Unlike Broadway, where things are still pretty much run by the men (they own the theatres, after all) here in the Berkshires we are ahead of the times. In fact there is no dearth of activity for women in theatre. Most of our theatre companies are run by women, from Julianne Boyd at Barrington Stage Company, Jenny Gersten at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Kate Maguire at the Berkshire Theatre Group to the strong leaderships of WAM Theatre in the persons of Kristen van Ginhoven and Leigh Strimbeck, to the Berkshire Actor’s Theatre recently founded by Clover Bell-Devaney. But even in the Berkshires,we still see far more men than women playwrights and directors though the ratio seems to have been slowly improving.The phrase “glacial pace” comes to mind.
So when we came across an article in the Huffington Post on the subject, we saw it as a timely read, what with WAM Theatre and MOPCO having just completed its second 24 Hour Theatre Project. For those of you who weren’t there, this event challenged five women playwrights to come up with new works, ready for the stage in just one day. They did. Brilliantly. You can read the reactions that Gail Burns and I had to its final presentation here.
In the HuffPo piece, Lauren Gunderson points out that: “It appears that in many major theaters across the country, men’s roles out number women’s by half. One out of every three roles go to women. (An informal survey of 10 theatrical seasons from across the country that I did put women in only 35% of the total roles). This means that men’s stories out number women’s by the same amount.
“Those of us noticing this could be considered big old whiners if it weren’t for some solid business-y sounding facts: Women buy 70% of theater tickets sold. Women make up 60%-70% of its audience. On Broadway, shows written by women (who statistically write more female roles than men) actually pull in more at the box office than plays by men. In any other market the majority of consumers would significantly define the product or experience. Why not theater?”
It’s worth reading the reasoning behind dramatist and theatre essayist Lauren Gunderson’s article. She points out that women represent less than 20% of the works on and off-Broadway and in regional theaters (and also in the UK, as The Guardian illuminates). “I consider August: Osage County and In The Red And Brown Water plays about women though men wrote both.”
But there is still much work to be done to bring the score into sync with reality. Tapping women for their full potential is a positive, as Gunderson states in her column: “What if American theater equally reflected and projected its own audience (at least 60% women) and their audience’s wallets (which are in their purses) in their season choices? Interesting stuff. Read More…