Supporting creative work by women
Word has come to me that the Dramatists Guild is not allowing its members’ Women’s Initiative to become an official part of the Dramatists Guild. Or, as the Guild’s president, Stephen Schwartz, put it in a March 27 e-mail for the Conveners of the Women’s Initiative,
“While we have several small committees directly formed and overseen by members of the Council, there are no separate groups of members from the organization that have Council committee status. I hope you can appreciate that were we to make an exception in the case of the Women’s Initiative, we would have to do so for groups wishing to address other valid issues such as bias based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, etc. The Guild is a grouping of many different voices, and while we greatly appreciate the fine work you’re doing, we have to be sure to balance the needs and concerns of our entire membership.”
All of which sounds really nice and polite, until you begin to scratch the surface of Mr. Schwartz’s words. Indeed, at a May 2, 2011 meeting between the Conveners and the Guild’s Council, Schwartz and other Council members were considerably blunter. They essentially told the Women’s Initiative to form an organization outside the Guild. They could say they were “from” the Dramatists Guild – but that was it.
What is the problem here? The Women’s Initiative is not some fly-by-night cause proposed by a paltry group of Guild members. The Initiative has been growing since 2009, when Gary Garrison, Executive Director of Creative Affairs, called a meeting that included Cindy Cooper, Catherine Gropper, Andy Landis, and Barbara Masry (later joined by Janice Maffei) — each understandably distressed by the lack of gender equity that they and other women have experienced in the American theater.
Two years and at least 10 meetings later, the DG 4 have grown to 450 – women mostly but also some men – who passionately believe that gender equity is a serious issue, not only for Guild members but also for everyone in U.S. theater. They ask, quite rightly, that the Council recognize this Initiative as a permanent fixture of the Guild. After all, women make up 40 percent of the Guild’s membership, but they author only about 17 percent or so of the plays produced on US stages. Isn’t that a discrepancy the Guild should care to do something about?
Mr. Schwartz’s demurral, that one group receiving committee status will just open the floodgates to others, is, with all due respect, a tired stance. And even if it turned out to be so – well, what of it? Actors Equity Association (AEA) has survived with an Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, The Performers with Disabilities Committee, The Seniors Committee, and – lo and behold – The Women’s Committee, whose mission as “to encourage increased employment opportunities for women Actors.”
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has an American Indian Task Force, the LGBT Actors Committee, a committee for Performers with Disabilities, a Spanish Language Media Task Force, a committee for Senior Performers and – guess what? — the National Women’s Committee!
The Writers Guild of America West’s Diversity department has the Asian-American Writers Committee, the Committee of Black Writers, the Latino Writers Committee, the Committee of Women Writers, the Age Awareness Committee, the American Indian Writers Committee, the Writers with Disabilities Committee, and the Gay & Lesbian Writers Committee.
It seems to me that the Women’s Initiative is helping the Guild get with the program. Sounds like an offer the Guild shouldn’t refuse.
Alexis Greene is a New York-based writer, editor and publicist.