to ask bold questions and instigate conversation. Because conversations are more exciting with diverse participants, they practice Radical Hospitality: everyone is invited to the theater regardless of ability to pay.
About Carol and her Work:
Carol’s plays have been broadcast on BET and NPR and staged on five continents—from the Magic Theatre and Piano Fight in San Francisco to Peking University and the University of Guam. Her publications include several scripts for teens available from Youth PLAYS, as well as work in numerous anthologies. She holds a PhD from Stanford University and is Professor Emerita at Saint Mary’s College of California. Carol’s been a member of ICWP without interruption since 2011. “But very long ago,” Carol said, “and possibly in the early 1990s when her children were young and listservs were a totally new cool thing, I was on the listserv. I can't remember how I first heard about ICWP or came to join it, perhaps through the Dramatists Guild - I've been a DG member since 1981. Anyway, I couldn't keep up and was shoving my playwriting "career" to the way-back burner, so I dropped off the list.”
Trials and Tribulations of Beginning Your Own Theatre Company:Affordable, accessible, and available performance space is extremely difficult to find in the Bay Area. Our next show, Margaret of Anjou, will be shown at Live Oak Theatre in Berkeley, CA., a new venue, another step forward.
Trying to figure out all the various media necessary for promotional tasks.
Making time for everything that needs to be done probably is the number one issue.
The potential for very public failure and consequent humiliation is terrifying.
Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater,
Work on the 50/50 Applause Award has made us aware of the many all women theaters around the globe As such, they do not qualify for the 50/50 award. But they do important work in in promoting women playwrights and ICWP would like to recognize and honor them in this newsletter.
The New Georges is a New York based theater founded in 1992by Susan Bernfield, Greer Goodman, and Colleen McQuade. This non-profit companyproduces and nurtures theatrically adventurous female artists. It has grown toproduce 43 premieres of new American plays, had 21 new plays commissioned (18of which were also produced), and attracted 175 affiliated artists, including playwrights, directors, actors, and designers. I spoke with Susan about New Georges and her experience working at this outstanding company for women.
AJ Baker, USA
3 Girls Theatre Company
Susan Horowitz, USA
Susan “Dr. Sue” Horowitz, Ph.D., Creator of “SssWitch! - A Bewitching Musical” is a Writer of Award-Winning Musicals, Comedies, Songs, Plays, Poetry, and Books. Her works include: 2015 National Winner Youth Comedy (Judy Maccabee); First Prize Hunter Playwrights (Angelface); First Prize Children’s Play Contest (The Golden Heart); Book (Queens of Comedy: interviews with legendary comediennes), Children’s Book of the Month Club (Read With Me), Cine Golden Eagle - Original Screenplay for Animated Film, CD of original songs (Keys of Love), Poetry Book (I Am Loved) Performance Awards for Acting/Singing. Education: University of Chicago, Yale Drama School, Ph.D. CUNY Graduate Center/Hunter. Training: Second City Improvisation, BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, Songwriters Guild, Summersongs, Private Music Lessons. Memberships: Dramatists Guild, Theater Resources Unlimited (T.R.U.), Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC), Musical Writers Meeting, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), WomenArts. “SssWitch! – A Bewitching Musical” is fiscally sponsored by TRU for tax-deductible contributions.
Kate Perry, UK
Kate Perry is from Co. Tyrone and began her career as a writer/performer in San Francisco with her one-woman show My Name is Kate Perry and I've been Drinking. Her solo performance in No Mate for the Magpie (an adaptation of the novel of the same name) premiered in the U.S. and later toured throughout Ireland to critical acclaim. Her short film Mañana premiered at the Galway Film Festival and was broadcast in Ireland on RTE. Her short film Ruthless was shortlisted for funding from Kildare Co. Council earlier this year.
Currently living in London, Perry performed her one-woman show Shh! It’s the Very Perry Show at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts and the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe where critics awarded her 4 stars.
“Perry is a major talent, and she brings her skills in full force in this hilarious and sometimes bitter-sweet hour.” Adam Wilson, Edinburgh Festival Magazine.
Kate Perry is a fine actress, Max Stafford-ClarkBesides performing and writing her own material Kate has appeared in numerous stage productions, film and television. She has written for Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra and RTE Radio 1. Tamsin Greig (Episodes) Doreen Keogh (The Royale Family) and Conleth Hill (double Olivier award winner, Game of Thrones) have performed Kate’s work. She graduated with distinction from Trinity College, Dublin with an MPhil in creative writing and holds a Masters Degree in Screenwriting from the Institute of Art Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire.
Janet Preus, USA
Janet Preus has spent part of her life as a journalist and the rest of it directing and teaching theater until she started writing, primarily for musical theater. She was a New Tuners workshop member under John Sparks at Theatre Building Chicago, where she co-developed a show that was accepted into the Stages Festival. She has written for Church Musicals Inc., Nashville, won national songwriting awards and state awards in both print and broadcast journalism, and is the recipient of artist grants from the McKnight and Jerome Foundations. She has been reviewing Twin Cities (Minnesota) theater for howwastheshow.com for several years and recently co-founded the New Musical Theatre Exchange workshop and production company. Welcome to Hell, her first full-length non-musical play, received recognition as a one-act in its first competition. With a play in production last summer (Hank & Jesus) and co-production of a musical (Snip, Snap, Snute) in negotiation for 2016-17, she has renewed hope for success before her children put her in a retirement facility.
50/50 Applause Award
There is still time to nominate for the the fifth annual50/50 Applause Award, which celebrates theatres which achieved gender parity among their produced playwrights in a given theatre season. You have until May 20 to nominate theatres which meet the criteria for the award. Artistic directors and theatre employees may self-nominate.produced playwrights in a given theatre season. You are encouraged to nominate any theatre which meets the criteria for the award, and artistic directors and theatre employees may self-nominate. Please share this information with your theatre friends around the world! Eligibility requirements for the award and our video on gender parity from ICWP member/Dramatists Guild board member Christine Toy Johnson are available at http://www.womenplaywrights.org/award
The 2015/16 Season awards will be announced in September 2016.
For more information about the award and previous recipients, go to http://www.womenplaywrights.org/50/50-Awards-History
It has been a particularly busy season for the ICWP board. Not only did we have our quarterly board meeting, but we also held our general-membership meeting and yearly elections. We welcomed new board members and officers.
Board members and officers for 2016-2017
Sophia Romma— President
New York, New York, USA
Patricia L. Morin—Vice President
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Rita Kniess Barkey— Treasurer
Xinzheng City, Henan Province, People’s Republic of China
Amy DrakeColumbus, Ohio, USA
Karin Diann WilliamsJersey City, New Jersey, USA
Through the board and general membership meetings, we have formulated potential plans and projects for the future. But your opinions are important to us, and we would like your input. We would appreciate if you would take a few minutes to complete this survey.
It would greatly assist us with our future endeavors to provide you with programs that help fit your playwriting needs.
ICWP board is conducting a survey in order to maximize our services to the ICWP membership. Our present services include:
The listserv—helps introduce us to each other, share opportunities, as well as present a forum for lively discussion on controversial issues: “The Count”—the low number of women in the theatre community; fees charged for submission of plays to theatres; how certain women’s roles are viewed by the audience, to name a few. Click to go to the listserve.
Information services—provides data on artists rights; samples for playwright contracts; “how to” documents (organize an event, publish and sell work, writing a good playwright resume, sample royalty statements), and more. Click to go to information services.
Professional Development—researches artists rights organizations, grant resources, frequently asked playwright questions, and The Theatre Research Institute (Dr. Alan Woods). Click to go to professional development.
Script Feedback—encourages members to share ten pages of their work with a small group of readers for feedback, coordinated by Nina Gooch.Click to go to script feedback.
Publications—published books through ICWP of plays for playwrights and actors. Click to go to publications.
Fifty-fifty awards—promotes recognition of theatres throughout the world that produce women plays fifty percent of the their season. Clcik to go to 50/50 awards.
