This Week in Feminist Theater (5/9-5/15)

This Week in Feminist Theater is a news round-up curated by Christine Young (creator of WWSF). If you have news or shows to see that should be included please send details to

14rosenthal-1-obit-web-master675Experimental Theater Artist Rachel Rosenthal Dies at 88
Rachel Rosenthal was known for her avante-garde live performances which combined theater, dance and performance art with environmental and feminist themes. Born to a Russian family living Paris, she fled Europe during WWII and eventually settled and produced much of her work in Los Angeles, where she was named a “Living Cultural Treasure” in 2000.  Rosenthal was also deeply involved in the feminist art movement of the 1970’s.  You can see a video with excerpts of some of her performance work here.

logoEquity in Canadian Theatre
On April 29th, the Playwrights Guild of Canada hosted the Equity in Theatre (EIT) conference in Toronto in order to share key findings from a recent national study, which documented the systemic under representation of women in key creative positions in Canadian theater.  Spearheaded by Rebecca Burton (PGC’s Membership and Contracts Manager), and Laine Zisman Newman (Dramaturgical Associate with Pat the Dog Theatre Creation), EIT is using a multi-pronged approach to promote dialogue, generate greater awareness of and exposure to women theatre practitioners, and develop community-based action plans to help fix industry imbalances.

About 20 American artists from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago attended the EIT Conference and stayed on for a second day of conversation and brainstorming about advocacy strategies for promoting gender parity in American theater.  Future convenings in New York and the West Coast are planned for 2015-2016 with the goal of developing a more detailed advocacy agenda that can have impact at both the regional and national levels.

ACLU Champions Women Film Directors
Hollywood’s atrocious track record of hiring women has been well-documented, particularly by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and USC’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative.  This week the American Civil Liberties Union requested that state and federal agencies investigate major Hollywood studios and talent agencies for “rampant and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors.” A 15-page letter was sent to a variety of agencies and included both data collected from multiple studies on gender and media as well as stories from 50 female directors “who reported being told by executives that a show was not “woman friendly”; learning that producers had repeatedly told agents to “not send women” for prospective jobs; or being informed at a meeting for a television job that “we already hired a woman this season.” You can read the full text of the ACLU brief here. News of the ACLU effort was met with cautious optimism by key women in Hollywood, but several voiced concern that such scrutiny on gender could trigger a backlash and result in even more repressive hiring practices.  You can read further commentary on the ACLU’s action here, here, and here.

Beau Willimon and Women’s Representation
Beau Willimon is the writer and show runner of the enormously popular Netflix series House of Cards.  Not coincidentally, he is also a Julliard trained playwright (which I would argue is why the show is so good!)  Apparently, Willmon has received some criticism about the female characters on his show (that they are unlikeable!) which is interesting as it relates to a recent discussion that has been percolating in feminist theater circles in the Bay Area.  Some argue that we need more theatrical representations of strong, powerful and otherwise extraordinary women onstage (which I agree with.)  Others argue that we need to see more women who represent the full range of human experience, including the darker parts of human behavior such as greed, infidelity, aggression (which I also agree with!)

But however you feel about Willimon’s House of Cards characters, you can probably feel good about the fact that he is currently serving as a champion for a feminist theater piece currently onstage in Washington, D.C. premiere of SLUT: the Play, a dramatic performance and discussion that aims to empower young women who have faced sexism and sexual violence. Originally performed in 2013 at the New York International Fringe Festival by a teenage ensemble from Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company, the current production (with the same cast) will perform one night only at the Warner Theater.  Willmon has lent his considerable prestige to help secure the venue and involve other notable people in supporting the production.  He says of the play ““The goal is to look at the complexities of sexual assault through a lot of different angles. It’s not didactic or propagandistic in its approach, but it’s honest. It makes you want to know more. It makes you want to get involved.” The play is also published and available for purchase here.

Shows to See
Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters (LAST CHANCE!!!)
Written and performed by Echo Brown
Directed by David Ford
Produced by The Marsh
Echo Brown is about to lose her virginity to a hipster she met on Craigslist
Runs thru May 16th, The Marsh

Trailer Park Gods (LAST CHANCE!!!)
Written by Nayia Kuvetakis
Directed by Emma Nicholls
Featuring  Amanda Farbstein, Sarah Nowicki, Paul Rodrigues, Michelle Navarrete, Alison Quin, David Levine
Produced by FaultLine Theater
Persephone of the Central Valley
Runs thru May 16th, Piano Fight

Duo Solo (LAST CHANCE!!!)
Created and performed by Emlyn Guiney and Julie Katz
a double bill of solo performances
Produced by Hatch Performance Collective
Runs thru May 17th, PianoFight

Best of Playground
Written by Rachel Bublitz, Genne Murphy, Erin Marie Panttaja, Kirk Shimano, Steven Westdahl, Davern Wright
Produced by Playground
A fully-produced program of six short plays
Runs thru May 24th, Thick House

Isfahan Blues
Written by Torange Yeghiazarian
Directed by Laura Hope
Dramaturged by Nakissa Etemad
Featuring Sofia Ahmed, Vida Ghahremani, L. Peter Callender, Behzad Golemohamadi, Alexander Lydon, Lawrence Radecker, Mohammad Talani
Produced by Golden Thread Productions
Inspired by the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s 1963 tour to Iran.
Runs thru May 24th, African American Cultural Complex

Written by Lauren Yee
Directed by Becca Wolf
Featuring Taylor Jones, Devin O’Brien, Jessica Kynn Carroll, Katharine Chin, Sarah Matthes, and Aily Roper
Produced by ZSpace
In this existential slasher comedy, Lexi learns what it means to grow up—and it’s not pretty.
Runs thru May 30th, Z Below
*See the recent WWSF Meetup event post for more info about this show.

Whoa-Man! A Musical
Created by Maya Lane and Cast
Produced and Performed by Fou Fou Ha
A cartoon cabaret about the hilarious yet touching experiences of four women looking for love.
Runs thru May 30th, Shelton Theater

Hella Love Oakland
Written by Robin Lynn Rodriguez
Directed by Rebecca Novick
Featuring Lizzie Calogero, Safiya Fredericks, Lisa Morse
Produced by Playground
Can a conscientious mother choose between raising awareness and raising her kids?
Runs thru June 13th, Thick House

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
By Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Steve Boyle
Featuring Sara Renee Morris, Max Sorg, Laura Espino, Jacob Marker
Produced by City Lights Theater
Can an night of reenacted scenes from their past save the marriage of Nan and her abusive husband?
Runs thru June 14th, City Lights Theater

The Yellow Wallpaper
Adapted by Gary Graves from novel by Charlotte Perkins Gillman
Directed by Jan Zvaifler
Featuring Elena Wright, Cybèle D’Ambrosio
Produced by Central Works
A haunting tale of a Victorian woman’s descent into madness, adapted from the classic short story.
Runs thru June 21st, Berkeley City Club


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