Supporting creative work by women
It’s often said that we should leave the drama on the stage. But, that edict is hard to live by, given the current state of women’s theatrical work. Under 20% of plays produced on American stages are written or directed by women, and of those most are at the smaller theatres where remuneration is minimal.
And, today, Facebook is ablaze with outrage and disbelief that there will be no Wasserstein Prize given this year because, as the esteemed panelists noted, “none of the plays were truly outstanding in their current incarnation.” The Wasserstein Prize, named after beloved playwright Wendy Wasserstein, is awarded to a young female playwright who has yet to receive national attention. The prize is accompanied with a $25,000 check, which offers the rare financial encouragement to continue writing.
Playwright Michael Lew’s Brilliant Open Letter to Victoria Bailey (Executive Director of TDF & adjudicator of the prize) so passionately argues, “If you can’t find a young writer whose body of work is sufficiently expansive, then remove the 32 year old age cap on eligibility for the prize. After all, there are precious few writers – male or female – whose plays have received national attention by the ripe old age of 32.”
TDF and Victoria Bailey are fantastic champions for theater — both for artists and audiences. That’s why this news is so utterly surprising. I’m certain this very unpopular decision was difficult to arrive at, but it doesn’t lessen the disappointment felt by our community.
There’s no way to change the panel’s decision, but as theater-makers and audience members, we must ask, “what can be done?”
Here are a few suggestions:
(1) Make a donation to the Women’s Project, which supports women playwrights, directors, and producers.
(2) Join Works by Women’s Meetup Group, which has taken hundreds of audience members to 50 plays written, directed and/or designed by women in the past year. It’s free to join the group.
(3) Support the Lark Play Development Center. I recently saw 2008 Wasserstein Prize winner Laura Jacqmin’s Milvotchkee, Visconsin as part of the 2010 Playwrights Week. It was hilarious and touching. The Lark is moving to a new home on West 43rd, and has a fabulously affordable $5 Drive to support its efforts.
(4) Make your Facebook status: I support female playwrights. Or tweet it for all the world to see.
(5) Produce a full-length play or a short play or a reading by a female playwright.
(6) Encourage your female playwrights to submit to and support the Estrogenius Festival, which will celebrate its 12th season in 2011.
(7) Mariah suggested this link http://www.womenarts.org/fund/WomensTheatres.htm to look for additional organizations to support.