By Isaac Butler
Kefi Chadwick in the Guardian writes asking where are the complex plays about Motherhood:
Excluding Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, name a modern play about being a mother. Not about being a bad mother, a failed mother, a neglectful mother, an absent mother – but a complex, interesting, moving response to the issues that surround what becoming a mother means to society, to women, to men and to the world at large. Can't, can you? They don't seem to exist. Why not?
There's one slight problem with this: I immediately (like within two seconds) of reading the first sentence said to myself "Memory House, by Kathleen Tolan." Which, okay, it's not the best known play in the world, but it has had a high profile production or two and my point is that you could probably think of others quickly if you tried. Oh wait. I just did. Lisa Kron's Well. Oh, Er. Hm.
Is this a British problem? Is this yet another area where American theater is vastly superior to its heavily funded cousin across the pond? (I kid! I kid! I was just testing out a reverse-Billington to see how it felt! The answer is... gross!)
Okay, seriously, tho. I'm not really convinced that at least over here this is that much of an issue, or perhaps it is an issue, just not one limited to mothers. I don't see a lot of super-sympathetic portrayals of parents period. I happen to be taking a class I helped design in Books about Dads this semester. One thing we all agreed on was that we wanted works about complex, perhaps-unknowable fathers rather than Bad Dads, which are far more prevalent, especially these days, especially in memoirs. It turns out to be harder than you think. We had a particularly tough time thinking of novels where fathers are both central to a narrative and treated positively, with affection. Intergenerational conflict has always been a great greaser of the dramatic engine.
That said, the rest of the article says a lot of good stuff, mainly about making the industry more parent-friendly so that playwrights (particularly women) don't feel like they have to choose between their work and their children. I suggest you RTWT.