Results tagged “patricia cohen” from Drama Queen

Interesting article in the New York Times this weekend by Patricia Cohen about the lack of female playwrights on the city's major stages. On Monday night, those women's voices will be much harder to ignore, when a standing room only town hall meeting at New Dramatists convenes to discuss the issue.

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Though some New York artistic directors, such as Lincoln Center's Andre Bishop, might scoff at the problem, well, that attitude really just serves to underscore its depth. [CORRECTION: Please see Mr. Bishop's comment below.] By playwright Gina Gionfriddo's own observation, the O'Neill and Humana new play festivals are "dominated by women." Mind you, this meeting will examine New York's Off-Broadway houses and nonprofits, where men's work is produced four times more often than women's. Broadway is in even worse shape.

(At left: the Wilma Theater's production of Eurydice, a play written by a woman, produced and directed by another woman. Hear them roar?)

So how do Philly's major theaters compare? I took the top 14 area houses--"top" meaning they're professional, they've been around a while, mostly have a permanent location, have at least a three-show season that's readily accessible on their website, and are not solely Shakespeare-centric--and did a little comparing of my own. Here's the list: The Wilma Theater; Theatre Exile; Delaware Theatre Company; Interact Theatre Company; Walnut Street Theatre; Lantern Theatre; Philadelphia Theatre Company; People's Light and Theatre Company; Hedgerow Theatre; Arden Theatre; Media Theatre; 1812 Productions; Act II Playhouse; and Bristol Riverside Theater.

In New York, of the 50 plays by living playwrights being produced Off-Broadway and by nonprofits,10 were written by women. In Philadelphia, this season's grand total (which happens to include a few dead guys) comes to 64 shows. Of these, 13 were written by women, and of those 13, one is responsible only for a show's music, one for lyrics, and two are collaborations with men, so really the total's more like nine, but I'm willing to let everyone slide on this point. Still, the results aren't encouraging: on Philadelphia's major stages men are being produced at five times the rate of women, a fact that makes us quantifiably worse than New York, which in itself is a fact that really pisses me off. 

However, the productions are only one facet of the issue. While in New York female artistic directors might be, as the article says, a rarity, six of our 14 theaters are headed by women, so that's better. Of the season's 64 shows, 17 do not list a director. Of those remaining 47 shows, 19 are directed by women, and though that's not a perfect division of labor, it's not terrible, and most likely a result of Philly's nearly equal number of female artistic directors. Still, it remains to be seen how those percentages hold up when the rest of the season's directors are announced.

It's also worth looking at who's reviewing these plays. I don't know the New York numbers, but here in Philadelphia, among regular female critics, freelance or otherwise, there's Toby Zinman, me, and that's pretty much where the list ends. P.S., we both work for the same paper, whose fine arts section is edited by a woman and overseen by a female arts editor. Wonder if there's a connection? 

If nothing else, having women equally represented among the writing, producing, directing and reviewing ranks would, at the very least, affect the amount of David Mamet plays that get revivals each year, and for that, I think everyone would be just a little bit grateful.

October 26, 2008 7:54 PM | | Comments (6)
A bit late, I know, but I was very busy in synagogue yesterday atoning for all the mean things I've written about perfectly nice people during the past year. 

This week I'm macking on: journalists who drag theater out of its complacent spot as William Shakespeare's publicity machine, and into the bright light of contemporary affairs. The New York Times' Patricia Cohen wrote a chilling feature this week about the nosediving economy's effect on Broadway. The Stranger's Brendan Kiley published a hotly discussed column on how theater can fix itself (and though I might only agree with about half of his 10 fixes, the simplest--beer, babysitting, brash new works--would go a hell of a long way toward putting those coveted young butts in the seats, and keeping the old ones coming back for more). Ellis Henican keeps inviting me on his radio show to look at the election through a dramatic lens. And I'm sure there are plenty more examples I've missed that you're welcome to post below. Anything, anything journalists can do to give theater a makeover so it's no longer regarded as film's boring, uncool older sister (Ugh, that farthingale? So 500 years ago.) is a welcome change. I know it's great, you know it's great, the challenge is getting people to talk about theater as much as they talk about television and film. 

Obviously, it's a tougher goal since you have to actually leave the house to be part of the conversation, but if you can convince enough people they're missing enough of a cultural moment by staying home, or even better, can get inside their homes with a creative, interactive online presence surrounding each show (A good start? See New Paradise Laboratories' posting of auditions for its upcoming show Fatebook, a la The Real World, on its YouTube channel) and then offer them something extraordinary to discuss on their way out the door (and again, back online), you've elevated the entire sociological food chain. Nice work.

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This week I'm hating on: Oliver Stone, who gives you one more reason to spend your hard-earned entertainment dollars at a live, rather than filmed, performance. Why? Because, in the tradition of World Trade Center which was released around the five year anniversary of the attacks, his new film, W., couldn't possibly be released at a worse time. No one wants to see this now, because we've been living it for the last eight years. The right won't be interested because, well, it's Oliver Stone, and the left won't be interested because the wounds aren't just fresh, they're suppurating. Stone is such a pompous jerk that I imagine he thought he'd be doing the left a favor by helping to influence the election. Wrong and wrong. All Stone will have achieved with this film, no matter how good it is, is to remind everyone on both sides of the aisle the reason "liberal" became a dirty word (so self-righteous, so annoying). The worst part is that Josh Brolin, a genius of understated acting, might have turned in a career-making performance with this one, to say nothing of how much fun it would be to watch Richard Dreyfuss tackle the Darth Vader role (Hey, Cheney's the one who joked that his wife said the comparison 'humanized' him). 

Sure, with its epic, dynastic subject, it might be a great movie. In seven or so years. When we're in the midst of President Obama's second term, we're all driving American-made magnetic air cars and laughing about the days when we thought the nation was headed for bankruptcy and war with Iran. Boy, that was a time.

Below: Fatebook audition of "Katizzle Applebizzle from the 'hood of Minnetonka."

October 10, 2008 10:53 AM |
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