Finally, the ICWP monthly newsletter—spotlights members of ICWP, introduces new members, and introduces articles on current events and discussions. Click to go to full version of the newsletter on the website
February Spotlight: Felicity McCall
by Suzanne Richardson
Felicity McCall was a career journalist who covered the Ireland conflict for BBC, now a fulltime writer, theatre producer, arts facilitator and occasional actor based in Derry and Donegal in Ireland. She is a founding member of Derry Writers and, most recently, Derry Literary Ladies. She is also the Ireland officer for the miscarriage of justice lobby group, Portia, and a cathaoirleach of the Irish Executive of the National Union of Journalists.
Felicity has received 2 Meyer Whitworth nominations, the Tyrone Guthhrie Award, 2 IPSG nominations, 3 Arts council awards, as well as Best Heritage Project from the Big Lottery for We Were Brothers, a cross community WW1 project in 2011, and in 2013 the all-Ireland Epic award for Every Bottle has a Story to Tell. Her portfolio includes over twenty published titles including nonfiction and young adult books, twelve plays for the professional stage, and four screenplay credits.
Also see http://www.walkingthefeminists.org
Q: When did you start playwrighting?
A: I have been writing all my life; I remember contributing to a version of Cinderella in Primary School and teaming up with a friend to write and perform sketches in my teens- we're working on a 1916 project together this year, for the first time in decades, which is lovely
Q: When you write, do you focus on developing characters first, or the plot?
A: In fiction, the characters always come first and once they come alive for me, the plot writes itself; with historically accurate writing, the research material defines both.
Q: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals?
A: I love the research process and will quite happily immerse myself in this for long periods; it never fails to be fascinating. The writing begins in my head and one day makes its way onto the screen in an extended, stream of consciousness, very rough draft then I'm fairly disciplined about the rewriting. Deadlines work for me, even self-imposed ones; I'm a journalist at heart. No real rituals except I know I must be difficult to be around as the writing takes over and while I'm writing there's a reluctance to return from the world I've created to everyday life.
Q: Where do you pull most of your inspiration from when creating characters?
A: With fact based drama the characters will be researched from as wide a range of sources as possible- letters are a great resource- and additional characters are often a composite of a number of different experiences, so they're emotionally honest. Otherwise, from constant observation of the drama that is everyday life; my notebooks are full of scraps of information, snatches of dialogue, anything idiosyncratic that appeals to my sense of the quirky. And I always sleep with a notebook beside the bed. Never underestimate the power of the subconscious!
Q: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write? (Comedy, drama, fantasy, etc.)
A: I love having a couple of contrasting projects on the go so that when I reach a stalemate with one I can step away from it and return with a more objective perspective; one fiction/ one nonfiction is always a good balance as on the days when creativity has fled, there's the research to work on. Favourite genre? Anything people centered and driven, and social issues; I'd aspire to have some of my work categorized as that of an artist activist as the arts are such a powerful tool for change and for giving a voice to the voiceless. Comedy must be the most challenging as humour is so individual- who dares to claim to be funny?
Q: What would you say was your most rewarding moment as a playwright or writer in general?
A: As a writer, the magical moment when an actor who 'gets' the character is on stage and it's exactly how the character has been sounding in my head. I'll never forget being in the audience at the opening of a play I produced with Derry's Street Drinking Community, Every Bottle Has a Story to Tell; effectively I was a conduit for a very marginalized, determined, committed group of writers and actors. Every performance played to a full house and standing ovation and it was humbling to be part of such a ground breaking and empowering piece of drama that went on to win major awards.
But the real joy was in their faces at the curtain call and the audience interaction afterwards- it was so emotional.
Q: What advice would you give women wanting to become Playwrights?
A: Do it. Now. Tell your own story. Accept that everyone gets rejections. Don't wait for a commission. Form your own theatre group and perform anywhere- community halls, pubs, cafes, the street, a church; it's all good experience. Make sure to build a reputation for professionalism. Network like crazy. Find the best writers group for you to give and receive constructive criticism and support. I've always found those at the top of their profession have nothing but support to offer aspiring and emerging writers; any back biting comes from those insecure in their own writing practice. And always believe your best work has yet to be written- so keep learning.
Welcome New Members
Kristin Jones – USA
Kristin Jones received her BFA in Acting from UC Santa Barbara and an MA in Playwriting from UCLA.
Sam Kumpe - United States
I've just written my first play and I'm addicted.
Evelyn Jean Pine – USA
Evelyn Jean Pine writes plays about the moment when you feel your life is brand new -- whether it is or not.
Representative Play Titles: The Secrets of the World, First, Astonishment, Walking the Starry Path
Sharon Studer – UK
Particular interest is serious drama; have had semi-staged reading of a 10 minute play and a professional production of a full length play.
Upcoming Annual Meeting
ICWP is a very special group. It is an international organization that exists only on-line and is staffed almost exclusively by volunteers. I hope you participate in the Annual Meeting which which takes place online in March. All members will receive an email about how to participate.
50/50 Applause Award
ICWP is gearing up for the next 50/50 Award which is now in its fifth year and is becoming one of our signature initiatives.
Articles of Interest
by Patricia Morin
More and more magazines and literary journals, as well as theatres, are asking for fees. I've been following this, not only with my mystery writing organizations, but now with playwrights.
JUST SAY NO PAYING FOR SUBMISSIONS
“Why Writers are Paying to get Published”
The Atlantic Magazine
Note from Patricia: Since all writers, no matter what their genre are being met with the same problems, I have added playwrights in parenthesis. The article does not do this.
It’s fall, the time of year when literary journals open their doors for new submissions. Around the country, writers are polishing poems, short stories, and essays (and plays) in hopes of getting published in those small-but-competitive journals devoted to good writing (and theatres devoted to good plays). Though I’ve published short stories in the past, I’m not submitting any this year, and if things continue the way they have been, I may stop writing them altogether. The reason, in a nutshell, is reading fees—also called submission or service fees—which many literary journals (and now theatres) charge those who want to be considered for publication. Writers pay a fee that usually ranges from $2 to $5—but sometimes goes as high as $25—and in return, the journal will either (most likely) reject or accept their submission and publish it. Even in the lucky case that a piece is published (produced), most journals don’t pay writers (including playwrights) for their work, making it a net loss either way.
AUTHORS CALL TO ACTION
Authors call for boycott on non-paying festivals
Published January 15, 2016
Prominent writers including Linda Grant, Denise Mina, Joanne Harris and Francesca Simon have responded to Philip Pullman's protest over the Oxford Literary Festival's failure to pay author fees by joining a call for publishers and fellow authors to boycott events with the same policy.
Pullman, who is president of the Society of Authors, has stepped down from his role as patron of the festival, saying it is a case of "simple justice" that authors should be paid for their appearances.
Now novelist and critic Amanda Craig has written an open letter to The Bookseller calling for all authors and publishers to boycott literary festivals that expect authors to work without a fee. "For too long, authors have been persuaded to give our services to the public for free - even though the public is paying in good faith to see us," she wrote. "We are the only people in festivals who are not paid, and yet without us the festivals could not exist. Writing is a vocation but it is also a profession, and it is time we all stiffened our spines, dug in our heels and said No."
Craig's letter has attracted immediate support from many other authors, with Linda Grant, Louisa Young, Denise Mina, Francis Wheen, Joanne Harris and Francesca Simon among those who have put their names to it. (Full letter below)
The fact that many literary festivals do not remunerate authors for appearances has been a long-running grievance among writers, with the Society of Authors currently campaigning on the issue and "working with them [festivals] to agree reasonable fees and best practice guidelines", as chief executive Nicola Solomon told The Bookseller earlier this month.
Novelist Robert Harris yesterday tweeted a response to Pullman's comments on his resignation, saying "So true! A few (insane) punters paid £50 for a front-row seat at my last event. I was given a mug, appropriately."
If you're a writer and want to add your signature to the petition, leave a comment on this piece.
