Women Artists at the 36th Annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival
The Playwrights Foundation, helmed by Artistic Director Amy Mueller, has always had a strong track record of developing the work of female playwrights in equal measure to that of male playwrights. Speaking as a former Literary Manager and Associate Artistic Director (2000-2006), I can remember many conversations during play selection processes about diversity, inclusion and the need to adequately represent women’s voices onstage.
This year’s Bay Area Playwrights Festival lineup stands out for many reasons, but the one that excites me most is that 5 out of 6 playwrights are women! You won’t see those statistics represented in too many theatrical venues this summer. There are also a number of fabulous women actors and directors participating in the festival as well. The year’s BAPF plays include:
Before & After by Erin Bregman: Grapples with memory and afterlife in a metaphysical journey
The Brothers Paranormal by Prince Gomolvilas: Serves up real and imagined Ghosts, in a Thai style sci-fi mystery
FSM by Joan Holden: a play about the Free Speech Movement – a partnership with Stagebridge Theatre
brownsville song (b-side for tray) by Kimber Lee: A poetic, dreamlike, and tragic meditation on the cost of inner city violence
Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park: North vs. South Korea can’t stop the wild beast of the DMZ
The Comparables by Laura Schellhardt: A ballsy satire between three women at the top of their game
Supporters of gender parity in theater should check out all the plays, but have two opportunities to do so in the company of other fabulous feminist theater-makers.
- Sun 7/21 @ 12pm: join the Yeah, I Said Feminist Theatre Salon crew at the reading of Laura Schellhardt’s The Comparables. hosted by Fontana Butterfield Guzman. Use discount code “Salon” for aH$10 ticket ($13 w/ surcharge). Get tickets here.
- Sun 7/28 @ 4pm: Works by Women San Francisco Meetup Group attends the reading of Erin Bregman’s Before & After. Hosted by Christine Young. Use discount code “WWSF” for a $10 ticket ($13 w/ surcharge). Get tickets here.
Women Center Stage in NYC
If you are visiting New York City this summer, be sure to check out Culture Project’s Women Center Stage (WCS) running July 8th through August 3rd. This 4-week festival offers works written, directed and produced entirely by women. The mission of the WCS initiative is to support and vigorously promote the work of women artists and to celebrate the unique contribution of women to social justice and human rights through the arts. The cornerstone of WCS, the Women Center Stage Festival, provides a much needed home for exploring new ideas and inspiration, testing out early stages of new work, and putting women artists in conversation with new audiences, potential collaborators, future mentors/mentees and a vibrant community of peers. This year’s artists include Pulitzer Prize nominee Dael Orlandersmith, Tony Award Winner Staceyann Chin, Academy Award nominee Lucy Alibar, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Dominique Morisseau, and many more. Check out the full schedule of events here.
How Hot Do Feminist Fires Burn?
Playwright Gina Gionfriddo discussed the connections between her current play Rapture, Blister, Burn and Wendy Wasserstein’s seminal 1988 play The Heidi Chronicles in an essay last year in the New York Times. Of particular interest is her reflection on what she claims are unintentional similarities between the two plays, which nonetheless suggest a stagnant timeline for professional women in the US. Both plays detail the lives of successful yet single female academics who “find themselves re-examining the feminist movement to sort out how they could have come so far and still wound up unsatisfied.” Gina’s article reveals a heartbreak that many feminist theater practitioners will recognize: why hasn’t all the hard work feminists have undertaken in the last 25 years yielded bigger transformations in American women’s personal and professional lives? Browse through the TACTICS interview series for ideas about what we can do to accelerate the transformation in the next 25 years.
More Plays Written by Women in the Suffragette Era Than Today
It would be a funny headline if it wasn’t so tragically true. Read the full article in the UK Telegraph by Hannah Burgess here as well as Katy Brand’s response article about current British female playwrights here.
An excerpt from Hannah Burgess’ article:
“Professor Maggie Gale, from the University of Manchester, found there were a higher proportion of plays by women at significant points throughout the 20th century than in 2013. Speaking at an event celebrating the role of theatre in the suffragette movement, she said women playwrights were much more commercially successful than most people realised. She added the drive to secure votes for women had inspired a host of plays by female writers determined fight their cause through drama and comedy. She estimated that around 8 – 12 per cent of today’s plays are written by women, compared with 18.4 per cent in 1923, 20.4 per cent in 1936, and 22 per cent in 1945.”
Current & Upcoming Shows
FORTUNATE DAUGHTER, a solo show written and performed by Thao P. Nguyen
July 11 – August 3, Thu-Sat 8pm, Impact Theatre (La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid, Berkeley)
Tickets: $17 advance/$20 at the door. Purchase here.
The secret to keeping your family happy is…keeping your other family secret. Thao’s Vietnamese parents keep pushing her to marry – a man. Her other family – her queer activist friends, coworkers, and community – wants to her come out. Thao doesn’t want to do either! But when the pressure builds from both sides, what will she do? A hilarious and moving one-dyke show about the difference between coming out and coming come.
SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, directed by Jennifer Welch
July 19 – August 24, Wed-Sat 8pm, Tides Theatre (533 Sutter St., SF)
Tickets: $20-40. Purchase here.
An improbable couple drifts into a tiny Gulf Coast town, searching for comfort in booze, pills and each others’ arms. Chance Wayne, a Broadway-actor-turned-gigolo, brings his latest benefactress south to his hometown to escape the disastrous premiere of her comeback film. When a youthful mistake surfaces that threatens Chance’s plan, they learn that dreams are destroyed here. Tennessee Williams’ SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH is a sensual, haunting journey.
Featuring: Fontana Butterfield, Hilary Hesse, Carolyn Compton, Shannon Warrick, Carmen Gutierrez and Ariana Pina
Production design: Alicia Griffiths, Claire Kendrick and Jennifer Welch
DISCLOSURE, a new play by Carol Lashof
Monday 7/22 @ 7:30pm, Jean Shelton Theater (downstairs), 533 Sutter St., SF
Presented as part of the Playwrights Center of San Francisco Spring Reading Series
Tickets: $5-10 sliding scale at the door, PCSF members free
When you have believed that sharing your story will heal your pain and you find that it doesn’t, what then?
Featuring: Anne Hallinan, Cat Luedtke, and Roneet Rahamim