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May 13, 2010


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Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

unbelievable and pathetic.


GOD, Isaac! Can't you let white dudes have just ONE thing in this whole wide world without attacking!

Oh, wait...


I'm a little bit flabbergasted by all this. Is there one major theater producing a non white writer next year?

What are we Arizona?


Second Stage, which I meant to post about, has two writers of color and one female writer in its three playwright season. They've got Rajiv Joseph, Lynn Nottage and Arthur Kopit (new, new, old vis-a-vis the plays themselves).


There simply aren't any good women playwrights. Or any good playwrights of color. Because if they were any good more White men would tell us about them.

Everyone knows that.

Women playwrights of color? Ha ha ha! Ho ho ho! Hee hee hee! Ha! Ha! LOL!

"And I thought my jokes were bad." -- The Joker, "The Dark Knight"



However, it should be pointed out that MTC hasn't finished announcing its season. There are still two more open slots. Hopefully they won't go to white men.


I'm not saying that this shouldn't be run up the highest flagpole, but rather than help MTC branding (no such thing as bad press), why not post more articles about the companies who do the right thing? Let's lift them up. There are companies doing the right thing next season, aren't there? Some? Any?


I think Josh Conkel's current show is a step in the right direction.

I don't have a company (yet), but the people running the show are Black women.


Isaac also highlighted Second Stage above.


Both of Soho Rep's 2009/2010 shows were by women, and That Face, currently at MTC is by a woman. Women's Project, in case it's not obvious, puts on a lot of plays by women. Rattlestick is doing stuff from Heidi Shreck and Florencia Lozano; I'm sure 13P and New Georges have more work by women coming in their cycles. LCT3 has been pretty balanced so far.... Why DO we focus on the bad examples, or are these companies too small for their work to be taken seriously?


Why DO we focus on the bad examples, or are these companies too small for their work to be taken seriously?

I think that's probably the crux of it, tbh.


There are two different things at work here. Yes, good work and good efforts to include minorities AND female writers should be applauded and, no, those kind of accolades don't seem to get as much traction as the criticism.

But, in connection with Isaac's post about the continually emerging female artist and the regular concern from minority artists that their work is relegated to smaller stages, just about the only way to effect change on the larger institutions is through public outcry. If we don't call attention to the fact that, of the city's major Off-Broadway companies, the overwhelming majority of plays scheduled for the 2010-2011 season are by white men, then that doesn't change. It reinforces the notion that plays by women and minorities are of limited appeal and "belong" on developmental stages and in small companies. If we don't call out the big houses on this, it won't change.

No one is saying that the 2010-2011 NYC theatre season will be entirely bereft of women or minority voices. But it is disconcerting that after a season marked by quite a bit of controversy and discussion about diversity in a lot of quarters, we're not seeing it on the major stages.


I don't know. Manhattan Theater Club is currently staging That Face, by a (then) 19-year-old female playwright and directed by a woman, and they're currently doing readings of Annie Baker's new play Nocturama--they're certainly LOOKING for stuff. As I've said before, if the majority of playwrights producing new content are white men--and that's a separate issue--then the majority of NEW plays that are produced are going to be those of white men.


Aaron, no offense, but this feels like a dodge. Every time these issues come up, people say "well, you have to look at the field" but when you talk about the field, people want specific examples. Manhattan Theatre Club is entering its second year straight of no playwrights of color, after a playwright of color fucking saved their ass from an abysmal season and won the pulitzer prize on their stages. That bugs me. It bugs me that in this particular city the big companies all are so white dominated. And male dominated.

Even if you play the percentages out, it's still ridiculously bad. And I don't consider it solace that it's just a reflection of how fucked up the field of playwriting is.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

well said, Isaac ^


I can understand how what I said comes across as a dodge. But can you give *me* an example of a good play by a black or female playwright that was *NOT* produced? (Extra points if you can find one that was rejected specifically BECAUSE of the gender/skin color.) Simply pointing at a colorless, sexless season (I was just pointing out that your example, MTC, is *not* one of those, though it appears as if it is so far) doesn't prove bias. Again--and I hate that I'm saying this--given the percentages of plays submitted, it actually shows bias when MORE female/black playwrights are regularly produced in a given season. The diversity of the city has nothing to do with the lack of diversity in the material being submitted, unless you're saying that New York should produce primarily New York artists, regardless of quality.

I understand that there are valid underlying concerns behind posts like this. I really do. (Heck, I get pissed off by the fact that a new play by Sheila Callaghan is not as big a draw for theater coverage as is the US premiere of a UK play from 1997 that just happens to be at the Atlantic, although at least the author's a woman, right?) I'm just not sure how to respond to them--especially when I happen to like some of the risks MTC does take.


Simply pointing at a colorless, sexless season

Actually, that's one of the main fallacies of what you're saying.



Have you missed this entire year's worth stats, discussion, facts and figures about the state of diversity on our stages? There's been a lot of it and we've covered a lot of this ground.

MTC, this season, didn't do a single play by a person of color and their five play season contained two plays by women...both on the smaller stage. What you're saying is akin to telling someone who is trying to integrate a lunch counter in Montgomery, AL that "there are plenty of place a black person can eat in Birmingham." It's completely beside the point.

This is exactly what Isaac was talking about: when people pushing for diversity say the field isn't diversified, there's pushback for specific theatres. When we mention specific theatres, well, name me specific plays that were submitted and rejected because they were black. It's a ridiculous standard.