Letter to The Bookseller:
Further to Philip Pullman's resignation from the Oxford Literary Festival, we would like to call for all authors and publishers to boycott literary festivals that expect authors to work for free. For too long, authors have been persuaded to give our services to the public for free - even though the public is paying in good faith to see us. We are the only people in festivals who are not paid, and yet without us the festivals could not exist. Writing is a vocation but it is also a profession, and it is time we all stiffened our spines, dug in our heels, and said No.
Should you wish to protest personally, to a theatre or contest asking for submission fees, a similar letter template used by ICWP members, written by Carolyn Gage regarding playwrights is available to download at the foot of the Members Area of the website.
Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater,
This month's issue is on the topic of volunteerism and features outgoing ICWP Treasurer Suzanne Rakow and the woman who has graciously offered to take her place, playwright Rita Barkey.
January Spotlight: Suzanne Rakow
by Suzanne Richardson
Suzanne Rakow's serving eight years as ICWP treasurer was significant in itself. I was especially intrigued when I found out that she is not even a playwright, just an avid reader and supporter of women playwrights. It got me thinking about volunteerism and why many women, including myself ,volunteer.
Welcome New Treasurer: Rita Barkey
Q: Congratulations on becoming ICWP's new treasurer! What are you most looking forward to taking over this role?
A: Carrying on the fine work that Suzanne Rakow did before me.
Q: How did you learn about ICWP? What inspired you to volunteer?
A: It was pure serendipity. Paddy Gillard-Bentley (Flush Ink Productions) put out a call for scripts, and when I read that she loved to see ICWP membership on resumes, I checked out the ICWP website. I may not have submitted a script that day--but I did become a Sister/Mister! In 2013, I became an active member when volunteers were sought to help research theaters for the 50/50 Applause Awards. I can read German, so I thought that might be useful.
Q: What would you say was your most rewarding moment volunteering for ICWP?
A: Watching the 50/50 Applause Awards video and knowing that I participated in the research that helped make it happen.
Q: Do you volunteer anywhere outside of ICWP? How do you feel volunteering has impacted your work, if at all?
A: I currently volunteer at the local food bank. I’m not sure if volunteering has impacted my work directly, but it helps keeps me connected to the world.
Q: When did you become a playwright?
A: I started writing plays in my 20s. I’d taken poetry workshops as an undergraduate, but because my poems were dialogue driven, I suspected I might be a dramatist at heart. When my plays began to be produced at the Bloomington Playwrights Project (an Indiana nonprofit dedicated to new plays), I knew I’d found an artistic home. I started to volunteer behind the scenes because I believed in its mission, and eventually I became the literary manager as well as its treasurer. Years later, when the ICWP Board sought a new treasurer, I knew I had experience to offer.
Q: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals?
A: No rituals to speak of beyond a mug of coffee and “bum glue.” My plays usually begin with a vision of a scene, and the questions follow: Who are these people? What are they doing? And why? Then I write a LOT of drafts. Recently I’ve been writing some historical plays in connection with 365 Women A Year: A Playwriting Project, so I’ve had my share of researching to do as well.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out as a playwright?
A: Go to the theater. Read plays. And get involved. I’m not an extrovert, but theater is at its heart a communal act. It requires reaching out. For example, when I moved to Montana, I signed up for The Missoula Colony--a two-week conference dedicated to the craft of plays. When I met the other writers, I found out that they, too, were wondering if we could workshop year round. And so the Zoola Playwrights collective was born. Why not? Let’s just do it. That’s at the heart of volunteerism.
The International Centre for Women Playwrights has a volunteer program that affords members (and some non-members) the opportunity to participate in committees, do independent research, assist with the operations of the organization and be creative. If you are interested in volunteering for ICWP, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Elana Gartner, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Articles of Interest
by Patricia Morin & Elana Gartner
Why Do Women Volunteer?
People volunteer to develop new skills, to build networks (social or work), to feel useful and remain active. There are a few others but those are the top ones.
Susan Ellis, volunteer management guru, says the question of why people volunteer is not simple.
"Education is the single best predictor of volunteering. People with a Bachelor's Degree or higher volunteer the most, 42.8%, compared to those with an Associate's Degree, 27.7%, those with a High School Diploma, 16.7%, and those with less that a High School Diploma, 9%."
Women volunteer more than men, but not by much. (Men 22.2%, Women 28.4%)
Yours for innovative, engaging, and equitable theater,
This month's issue is on the topic of women and humor and features ICWP president Karen Jenyes and vice president Lucia Verona.
December Spotlight: Lucia Verona, ICWP Vice President
by Suzanne Richardson
Q: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write?
A: Yes, I love writing comedy, all my plays are comedies.
Lucia Verona is a Romanian playwright, novelist, short story writer, translator and ICWP vice president. Since 2011, she has been part of a team with the aim of translating all of Shakespeare's works and it was for this endeavor that she won the Romanian Writer's Union highest literary honor in August of this year.
"Translating Shakespeare is an award in itself." Lucia Verona
Question: When did you start playwrighting?
Answer: In 1976 or 1977, I don't remember exactly. I wrote my first three plays together with my husband, H. Salem, who was a playwright and a fiction writer. Two of them were performed, one in Bucharest as a musical comedy, the other in another town. We also wrote sketches, monologues and short plays for radio and television. My first play written alone was in 1989; it was translated to French and had a public reading in the theatre Essaion in Paris in 1990. Now I have lots of plays, some performed on stage, others had public readings. Almost all were published.
I also write fiction, novels and short stories. Since 2010 I been writing mystery fiction as well.
In addition to writing, I am also a translator, from English, French and Hungarian to Romanian. I translate novels, poetry and, of course, plays. A few years ago I became part of a team with the aim to translate all Shakespeare's work. I have already translated six plays and am working on the seventh.
Q: When you write, do you focus on developing characters first, or the plot?
A: That depends on what I want to say and how. Sometimes the plot is more important, sometimes one character "asks" for further developing. I found that characters have a way of developing themselves, almost without my help, and they can alter the initial plot. Most of the time they are right.
A: No rituals. I think a lot - all the time - about the play or novel I want to write. I research if necessary, then I only need two or three days without pressures of any kind (no bills to pay, no friends to meet, no invitations to the theatre), then I can start. After the first pages, I usually (but not always) write the ending to be sure not to lose my way. However, sometimes I have to change the ending.
I write usually at night and in the morning. I write better when I am on holiday because I am freed from any cares. I think the best place to write is on airplanes. There the only problem is that smoking is not allowed.
Q: How did you learn about ICWP?
A: I was browsing the Internet for some resources, saw the ICWP website and I thought it could be interesting to be a part of an international organization. So I wrote. It was Mags who answered and offered me a service membership. This happened in 2006, if I remember correctly.
Q: How did you get involved in the Bucharest Writers' Association?
A: I have been a member of the Romanian Writers Union since December 1989. I coordinated the Bucharest playwrights' branch for about ten years, organizing also the Dramatists' Club every month; now there is somebody else, but I am still on the board.
Q: Where do you pull most of your inspiration from when creating characters? Do your past studies of music and opera have a large influence on your writing?
A: I am not sure. Certainly from life, though some of my best characters are entirely invented. Also, I have a few real life characters in some of my books. I cannot speak about a large influence of my musical studies on my writing, but my best-known character in fiction is a famous opera singer, a coloratura soprano who plays detective in her spare time. She appeared first in a play, then in two novels and a lot of short stories. Whether it means the influence of studies or something else I cannot say and, in my opinion, it is not important. It is only the result that counts.
Q: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write? (Comedy, drama, fantasy, etc.)
A: Yes, I love writing comedy, all my plays are comedies. But sometimes in the end there is drama, too, or even death.
Q: What would you say was your most rewarding moment as a playwright or writer in general?
