Last month I wrote about how few women playwrights have won Pulitzer Prizes, but still, when I saw pictures of Lynn Nottage and Paula Vogel on the front of the A&E section of my Sunday New York Times I was shocked as to why. Nottage and Vogel, two of the people on that very short list of women who have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, are just now having their Broadway premieres. How is that even possible?! And, as the article asks, “What does that say about the plight of women writing for the stage?”
To a lot of people theatre is Broadway. That isn’t true, of course. There is a lot of theatre (very good theatre) done in places other than the 41 theatres that meet the seating and location criteria that designates them as part of “Broadway.” Still, Broadway is generally the goal for American theatre productions. You get the most publicity on Broadway. You are eligible for Tony Awards on Broadway.
Yes, by not ever having shows on Broadway the Pulitzer Prize winners Nottage and Vogel have not only not never won Tony Awards, they have never been eligible.
Granted, Nottage and Vogel write plays and not musicals. Just as many people immediately think of Broadway when they think of professional theatre, they also tend to think of musicals when they think of Broadway. And, yes, the majority of Broadway productions tend to be musicals.
But plays do get performed on Broadway. It’s just that most of them are written by (usually white) men.
So why are Nottage and Vogel just now receiving their Broadway debuts? Read the New York Times article for some theories. No one knows for sure why it was taken so long, but it’s hard not to give at least partial blame to that pesky career limiting attribute: Vaginas.
So what can we do? Well, start by going to see plays written by women. If you are in New York, go and see Sweat by Lynn Nottage or Indecent by Paula Vogel. See How to Transcend a Happy Marriage by one of my favorites, Sarah Ruhl.
Outside of New York check your local theatre listings.
Oh, and if you are in Chicago you can mark your calendar for May 17th at Stage 773 (1225 W Belmont) for the Women’s Theatre Alliance of Chicago‘s New Play Development Workshop Showcase. The showcase will feature scenes from six new plays and plays in progress by five women playwrights and one man (because supporting women doesn’t mean having to ignore men, particularly when they are writing a beautiful play about a famous woman writer). Here is the list of playwrights:
- Rachel Bykowski,
- HV Cramond,
- Jane Goldenberg,
- Megan Mackie,
- Christopher Donaldson, and
- Kim Z Dale (Yep, that’s me!).
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