As you’ve probably heard, things are heating up in the theatrical realm in our nation’s capital. Last month, a consortium of D.C. theaters announced that they would collaborate to present the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival during the fall of 2015.
As WomenArts Executive Director Martha Richards notes: “For eight weeks, beginning September 2015, more than 40 D.C.-area theater companies will present world-premiere plays, musicals and adaptations all written by female playwrights, in what is anticipated to be one of the largest collaborations ever to occur of theater companies simultaneously producing original works by female writers. Participating theaters have commissioned local, national and international writers to bring universal perspective to the festival, and each playwright is writing on the subject of her choice.” You can see a list of participating D.C. theaters here.
The announcement was met with huge accolades and tons of interest from Bay Area theater-makers, who have been convening a working group through Theatre Bay Area for the past few months to discuss how to tackle the gender parity problem locally. Again, to quote Martha, “This festival also feels like a turning point because it is inspiring so many male artistic directors to make a commitment to promoting women playwrights… If you are a woman playwright, this would be a good time to do some research about DC theatres and approach any that do work similar to yours.”
We’re seeing a much smaller-scale but similarly inspiring commitment in the Bay Area through artistic director Patrick Dooley’s pledge that Shotgun Players will produce a 2015 season that exclusively features women playwrights. The question on everyone’s minds is: Which Bay Area theater company will commit to producing the next all-women playwrights season?
It will be interesting to keep track of how the large-scale collaborative gender parity effort in D.C. plays out. Last week, Arena Stage hosted the first of three community gatherings called “The Summit” in which accomplished theater professionals join in a roundtable discussion moderated by Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks about “their jobs, our shared passions, and the practical and philosophical issues that challenge, bedevil, invigorate ad perplex the American theater.” You can read Bostonturgy on Storify who captures some of the heated exchanges and tweets about the first session, many of which offer serious critique of the perspectives shared from the stage on topics ranging from audience development to diversity to the ways in which economics drive season planning.
One of those tweeting from the audience was Elissa Goetschius, a theater director and collaborative artist. She shares her thoughts in much more detail in her 2AMt essay Climbing #TheSummit which offers some food for thought about how power disparities inevitably inform artistic leaders’ perspectives on diversity and gender parity in theater.