A: I have many such moments - awards, performances, reviews of my books, directing a play, meeting my readers, and reading in schools. I would say though, the moment I am most proud of happened on August 31, this year: Together with my fellow translators, I got the Romanian Writers Union Award for my translations of Shakespeare, the highest literary award. Or really, it might be my best moment as a writer has been this period since 2011, when I started translating Shakespeare, which is fabulous. Translating Shakespeare is an award in itself.
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out as a playwright?
A: It is difficult to give advice. I would say to a beginner playwright - woman or man: Go and see as many plays as you can. Also, and maybe more important, read all the plays you can find, starting with Aeschylus and Sophocles to the present-day authors. Don't forget what Chekhov said: If you see a shotgun in the first scene, it must shoot before the end of the play.
To young women playwrights I would add: competition is harder for a woman, don't give up!
Antonia Brancati, Rome, Italy
Theatre runs in my family: my mother was famed actress Anna Proclemer and my father was the great novelist and playwright Vitaliano Brancati.
After living and working for years on and around the stage, in 1991 I become a Literary Agent for the theatre, representing in Italy, just to name one, Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter.
In 1993 my first Play Preoccupazione per Lalla (They All Worry about Lalla) was staged with a good success at Teatro Politecnico in Rome. Since then, I have never stopped working as an agent, a translator and a playwright.
My plays have been often published both in volumes and on theatrical reviews.
In 2012 she is one of the founder of CeNDIC (National Centre of Italian Contemporary Playwrights)
A Dangerous Passion is the first Play I wrote contemporarily in Italian and English, while following a seminar held by Donald Freed.
Representative Play: PAST IMPERFECT (AKA I Would Prefer Not To)
M. Darlene Carson
M. Darlene Carson is the founder and visionary of Words to Life Drama Ministry (WTLDM). The theater company has a mission to evangelize the community for Christ through thought provoking, entertaining and inspirational plays. In each production, we seek to effectively inject biblically based messages in a way that reaches the heart of people and preserves the integrity of biblical text, messages and the Body of Christ.
WTLDM has been presenting live theatre for over 20 years. Though we are a community drama troupe, we strive for excellence and professionalism in all that we do. We promote and nourish community spirit, providing mutual support and encouragement to individuals, other ministries and cultural arts groups.
The curtain rose on WTLD Ministry's first production in 1986 and its original and produced dramas include: Ain't No Half-Step'n; Those Sorry Sain'ts; The Promise; A Wing and A Prayer; Shut Up In The Church; Saints and and Ain’ts; Love Knots; Love Knots, Too!; That’s Life!; and Preacher, Preacher!
Stephanie Lenore Kuehn
Are Women Funny? Yes We Are. And That's Not Funny.
An article in the November, 2015, The Atlantic magazine, “The Plight of the Funny Female” by Olga Khazan explores several aspect of women and humor. An interesting experiment by Laura Milkes at the University of California San Diego brings to light another instance of how women see themselves in comparison to men.
Men make so many joke-attempts, in fact, they are assumed to be funnier—even when they’re not. After they had finished captioning, the students in Mickes’s study filled out a questionnaire about how funny they thought others would find their captions, and also whether they thought men or women were the funnier sex in general. Male participants said that, on a scale from one to five, their cartoons were an average of 2.3 in funniness. The women gave themselves a 1.5. Even worse, 89 percent of the women and 94 percent of men responded that men, in general, are funnier.
In a follow-up experiment, Mickes asked a new set of participants to read the captions generated by the first group and guess the gender of the writer. Both men and women misattributed the funnier captions to male writers.
To read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/11/plight-of-the-funny-female/416559/
ICWP tackled that same question in their 2014 contest, “Are Women Funny?” Jacqueline Goldfinger and Jennifer MacMillion co-wrote the play “Enter Bogart” for young actors, especially for girls. “No one is perfect and none of them "fit in" yet everyone is exuberantly marching to the beat of their own drum. So much of “Enter Bogart” is about embracing who you are, even if you love science, or old pop culture references, or wear headgear, or like to sing everything you say instead of speaking--it's all good if it's who you are and you're not hurting anyone else.”
ICWP President Karen Jeynes was recently in New York to attend the Emmy Awards as head writer for Puppet Nation ZA. Puppet Nation is a satirical comedy caricaturizing politicians and other celebs and was nominated in the Comedy category.
ICWP interviewer asked the question: What makes you laugh?
Jenn: I like smart, character-driven comedy. I grew up watching a lot of I Love Lucy and the Carol Burnett Show … I also think earnestness is refreshingly funny, (too many people are too jaded these days!), and larger than life characters. My wobbly special needs cat makes me laugh. People that don't take themselves too seriously make me laugh. Underdogs of all kinds have huge comedic potential (hint: we're all underdogs!). Comedy is the stuff of life, and its all around, so I'm always laughing.
The theme of “underdogs”, “not taking themselves too seriously”, and “larger than life characters that are still grounded in something identifiable” are qualities that Puppet Nation ZA, a comedy South African TV show, imbues, and for which our President, Karen Jeynes, is lead writer. The show was nominated for an Emmy in the “humor” category this year.
Puppet NationZA is satirical puppet show first produced in 2008 by Both Worlds, a Cape Town, a South African production company. The show is a daily and weekly satirical news program in the form of a mock puppet television newscast and features on both the web and TV. ZANEWS features key local and international political figures and celebrities. “Make humor and not war,” is its motto. You can see some of the shows here:
Karen has a “passion for personal relationships, a fascination with chaos theory, and a penchant for the comedy in everyday life. Her work includes: Vaslav, Everybody Else (is fucking perfect), The Happy Factory, I’ll Have What She’s Having, sky too big, Getting There, The Best or Nothing, and Laying Blame, as well as several short plays and monologues in the ICWP Singular Voices. I have asked to interview her by asking some questions relevant to her work and humor, as a TV puppet-show writer and playwright.
November Spotlight: Debbie Tan
Debbie Ann Tan is a playwright currently living in Manila. While originally studying Marketing Management and working as a copywriter, she went on to get her MFA in Creative Writing from De La Salle University. She picked a professor who also wrote plays professionally to advise her in her studies, and after two years she completed her thesis: a trilogy of plays entitled “Yin Yang Trilogy.” “Fate’s Line” – one part of the trilogy – went on to win several awards. Other accolades include Two Palanca Memorial Awards for her plays “Time Waits” and “Teroristang Labandera” (translated from Filipino as “Terrorist Laundry Woman”) and numerous publications including “Balunbalunan Bingibingihan” (translated from Filipino as “Gizzard, Playing Deaf”) and a collection of English Plays in 2012.
She is a fellow of the 6th Ateneo-NCCA National Writers Workshop, and currently teaching at a college level. Debbie is also a freelance writer, editor, graphic and web designer, and amateur 3D animator. Be sure to check out her website athttp://dwritersgrievances.thoughts.com.
In Debbie's own words, "I would really like to thank ICWP for their acceptance and renewed sense of purpose, as well as Margaret McSeveney for her support and publishing my article on the ICWP website, Elana Gartner for being a good leader and letting her participate in the committee for the 50/50 Awards, Sandra deHelen for giving valuable advice for a play which needed feedback from an international point-of-view (sorry, Sandra, the play has not seen the light of day yet, in its right time, perhaps!), and a special thanks to the generosity, patience and kindness of Debbie Weiss, Coni Koepfinger, Cynthia Morrison, Nancy Gall-Clayton, Diane Grant and Jennie Redling who have contributed their works to my textbook project."
Q: When did you start playwriting? When would you consider the beginning of your professional career as a playwright?
A: As an amateur in my third year of high school I wrote a haunted house radio play for English class, and then a play about misfits for Filipino class my first year of college. While I really wanted to be a writer, I went on to study BSC-Marketing Management for practical reasons since the impression was it was ‘easier’ to get a job with a business course. This was not entirely true in the Philippine-political and economic landscape of the 1990s. After going into advertising as a copywriter and dabbling as a journalist for several newspapers (I was definitely not a hardboiled journalist, I wrote supplementary articles and feature articles), I was antsy.
