TheaterMania has a lovely article about legendary actress and monologist Ruth Draper, whose 130th birthday will be celebrated this December. Her characters have been likened to “Rembrandts on stage” by actress Uta Hagen. Michael Feingold , who argues that she may be America’s greatest woman playwright, writes: “Her solo performances, preserved on audio recordings made 60 years ago, have kept her enchantment alive. Idolized in her own time, Draper achieved the magic all by herself, with nothing onstage except her, a shawl, a chair, and occasionally a small table. It was enough to earn her four decades of sold-out houses, critical raves, and the adoration of her most eminent colleagues.”
In the continuing commentary on gender disparity in theater, Prachi Gupta of Indiewire brings up another disturbing question, using the example of award-winning playwright Lydia Diamond’s response to the “girl question”.
“While the conversation mostly centered around racial diversity and the accessibility of theater to a multicultural audience, (NPR’s Michel) Martin at one point asked Diamond, a woman of color, to field “the girl question.” Her phrasing being a nod, of course, to how awkward it was to put the playwright in the uncomfortable position of being a representative for her entire gender. But in 2014, that’s where we are.
Here’s Diamond’s response:
“It’s so interesting, because in these conversations I don’t often actually get to be a woman. Usually, it’s gender parity, it’s women, or people of color. I don’t get to be a part of a conversation that’s about what is it like to be a ‘woman playwright,’ because I fit in the ‘person of color’ thing. So I’ve never actually thought of myself as a woman — that’s why I wore a short skirt [audience laughter ] lest they don’t know. It seems I am a woman playwright. And it’s grim, the statistics on that. We know are so, so awful.”
Diamond’s response is “damning”, the writer argues. Does a woman of color who is also an award-winning playwright have to choose an identity, and represent only one minority group?
Shows to See
Written by Enda Walsh
Directed by Barbara Damashek
Sisters Breda, Clara, and Ada are trapped within their memories of the New Electric Ballroom. It was the time of their lives… or was it? Playwright Enda Walsh, author of the Tony-Award winning musical Once, creates a brash, darkly humorous, and disturbing tale of sisters determined to live in the past – until the youngest upsets the balance of their delicate world.
Runs Wed through Sun, through 10/5
Written by Marga Gomez
In her tenth solo play LOVEBIRDS, acclaimed performer Marga Gomez portrays a crew of incurable romantics as they chase their hearts’ desires – into the night, through decades, and to insane lengths.
Runs Fri-Sat, through 10/18
Written by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Mina Morita
Fire Work is a present day romantic comedy set in a place where the conflict between social conformity and individual freedom turns deadly serious. Ben meets Ana in her father’s retail fireworks shop and the sparks quickly fly between the two. But when a bomb goes off in their town, the young lovers wrestle with their new adulthood and the problems that arise in a war-torn city.
Special offer for WWSF: Use discount code “works” for 10$ off on the ticket.
Runs Fri-Sun, through 10/19
Image courtesy TheaterMania