Supporting creative work by women
Works by Women has interviewed numerous artists over the last two years. Today, we are thrilled that Molly Marinik, the founder and editor of the theatre review website Theatre Is Easy, agreed to speak with us. Theatre Is Easy is one of the favorite review sites among publicists because of the breadth and well written coverage of New York theatre.
Molly has a lifelong tie to theatre, having been a dancer and choreographer for most of her life. She is also a dramaturg and recently received her master’s degree in Theatre History and Criticism from Brooklyn College. She has interesting things to say about the development of Theatre Is Easy, how the New York Times could broaden its theater viewpoints and what type of work she responds to.
WORKS BY WOMEN: How did you first become involved in theater/interested in it?
MOLLY MARINIK: Theatre was a part of my life from a very early age because my mom worked and performed in community theatre in my home town (Toledo, Ohio). I would always tag along with her to rehearsal, and then I got involved in my own theatrical pursuits (school productions, theatre camps, etc.) though I became more involved with dance than acting. By high school I was pretty much exclusively dancing, teaching and choreographing.
WBW: How did you shift to criticism?
MM: I moved to NYC right after undergrad, and I got involved in theatre right away. I had danced and choreographed throughout college but once I graduated I was eager to learn how to direct and my interest shifted to the narrative of performance, rather than the movement. I was lucky to work on a few amazing productions, and I was smitten with the collaborative energy of it all. Publicity being a massive hurdle for any independent show, it became clear that even though I thought everyone should see our work, the public just didn’t seem to know it was even going on. So I wanted to change that. I wanted to create an online presence where people could go to get glimpse of what was playing on and off Broadway. It seemed to me that the only way to cultivate new audiences was to make the theatre industry incredibly accessible, and to communicate reviews conversationally, not academically. A lot of my friends work in other industries, and I was always so pleased when they would come see my work and be genuinely grateful for the experience. I wanted other people to be informed so they could enjoy performances and realize that theatre really is for everyone.
WBW: What prompted you to found Theatre Is Easy? And, how has the site changed, grown, etc. since its founding?
MM: At first, my blog was just my personal ramblings about shows I had seen, but I had a few friends who were interested in reviewing so I brought them on and we became a scrappy staff of six theatre artists who basically knew nothing about criticism. We sort of developed our style, and always tried to write for the everyman, the average potential audience member who isn’t necessarily already in the know about New York theatre. Slowly we were given more access to shows and our staff grew to around 20 writers. In September 2009 we launched our re-design, which is a self-standing website, rather than a blog.
WBW: What type of theatrical work do you respond to? Love?
MM: I love theatre that engages me, emotionally or intellectually. I seek a conversation between what’s happening on stage and what’s happening in the audience, and that moment when you can feel the energy bouncing back and forth is what it’s all about. I know that’s super broad, but I’m a big proponent of theatre that is made for the collective good, rather than for the artists alone. Specifically, I like subversive theatre that challenges norms. I’m a sucker for musicals, especially musicals with a message. And dark comedy will always be my genre of choice.
WBW: What is one thing you would change or enhance about theater in New York?
MM: Can I pick two things? First, I’d bridge the gap between shows and potential audiences, and somehow find a way to kick the elitist label that’s often associated with theatre so everyone feels welcome. If we could lower ticket prices of commercial shows, and raise publicity of independent shows, that would be a start. Second, I’d give theatre artists more financial support, so opportunities are available for everyone. It’s so hard to be a professional theatre artist and make a living wage, and so many artists make huge sacrifices for the love of the craft. But it shouldn’t have to be that way, and a life in the theatre should be able to be a viable professional choice, just like careers in film and TV are.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
MM: Like every industry, women have to work extra hard to get their voices heard. I don’t know why this is, and I know we have come far in these pursuits, but when you look at the amount of male playwrights to female playwrights being produced on and off Broadway, it’s clear that male playwrights dominate our stages, and with that comes the perpetuation of the male perspective. I know a lot of companies are aware of this and try to include a mix of playwrights in their seasons, but you still see white male playwrights more often than female or minority playwrights on New York stages. In the world of criticism, there are many more male critics working today. I would love to see a woman review for the New York Times. I know they have a couple of women on staff, but the Times is the paper of record, and almost every notable review is written by a man.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
MM: I think women are starting to receive the credit we deserve for the work we produce. There are a handful of female directors who consistently work on Broadway and off, and their reputations help set the stage for the rest of us. I think there is a misconception that if you are a man working in theatre it’s obviously your professional passion, but if you’re a woman it’s more of just a hobby. But every time a woman is able to stake her claim in the industry, it bodes well for the rest of us. It’s ridiculous to me that there is still this disparity between men and women, but as long as we call out the bias whenever possible and continue to make our voices heard, we will make progress toward equality.