I went to the United States for soul-searching impinging my presence on my relatives. Two of them were scared stiff that I would just try my luck in the US and be an undocumented worker. In four months, I came to a resolution to come back to Manila and try my luck applying to De La Salle University for the MFA program in Creative Writing. It must have been fate, because I went in for an interview with the chairperson with my portfolio in hand, and in less than thirty minutes I was processed and ready to start classes for the first semester.
Graduate school was not easy; I had to take a lot of the core courses in literature to fulfill the basic requirements. I had classmates who were already creative writers, and had met people who would look down on me and other newbies. I had one traumatic experience with a Canadian writer/visiting professor for fiction writing who gave me the only low grade I had, causing me to miss a medal at graduation. She did not like my murder mystery and said I had grammatical errors, which was true since I’m not a native English speaker. I loved murder mysteries, and that was a sock in the gut. Coupled with a magazine editor I worked for who told me I was a terrible writer and to quit studying since it was of no effect to me, I almost did quit school. I definitely did quit that magazine job. I went to one of my professors to quit, but he told me, “Don’t worry too much about grammar, that’s why we have editors.” He was my teacher in editing, among other subjects, and remains to this day my respected mentor. I didn’t quit school, and later discovered the intricacies of playwriting.
By the time I was thinking of a thesis in 2000, I picked a known professional playwright to be my adviser. I had thought of a niche for myself since there were only a handful of female playwrights, and no playwright writing about the modern Chinese Filipino (also known as Tsinoy) in the country. The definition is, I’m Filipino – born and raised – but I have Chinese blood. Being Chinese has a lot of implications here connected to the history of the Philippines. (read more : www.wormenplaywrights.org/25-year-blog/1454173)
It took me two years to write my thesis, a trilogy of plays I called “Yin Yang Trilogy” under a meticulous mentor, now friend. He also brought me to a writer’s group where we read and critiqued plays in a workshop style setting. Finally I said, “Enough is enough,” and submitted my thesis for defense and passed in 2002. I won awards for a monologue and one of the plays in the trilogy, “Fate’s Line” through a small writer’s group that was affiliated with a theater company then. That play also got me a grant which would then publish it into a chapbook: my first solo book.
From 2005 to 2010, I participated in a labfest showcasing new, experimental and original Filipino plays. Within that period of time I won two national awards for one act plays and had three plays commissioned for several institutions, beginning my professional career as a playwright.
A: It varies from play to play. In “Fate’s Line,” it was the characters first: the Chinese Filipino family centering on the mother, Si Ling, and her daughter, Fate. The magic realism plotline just happened, I was writing in a zone – like three days of waking up and just writing. For “Teroristang Labandera” (Filipino, translated “Terrorist Laundry Woman”), it was both the character of the burned out laundry woman, and at the same time, the plot of her kidnapping the clothes of the Chinese Filipino family tied in with elements of magic realism. I was also in the zone for this one. I had this vision of talking clothes.
With “Balunbalunan Bingibingihan” (Filipino, translated “Gizzard, Playing Deaf”), it was more plot first. This was my first play that didn’t involve any Chinese Filipino characters. The title kept replaying in my head for months, thus the gizzard of a chicken (cooked) becomes the metaphor for love between the prostitute and her booker lover.
A: I’m not a prolific writer. I cannot churn out writing like some of my friends who have lots of books. I gestate with ideas. How I write is, I feel it in my gut. Those plays and even short stories, poems, essays that I write, which I don’t struggle with, I feel from the gut, from the soul, and thus I can continue nonstop (stopping for breaks, yes). It doesn’t happen very often, or not as often as I want when I’m so aligned with what I’m writing. Other times it’s a struggle, because I don’t like any loopholes to the plot. Thus, I do it the disciplined way, like make the outline, objectives, goals, etc. When I struggle writing, I take a lot of breaks. I like playing computer games and do crafts: origami, loom bands, other crafts. Also, since I’m not a full-time writer, I don’t have the luxury to concentrate on developing a story because I need time. Thus, I’m not prolific.
Q: Where do you pull most of your inspiration from when creating characters?
A: I take public transportation. I eavesdrop on people, sorry. There was the scene in the laundry woman play that I got from a jeepney conversation between two college boys. If one doesn’t know the context of their conversation, it was pretty violent. They were planning how to kill, kick, and box. Of course, they were talking about a video game, so that scene and faux pas drove the laundry woman to the edge.
Other characters are exaggerated versions of myself and some of my family, while other characters, like the prostitute, come from research and from my interviews with real prostitutes when I was in college. Still more are profiles, like I had a character of a fake scholar in “Mga Babaeng Toobright” (Filipino, translated “Toobright Women”), a parody on Fullbright scholars (not an insult to Fullbright, but rather the profile of someone who thought she is the “end all be all” because she studied abroad).
I want to say that I try to seek the truth in people, thus when I’m writing, I have to be sincere and get into the characters as people. They have to talk to me. It’s also very important to me to be kind to my characters. I don’t like to do gratuitous deaths just for plot’s sake. I don’t like to ‘victimize’ my characters. It’s hard to explain, but even if the character is bad, I will always show the humanity in her or him. Funny thing is, when the laundry woman play was staged, people sympathized with her. This was unexpected. I knew I also gave her justice; even though she is a terrorist, in a sense, she had a story to tell.
Lastly, my plays are women-centered because there are so few strong women characters and different women voices.
A: I look like a serious person, but I’m full of comedy. But my comedy is not the ‘har-har-har-har’ comedy. I like to use lines as kickers or punchlines, some snide and sarcastic quips. Definitely, I like fantasy, the real and unreal merging while also logical and cohesive. And the reader or audience will buy into it, and even think, “Is that true?” I also think I specialize in one act plays; I know the structure and flow so well as I write. I’m challenging myself to make a SUCCESSFUL full length play.
A: I actually have several, as usual, going with my other long answers (laughs). It was very rewarding when I got published in Philippine PEN, when I got my first collection of English plays published in 2012, and receiving two national playwriting awards (Palanca Memorial Awards in 2007 and 2008). I would also have to say some of my favorite rewarding moments were my firsts: my first publication in a corporate magazine, then in a national newspaper, first play published, first awards, seeing my play staged for the first time, hearing laughter to the lines I wrote, and those first claps and cheers.
Summing up from all this though, the moment that is most rewarding is when I’m able to write from my soul.
France-Luce Benson, USA
France-Luce Benson earned an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. Her plays have been produced by the Ensemble Studio Theatre where she is an honored Lifetime Member, Adrienne Arsht/City Theatre of Miami, Crossroads Theatre, The Fire This Time Festival, The Billy Holiday Theatre, and New Perspectives Theatre among others. She has also had readings and workshops at Primary Stages, Classic Theatre of Harlem, and Victory Gardens Theatre’s inaugural Ignition Festival. Awards and Honors include: Winner of the National Award for Short Playwriting, (Risen from the Dough 2015); The Kilroys List- Honorable Mention(Boat People2015); Alfred P. Sloan New Play Commission(The Devil’s Salt) Alfred P. Sloan Award for original screenplay( Healing Roots); National Black Theatre, I Am Soul Residency Finalist; Kenney Center ATF Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award (Honorable Mention-Fati’s Last Dance, 2008); three time scholarship recipient at Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and two time Schubert Fellow. She has just been published by Routledge Press, and is currently a professor at St. Johns University. Visit www.francelucebenson.com
Chris Caffrey, USA
Mariana Catalina, USA
Mariana Catalina is a playwright, performer, and director based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work centers around reviving a holistic approach to theater, exploring how the essential elements of voice, body, and psyche move, interact, and evolve. Originally from San Francisco, she studied theater at UCLA. She is currently writing and developing a new work. For more information, please visit tooth-tongue.com
Suzanne Richardson, USA
Suzanne Richardson has been involved in theater since her high school days, writing for theater since her sophomore year. After graduating in 2007, she went on to study theater at Stephens College in Columbia, MO and then finished her degree at Lindenwood University. Some of her favorite shows she has worked on have been "The Country Wife", "Fiorello", "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", and "The Dixie Swim Club." During her college career, she participated in her college's improv troupe - the Happy Tuesday Players, started up a Sketch Comedy group, and wrote several plays which were later produced in the new play production company she started, The Backstage Productions." She is currently a board member at the High Springs Community Playhouse and is always looking for more ways to get involved.