In fact, your own comment shows an implicit bias: MTC's season is NOT colorless OR sexless. The season they've announced so far is WHITE and MALE. Those are NOT neutral.

I want you to look back at this season and count up the plays produced by the major Off-Broadway theatres (and on Broadway) and count for me the number of women and playwrights of color and compare that to the number of white men. Guess which will be higher.


I'm not sure I follow how that's a fallacy of what I'm saying.


When you say that MTC is planning a "colorless, sexless" season, that implies that plays by white men are free of biases ("neutral"), while plays by minorities aren't.

Leave out the entirety of the New York theatre scene, which includes several organizations that produce only plays by women or have missions dedicated to writers of color, and let's focus on MTC. Over the last few years, they have a pretty abysmal record of producing works by women or writers of color. As a theatre's whose mission is "to produce a season of innovative work with a series of productions as broad and diverse as New York itself," it's a pretty piss-poor record. And they should be called to task for that. Is a season of consisting of all white writers as broad and diverse as New York itself?



Don't want to pile on too much here, but i'd say that there are a whole ton of plays that MTC could fill their remaining two spots with. Particularly considering how many older plays they do now these days, that leaves it even more wide open. Howabout:

Sick by Zakkiyah Alexander
Mud, River, Stone by Lynn Nottage
Nocturama by Annie Baker
Oliver Parker! By Liz Merriwether
any of Marcus Gardley's plays
Any of Daniel Beaty's one man shows
Stick Fly by Lydia Diamond

I haven't read it, but Rajiv Joseph had a play that was shortlisted for the pulitzer this year. Kris Diaz has Welcome to Arroyo's up in Chicago and its been well received.

Most of the plays on the above list would fit right at home on MTC's stages and appeal to their demographics.

This is a list I thought up in five minutes. I don't think it's necessary to show intent here. I'm not calling the people who work at MTC a bunch of racists. I'm urging them to get a clue and diversify what they have to offer. The field isn't going to change without individual institutions-- particularly the ones that pay well and give good exposure-- changing. Which is why I'm highlighting individual examples.

I also want to highlight MTC's season now before they decide the other two plays. Now's the time to shine a light on it, in the hope that that urges them to diversify with the remaining two shows.

I agree with 99 and RVCBard here, Aaron, their season is neither sexless nor colorless, it's white and male, which isn't neutral.

I also think there's an equivalency you're drawing here that bias in favor of male or white playwrights is the same as bias in favor of female playwrights and writers of color. But that equivalency is false because it ignores context, history and power dynamics within this particular field.

Does that make sense? Another way to put what I'm saying (Shorter Isaac Butler) is this: Nothing changes without conscious action. MTC is doing what they always do. But what they always do is problematic. It will take conscious change to change that, which means it might very well necessitate having a bias that comes down in favor of (assuming rough quality equivalence) plays by women and people of color.

I think your own perspective-- informed as it is by seeing a much wider swath of theatre on all levels in this city-- makes some sense, but remember a play at Under St. Mark's and a play at MTC aren't (in terms of exposure, impact or income) the same thing. And I say this as someone who would vastly prefer to go to Under St. Mark's to see a play. Also, even if you include downtown, the number of opportunities for writers of color is small.


I believe MTC's five-play season was actually two men (Time Stands Still and Equivocation), two women (That Face, Nightingale), and one male-female duo (The Royal Family). But we're quibbling--especially when you dismissively say "Oh, but they were done on the smaller stage,"--and I haven't read Outrageous Fortune, or whichever book you're referencing, so unless you want to link me to the stats (or where we've covered this before), I can't really shoot the shit with you.

Again, I am not arguing that there weren't more white men produced by institutions. I'm saying that if you look at the list of active self-reported black, white, and female playwrights putting on new work, I don't think it's that disproportional to the result of new black, white, and female work staged last season.

And since I'm not dealing in hard stats or facts, I'm still not sure how what I say can be a fallacy. At worst, it can be uninformed, like calling me out for using the terms "colorless" or "sexless" when it's pretty clear from the line directly before that that you know what I'm saying even if the haste of my commenting may belie that.


Isaac, I'm trying to understand. Is this what you mean . . .

MTC's season IS racist, but the people who are choosing the season AREN'T racist because they're not intending to be racist. When choosing what to produce they're falling back on prejudices they don't even realize they have. And to combat those unconscious prejudices, they should consciously attempt to make sure plays written by black and female playwrights are included.

Is that what you mean?


Can't speak for Isaac, but it's more about decentering Whiteness and maleness than anything else.


Good points, everyone, thanks for blowing off steam and not changing a damn thing. If you guys are right in your indignation, I'd love to hear what anyone is doing to get these theaters to change their ways.

Who's written letters to the ADs? Who's marched outside of a theater? Who's organized others to take a stand? Who's got a list of theaters-I-will-not-attend until they change their ways? Or has Aaron just taken this opportunity to stand in the center of a circular firing squad? Is just bitching about it enough for us? I'm happy to join anyone who's actually Doing something.

I know that we don't have real numbers, but does anyone think that it is not, roughly, 60% of all plays submitted are by males, and 40% are by females; and that 70% of all plays submitted are from majority whites and 30% of all plays submitted are from minorities. So then, what should the percent of plays produced breakdown as? 50-50?

And lastly, if the playwright is a gay white male, does that go as a majority or minority entry? Are gay males part of the problem, part of the solution, or are they just screwing up the numbers?

Sorry if I'm challenging so feel free to ignore, but it's monday, i'm cranky, and it's like I've read this talk over and over and...

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