And in case the previously mentioned M.R. Fall is still reading this blog, here’s an article that follows up on what we were talking about at Short Leaps. It’s by Marsha Norman, published in American Theatre magazine, and it’s really, really good.
The U.S. Department of Labor considers any profession with less than 25 percent female employment, like being a machinist or firefighter, to be “untraditional” for women. Using the 2008 numbers, that makes playwriting, directing, set design, lighting design, sound design, choreography, composing and lyric writing all untraditional occupations for women. That’s a disaster if you’re a woman writer, or even if you just think of yourself as a fair person. We have a fairness problem, and we have to fix it now. If it goes on like this, women will either quit writing plays, all start using pseudonyms, or move to musicals and TV, where the bias against women’s work is not so pervasive.
And an interesting aside:
Literary managers are caught in a kind of limbo. They don’t have much real power and they are swamped with work. They probably know more about good writing and good writers than anybody else in their theatre, but in practice, they feel very much on the outside, underpaid and underused. Worst of all, they have been put in charge of readings and re-readings, the process by which most new plays are worn out. We are wasting our lit managers, their time and their talents.
Richard Nelson, writing in these pages in September ’07, was right: Theatres need to abandon development, talkbacks and rewrites. I suggest they adopt the rules of the fine art world—if you like it, you buy it. You don’t bring a piece into your gallery, take a brush and change the red patch in the bottom of the painting to green, and then decide not to buy it and send it back. That’s exactly what happens to playwrights’ work in development.
I believe “if you like it, you buy it” may very well be the policy of Sleepwalkers Theatre — which is only one of two hundred and twelve reasons why they rock.