Christine Toy Johnson, USA
CHRISTINE TOY JOHNSON is an award-winning writer, actor, director and advocate for inclusion. Her plays and musicals have been developed at such places as the Roundabout Theatre Company, Crossroads Theatre, The Barrow Group, CAP21, The Weston Playhouse, Gorilla Rep, and Leviathan Lab. A collection of her written work is included in the Library of Congress Asian Pacific American Performing Arts Collection. Other plays and musicals include THE NEW DEAL, PAPER SON, INTERNAL BLEEDING, ADVENTURES OF A FAUX DESIGNER HANDBAG, THE SECRET WISDOM OF TREES, GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT, MY BOYFRIEND IS AN ALIEN (AND I’M OKAY WITH THAT) (with Bobby Cronin), ANTONI & AN WEI (with Jason Ma), DIARY OF A DOMESTIC GODDESS (with Kevin Duda), RIDING OUT THE STORM (with Michael Mott), and the screenplay NO WAVE WITHOUT WIND (with Charles Randolph-Wright). Christine is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Certificate of Screenwriting Program at NYU. She was honored with the Rosetta LeNoire Award for “outstanding artistic contributions to the universality of the human spirit in American theatre” from Actors’ Equity Association, in 2013. For more information, please visit www.christinetoyjohnson.com.
Naomi Westerman, UK
Actress, screenwriter and playwright, also runs the all-female theatre company Little but Fierce which specialises in Shakespeare adaptations and Shakespeare-inspired new work.
Articles of Interest
"If life worked like the theatre, four out of five things you ever heard would have been said by men," Marsha Norman.
"Women have lived half of the experience of the world, but only 20% of it is reported in theaters," The Dramatist Guild.
The Count was a collaboration of the Dramatists Guild and the Lilly Awards. It looked at American theaters for three seasons to determine the number of productions by women playwrights and a further breakdown of the ethnicities of those playwrights. This article, in the Dramatist Guild Magazine delves deeply into the status of women in theatre, and the many inequities between men and women playwrights.
An interview with playwright, Susan Lieberman, "Women in the Chicago Theatre", touches on the numbers of women playwrights, gender parity, and equalizing the "playing field". "Men dominating the production process in theatre," Lieberman states," is similiar to men dominating the decision-making roles in business."
Denise Gough: Let Female Characters be Flawed Too
“I am playing one of the most flawed, broken, damaged, brilliant, human women, and I haven’t felt that people have found it difficult. If anything they’re crying out for it.”
Member Spotlight: Donna Hoke
by Debbie Miller
Donna Hoke lives in Buffalo, New York. She’s the Western New York representative for the Dramatists Guild. Her website is at DonnaHoke.com and she also writes a blog.
Q: Did you start out as a journalist and then branch out into children's pieces and then to playwriting? Or, was it in a different order? Also, how did you "come to" playwriting?
A: I didn't really do creative writing until college. I enjoyed it, but I went down the journalism road. I've only written the one official children's book and that was shortly before I wrote my first play. It may even be what got me back to fiction, because I don’t think I realized I wanted to be a playwright as much as I thought, “I should write a play,” and the impetus for that came from Road Less Traveled Productions.
When I moved back to Buffalo, I started going to a lot more theater because it was affordable and there was easy parking. I bought a subscription to Road Less Traveled Productions, whose mission was to present world premiere plays by Western New York playwrights. They offered the Emanuel Fried New Play Workshop, and, at the time, that was the vehicle through which they developed plays for production. Since they produced everything, I thought it might be cool to see a play on stage, so I wrote one, and writing it was such a revelation, like "Ah! Why did I ever waste my time on poetry and short stories? This is what I should be doing." I never realized I could write a ninety-page anything. I was hooked.
I sent a play to the workshop but that same year, they not only changed their mission so that they didn’t exclusively do world premieres, but they also had more applicants than they'd ever had, which raised the bar. I got in and they didn’t produce my play, but by the following year I had written two more and they did produce one of them. And that’s what started the ball rolling.
Q: Can you tell me about being an ensemble playwright at Road Less Traveled Productions? Do you work with actors there, for example, in developing your plays?
A: The development process at Road Less Traveled Productions is undergoing some changes right now, but yes, there is development. For example, my play, “Safe,” which will get its world premiere in March 2016 has benefited from multiple readings, work with the ensemble dramaturg, and early casting so that we can do scene workshops with the director.
Q: Do you prefer writing full-length plays or one-acts? Ten-minute plays? Monologues?
A: I don't have any one-acts; I find that a very difficult length. That thirty to forty-five minute length is elusive for me. I do, however, have a few dozen ten-minute plays and while I prefer digging into a full-length, the ten-minutes really did wonders for my self-confidence when I started writing them because I got productions, which made me believe I was doing something right. They also paved the way to some full-length productions, so I'm a big believer in them.
Q: Do you write mainly comedy, drama, or a combination of the two?
A: I don't think of myself as a comedy writer, but I wrote two ten-minute plays that were comedies and I expanded them both into full-length plays. The rest of my plays you'd put in the drama category but none of them are without humor.
Q: Can you tell me about a character that you enjoyed writing?
A: It's actually a group of characters. After I wrote the first scene of “On the Roof,” which was originally going to be about the owner of a 1950s New York City gay bar, I realized that I was going to have to populate this bar. In the final draft, there are five guys who are regulars at Mitzi's and I fell in love with them all, but most particularly with Cruz, the macho Puerto Rican bartender, and Levi, the Jewish musical theater composer. I really missed those characters when I was done writing it, because I was so proud of them all. When we did the reading, I was able to cast them all with some of my favorite Buffalo actors.
Arlette Thomas-Fletcher, Maryland, USA
Arlette Thomas- Fletcher is a visionary and brings energy and enthusiasm to everything she does. Currently Arlette is the only African American female director, writer, producer to produce a feature length western film in the mid Atlantic region. She is an author, writer, screenwriter, playwright, actor, singer/songwriter, director and producer. She has been in the entertainment industry for more than twenty years as she began acting at a very young age. Arlette is the prolific writer/playwright of more than 15 plays 9 of which are full length. The play “Two Sisters” was selected to be in the One Act Battle at the Dc Black Theater Festival at Busboys and Poets. Her play “Daddy Where Are You?” sold out at the Dc Black Theater Festival. Arlette’s plays did so well at the Dc Black Theater Festival that she was featured one year for both her plays “Daddy Where Are You?” and “A Form of Godliness .
Arlette has received awards for scriptwriting and directing from Accolade Awards, TIVA awards, Silver Telly Award, and many others. Some of her credits include performing in productions such as “A Raisin in the Sun”, Me Nobody Knows, and A Form of Godliness, The Mystery Date, and You’re Not Alone, The Day The Aces Got Trumped, Milgram and The Fast Walkers. Now her achievements include several award winning short films such as“Assault In Brooklyn and “The Mystery Date”.”The Remodel Zone” , and “Blessing In A Storm. “ Also among her credits are award winning music videos called “You’re Not Alone,” “God Has My Back”, “Like A Star”, “Let Me Go” and many others.Her music videos have won many awards such as the Global Music Awards, Communicator Awards, Accolade Awards, and Beat 100 Award. She is also an author of Poetry for The Soul an inspirational poetry book. She has two feature length indie films in post production “The Lonesome Trial”, “Where’s Daddy?”.
Arlette is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a Masters Degree in Business program. She also holds a Bachelors degree in Christian Education from Family Bible Ministries Institute, College, and Seminary.www.fruitsofthespiritproductions.com www.shiningbrightproductions.com
Francesca Rizzo, New Jersey, USA
Francesca Rizzo is an award-winning East Coast writer, director and actress working in theater and film. A New Jersey State Council on the Arts Distinguished Artist Fellow, her theatrical work includes two solo plays, Dames Like Her and The Cherry Sisters: True Stories From the Kitchen Table, both garnering critical acclaim in NJ and NY. Earlier NYC productions include Good in Bed, True Tales of Seduction, Hold That Tiger and The Return of Jonesy. She developed and directed Fia Perera’s Neurotic in New York and Lori Kaye’s The Girls Room and was co-founder of The Perfectly Frank Writers Theatre, a downtown performance venue that brought 32 new works by emerging performance artists to the NY stage.
During this time, she freelanced as a writer-producer for Nickeodeon, MTV and PBS/WGBH, eventually writing and starring in the Nick At Nite ‘s award-winning satirical video, How to Be Donna Reed. She entered the filmmaking world by adapting her stage play, Sullivan’s Last Call into a sexy little film about celibacy that went on to win awards at festivals here and abroad.
She continued making films and went on to become president of the non-profit, CineWomenNY, a contributing writer for Guerrilla Filmmaker magazine and the curator of The World According to Girls, Beyond the Babe and Cinema-Femina, unique independent film screening series in the New York/NJ area.
Her current project is adapting her solo play, Dames Like Her into Dames Like Us, a hilarious ensemble comedy for actresses over 50 that crushes stereotypes and proves that one should never underestimate women of a certain age. www.francescarizzo.com www.dameslikeher.com
Delta Donohue, USA
Lorraine Midanik, California, USA
Theatre Reward Members*
Tessa Hart, The Bread & Roses Theatre, UK
Nathan Motta, Dobama Theatre, USA
James Sweitzer, Cherry Lane Theatre, USA
*50/50 Applause Award Recipients receive a free 6-month organization membership
Messages from Members
“Notes and Quotes: The D.C. Women’s Voices Festival”
by Laura Shamas
The travel gods smiled on me this fall, and I’ve been able to catch several new plays that are part of the historic D.C. Women’s Voices Festival, currently running in the U.S. capital. The Festival’s mission is one that I support: “To highlight the scope of new plays being written by women, and the range of professional theater being produced in the nation’s capital,” as part of “the largest collaboration of theater companies working simultaneously to produce original works by female writers in history.”
About fifty-two world premieres of female-authored plays and musicals are being produced by 48 D.C. area theaters, a mix of large and small companies (Equity and non-Equity); the launch party was on September 8, and the last show closes on Nov. 22, 2015. ICWP’s Patricia Connelly is one of the playwrights included.
I am unable to see even 1/10th of the shows being offered, so I don’t consider myself an expert about the Festival in any way – just a lucky pop-in attendee. Here are some of my informal impressions, with quotes from some of the amazing artists involved in the Festival.
1) WITCHES VANISH by Claudia Barnett
The first play I got to see in the Festival was Witches Vanish by Claudia Barnett, directed by Deborah Randall at Venus Theatre. This play features The Weird Sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a metaphoric theatrical entity who witness (or sometimes cause?) vanishing women, in real life and in literature. As playwright, Barnett asks: “Why do women vanish?” With elements of puppetry, dance and fascinating vignettes, Barnett’s script interweaves scenes about “lost” women; it runs 90 minutes without an intermission. I admired the all-female cast.
I asked Barnett for her thoughts about her play and the Festival: “Witches Vanish gives voices to women who’ve disappeared throughout time—both by telling their (fictionalized) stories and by explicitly naming them in a series of chants between scenes. Given the common theme, it fit the Festival perfectly.” Claudia Barnett is the author of No. 731 Degraw-street, Brooklyn, or Emily Dickinson’s Sister: A Play in Two Acts, published in October by Carnegie Mellon University Press.
2) CHIMERICA by Lucy Kirkwood
The next play I saw related to the Festival was Chimerica by British playwright Lucy Kirkwood. Although it was not an official part of it, it was scheduled to “coincide” with the Festival. This is Chimerica’s U.S. premiere. The title refers to the domination of the U.S. and China in modern geopolitics, covering a span of twenty years. A photographer’s iconic photo taken in Tiananmen Square becomes a catalyst for a mystery that spans generations and cultures. The two-act play, masterfully directed by David Muse, at the Studio Theatre, is ambitious, powerful and quite moving. Kirkwood’s approach was cinematic in style and epic in scope; I find myself still reflecting about Chimerica more than a month after seeing it.
3) IRONBOUND by Martyna Majok
Ironbound by Martyna Majok, directed by Daniella Topol, at Round House Theatre was the next show I caught in the Festival. Majok, who was born in Poland, is an award-winning playwright on the rise (New Play Network Smith Prize, David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, among others). Majok was inspired to tell the story of Darja, a Polish immigrant who works as a caretaker and factory-laborer, because “poor women” are misrepresented in our theatres; Majok commented in an interview: “I wanted to see my own story on stage.” With a cast of four, Ironbound is a 90-minute tour-de-force that takes place mostly at an urban bus stop. We learn in real time and flashbacks about the key points of Darja’s life and relationships, from 1992 - 2006. It’s ultimately about the bond between mother and son, and the meaning of love.
Ironbound will open next in New York in March 2016, again directed by talented Topol.
4) INHERITANCE CANYON by Liz Maestri
Playwright Liz Maestri’s play Inheritance Canyon, directed by Lise Bruneau, and produced by Taffety Punk Theatre Company, was the next play I saw.
Inheritance Canyon is a zany, thought-provoking look at a scientific experiment and the meaning of life. It takes place in a canyon near a desert, and involves three friends: Shell (Esther Williamson), Sal (Teresa Castracane) and Gary (James Flanagan). They witness a mysterious explosion, and then are put under medical surveillance, a sort of limbo-quarantine, for the rest of the play. The show, in two acts, runs about two hours, with an intermission.
And speaking of intermission, the character switch that happens (during it?) between the first Shell and the other Shell (Gwen Gastorf) was theatrically fun at the top of Act Two. One of the meta-themes in Maestri's play was "performance" in modern life: if we "perform" a function (or pretend to), does that mean we become it, Maestri wonders?
I asked Maestri for her thoughts on the Festival: “The Festival is churning things up, causing trouble, changing lives, starting conversations, and catapulting new art into the world. I'm proud to be part of it.”
5) QUEENS GIRL IN THE WORLD by Caleen Sinnette Jennings
Playwright Caleen Sinnette Jennings has two plays in the D.C. Women’s Voices Festival. Jennings’ one-person show Queens Girl in the World, directed by Eleanor Holdridge and produced by Theater J, is the last piece that I saw.
Dawn Ursula plays every character in the piece. Queens Girls in the World depicts, in two acts, what it was like for a studious, bright African-American girl to grow up in the Civil Rights era, and to live through its violent days. By the end of the play, Jackie’s parents are so fed up with life in America that they move to Nigeria. Everything about the production is top-notch, and the super-talented Dawn Ursula is unforgettable.
One thing I’ve been tracking is the number of excellent female directors working in the Festival. I asked Eleanor Holdridge, the head of the MFA Directing Program at Catholic University, about this: “It's a thrilling bi-product of the festival that so many women directors are being brought along for the ride. For my female directing and playwriting students, I find the season a wonderful inspiration for what enriching strength that women theatre artists can bring to the art form in America.”
6) MORE, PLEASE:
I tweeted an inquiry several days ago, to ask if the D.C. Women’s Voices Festival might become an annual event. They responded: “Great question. At this point it's still too soon to say. We'll keep you posted on any updates.” In Holly L. Derr’s recent Howl Round post about the Festival, Nan Barnett mentions plans for a post-Festival handbook that could be used as a guide by other cities to mount their own versions of this kind of festival. Yes, please!
Martha Richards, Founder and Executive Director of Women Arts, attended the first industry weekend in the Women’s Voices Festival, and was part of a panel on October 4th. Richards notes the Festival’s significance: “Gender parity activists have been looking for ways to reach our goal of 50/50 by 2020, and large-scale festivals like this provide a perfect mechanism to push our numbers up quickly. I predict that the Washington role model will inspire theatre women all over the world to create similar festivals.”
D.C. Women’s Voices Festival – womensvoicestheaterfestival.org
“Women’s Voices Theater Festival: Getting a Piece of Real Estate” by Jami Brandli - http://lafpi.com/2015/09/womens-voices-theater-festival-getting-a-piece-of-real-estate/
“Something is Afoot in Washington, D.C.” by Holly L. Derr - http://howlround.com/something-is-afoot-in-washington-dc
The Women’s Voices Festival Weekend Recap by Holly L. Derr - https://www.facebook.com/Holly.L.Derr/posts/455673024557206
“Women’s Voices Theater Festival in Washington is An Energizing Showcase” by Charles Isherwood, New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/theater/womens-voices-theater-festival-in-washington-is-an-energizing-showcase.html
“Putting Women in the Spotlight” by Nelson Pressley, Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/a-stage-of-their-own/2015/08/26/b6ac7886-4a94-11e5-846d-02792f854297_story.html
Also read member Aphra Behn's 3-part article in Howlround about the Women's Playwright's International's Conference in South Africa. ICWP President, Karen Jeynes, is a resident of South Africa and helped host the conference.
Strong Roles for Women
Much ado was raised when Mags McSeveney posted a link to this Independent article about strong females roles make audiences uncomfortable.
"In the 25th year of CSC's Women Playwright Series, the Centenary Stage Equity main-stage season now boasts 70% of its primary theatre season penned by women authors. A member of the National New Play Network, CSC subscribes to the 50/50 in 2020 movement.."
Yours for engaging, innovation, and equitable theater,
September Spotlight: Shirley Barrie
Shirley Barrie is a Toronto, Ontario playwright, scriptwriter and producer. Her play, “I am Marguerite” directed by Molly Thom, played at the Alumnae Theatre from April 10 through 25, 2015. Shirley is a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of Canada. She was nominated for Best Toronto Playwright in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Best of Toronto Reader’s Choice Awards. She works as a story and script editor, and as a dramaturge for theater.
Learn more about Shirley at her website: www.shirleybarrie.ca
Q: How long have you been writing plays?
A: Professionally, I first contributed lyrics and sketches for musical theatre revues that the Wakefield Tricycle Company (now the Tricycle Theatre) toured to community centres, colleges and theatres in England beginning in 1974. The first play I wrote on my own was “The Adventures of Supergranny and the Kid” in 1978.
Q: Do you have a writing routine?
A: I have to get into the writing ‘frame of mind.’ I can’t just switch on a dime from the ‘business of playwriting’ for example, to the creation of the play, or from analysis and support for others to creation. I wish I had a sure fire method of switching hats and finding the right zone. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning up my desk. Sometimes I can happily ignore the "To Do" list. Other times I have to take a bite out of it before I can settle into writing. Sometimes reading over what I’ve done is enough to get me back into the work.
Q: Do you develop character first or plot first or something else?
A: In the past I’ve often been asked to write a play about a particular subject: garment workers, women and violence, history of mental health treatment. In these cases, the subject comes first. If I start with the subject I have to work through that until I find the characters.
For the most part, when I initiate a project myself the driver for the play is a character—although I am often attracted to the character(s) because of issues, ideas, and concerns that have been floating around in my mind. Most of my plays for adults have featured characters from history.
Q: When you start a play, do you use any of the following to generate character: improvisation, free writing, monologue writing?
A: Probably the closest thing to what I use is free writing. I keep notebooks for each play. They used to include a lot of research, but now since a lot of that is done on-line, the notebooks contain reminder research, character notes, bits of dialogue, behavior rationale, options for action, character descriptions, crazy ideas, outlines of scenes, and/or notes to myself.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about playwriting?
A: Getting it right. I marvel now at how much I wrote, how quickly and in what pressure cooker circumstances in my early days as a playwright. But for me, it doesn’t get easier. It gets harder, largely because I expect more of myself now.
I have two quotes on my bulletin board. One (I can’t remember where I found it) is “Great goddess of creativity, I will take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality.” The other is from a keynote address David Henry Hwang gave at the 2013 AGM of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, “If you never fail, you’re not working hard enough.”
Tasha Partee , New York, USA
TASHA NICOLE PARTEE is a New York City-based playwright and Virginia native. Since 2011, Tasha has worked with the Off-Broadway Hudson Guild Theatre Company, teaching literacy through drama and dance, as well as performing as an actor and dancer in company productions. She has numerous choreography and stage management credits with the Off-Off Broadway Onomatopoeia Theatre Company, as well as thirteen years experience as a middle and high school theatre director. Her writing has been featured by the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, the Hudson Guild Theatre Company, and on numerous middle, high school, and college stages. Tasha was a founding member of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Women’s Project, providing opportunities for women in theatre since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Educational Theatre (New York University) and a BFA in Theatre Education (VCU).
Violet O'Valle, Fort Worth, USA
I have enjoyed a long career in educational and semi-professional theatre, having begun my career as a Drama Director at Houston area high schools. I hold a B. A. from the Department of Drama And Dance at the University of Houston, and M. A. and Ph. D. degrees in British Literature, with an emphasis on Irish drama, from Texas A&M University. I am the founding Producer/Director of Pantagleize Theatre Co in Fort Worth, Texas, which produces plays from international cultures, especially those represented in our home state. I divide my year between Texas and Ireland, and my own play writing has been heavily influenced by both cultures. I am also an enthusiastic poet, a college instructor, and a student of all literary genres and all facets of theatre.
Rachana Pandey, Varanasi, India
I belong to Varanasi, the city of Ghats. Varanasi is an ancient city of the state Uttar Pradesh in India. My research area is Indian English drama, theatre and feminism. I have been engaging classes at Centre for Women’s Studies and Development (CWSD), Faculty of Social Sciences at Banaras Hindu University for three years (2012-2015). Feminism is a cause, a social duty, I believe. During research I have written a few poems and engaged in translating plays from English to Hindi but these are not yet published. I have joined the forum of 300 playwrights to explore the new voices, to interact, to grow, to contribute and to search my own voice among all.
Khai Dattoli, Los Angeles, USA
Originally from Wisconsin, Khai Dattoli has spent the past twelve years in Los Angeles writing and performing comedy. The USC graduate has worked in film, webseries, and stand-up, but her greatest passion has been bringing original comedies to the theatre. Dattoli has had four of her plays successfully produced in Los Angeles. The latest, "Off Book," is currently playing at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywod, and this summer also brings her writing debut in NYC with Theatre 68's production of "Off White," the first in her series of "Off Comedies."
2015 50/50 Applause Award
This year ICWP has honored 60 theaters in nine countries, including Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Scotland, Sweden and the United States. Our recipients range from small or new theaters to well-established larger theaters. We are thrilled that one third of the list are repeat recipients who have demonstrated gender parity in two or more seasons, indicating an increased awareness and commitment to women playwrights from the larger theater community.
See the entire list and the bilingual video on our website.
President: Karen Marijke Jeynes, South Africa
Vice President: Lucia Verona, Romania
Vice President: Sophia Romma, USA
Secretary: Sharon Wallace, USA
Treasurer: Rita Kniess Barkey, USA
First Annual DC Women's Voices Theater Festival
The Festival official site
Women's Voices Theater Festival home page.
New York Times article
The Golden Age for Women in TV is Actually a Rerun
"Comedies created by women came into vogue in the late 1980s, exploded in the early ’90s, went mainstream in the mid-90s and were shoved into the back of the closet around 1997. It took another decade before the next show solely created by a woman — Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” — made it back into the elite Emmy inner circle….."
501- c - 3 Non Profit Organization incorporated in the State of Ohio, USA
For general questions contact: Margaret McSeveney email@example.com
Board of Directors contact:Pat Morin, President firstname.lastname@example.org